by Lillian Banda
LUSAKA, Oct. 7 (Xinhua) -- In Zambia's capital city Lusaka, Misisi is a slum known for a wide range of anti-social vices that include drug and alcohol abuse and high incidences of domestic violence that characterize lower income communities.
Its location, being near the Central Business District (CBD), makes it easy for many vulnerable children to wander away from home in search of what they perceive to be a better life on the streets.
To counter this trend, Kingdom Culture Theatre and Media Arts (KCTMA), a local theatre group, has been working with children at risk of living on the street and encouraging those already living on the street to participate in performing arts programs so as to have a better future.
The organization is a youth led non-profit entity that serves to empower children and young people using their talents to better their livelihoods and give back to the community.
The organization uses theatre and arts, in the form of drama, poetry, cultural dances and music to sensitize communities about the importance of education as well as to raise funds for its programs.
Proceeds realized go towards educational support of targeted young people and children and supplementing household incomes of underprivileged families. The young people perform at various events and functions that range from social gatherings to formal meetings.
"We believe that every child and young person has a talent, which gives them an opportunity to achieve their dreams and give back to their generation," Honest Kanyanta, the organization's director of programs told Xinhua in an interview.
Kanyanta further said that communities where young people come from are complex, creating unsafe environment that expose children to theft, crime and other illicit activities.
The idea is to prevent them from going on the streets and instead encourage them to explore their inherent talents and to be in school, he added.
Kanyanta observes that a lack of recreational facilities in the slums coupled with high levels of poverty has pushed many children to engage in illicit activities just to survive.
"The only recreation facilities in place are bars and other dingy drinking places," he observes.
He reveals that his organization has since inception in April this year been able to provide for educational needs of more than 50 children, the majority of whom are in Misisi slum where the organization operates from.
According to him, the organization was doing well to improve the lives of people in the slum who have benefited financially, while some have acquired a wide range of livelihood skills such as financial literacy activities.
With international donor support dwindling, non-profit organizations particularly from lower income countries are already exploring ways of sustaining projects and programmes within their borders.
Organizations like KCTMA have demonstrated that looking within for solutions does pay off after all.
Zambia has for a long time grappled with the challenge of street children. To address this, the government embarked on a skills training program for young persons and for street children.
However, the majority of those that received training in various skills ended up on the street because they could not find jobs and sometimes lack of proper reintegration mechanisms pushed many back on the streets.
In Zambia, causes for children's homelessness range from neglect by parents and guardians, death of parents, poverty, family divorce and abuse forcing children to go and live and work on the streets.
In order to survive, many orphans and other vulnerable children engage in various forms of work such as begging for alms and commercial sex work.
In Zambia's capital city alone, there are an estimated 30,000 children living on the streets.