Interview with George Odalo – Slum Child Foundation

“Beside the provision of food, clothing or basic education, it is fundamental to give street children attention, to show them that we love them and care for them”

George Odalo was born in Korogocho, one of the largest slum neighborhoods of Nairobi, Kenya. After being a street child for several years, he eventually became the founder of the Slum Child Foundation, a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping street children and other vulnerable communities.

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is George Ochieng Odalo, I was born and brought up in Korogocho slums which is Nairobi’s third largest in terms of population and size after Kibera and Mathare Valley. Korogocho is home to about 200,000 people pressed in less than 1.5 square kilometers, northeast of the city center. I had a hard and harsh childhood experience before joining secondary school which forced me to turn out and become a street boy for several years. I eventually chose to leave the streets and change my life for good, but I had good and lovely friends who never wanted to be patient with life in the same slum I was brought up; they decided to go the shortcut way but they didn’t make it. Right now, they are six feet under, due to one reason or another.

How did you leave the streets eventually?

George Odalo, as a street boy
I became the bread-winner for my siblings and my mother, as she got sick and had to be hospitalized. This motivated me to do something with my life and for other people’s lives. I also realized that my case was by no means unique and that many other children were undergoing the same hardship. This is why I started the Slum Child Foundation. My aim was and still is to help other children to cope with similar experiences, avoid risk factors and acquire knowledge and life skills that would enable them to protect themselves and others and optimize their chances in life. Despite the hardship I went through I eventually managed to become a role model for many. I also resumed my studies, and currently I’m doing a Bachelor degree in Kenya.

Can you tell us about Slum Child Foundation?

The Slum Child Foundation develops various programs that seek not only to empower children from Nairobi’s streets and slums, but also to inspire them, especially girls. We have implemented community outreach programs for street children in and out from school, who are the most at-risk target group. In addition, we develop children clubs, like the Nina Haki Toto Club, dedicated to creating child right awareness, to reducing the cases of child abuse and to raising awareness among street children about drug-related risks and consequences. The key focus of all our programs is to keep children and young people off the streets and help them become or stay drug free.

slum child foundation

We also have programs for Orphans and Vulnerable Children (OVC) and other youth programs. Our objective is to help OVCs eat better and acquire basic primary and secondary education and vocational skills by referring them to partner organizations or by having school fees paid for by well-wishers, since many of these children do well in their studies but do not further their education for lack of money.

What do street children need most?

Street children are like any other children, the key thing they need is love. Beside the provision of food, clothing or basic education, besides sharing with them about the consequences of substance use, it is fundamental to give them attention, to show them that we love them and care for them. The problem is that there is no political will to overcome this problem and some people are more focused on diverting government monies for their own purposes rather than for helping vulnerable populations or poor children like the ones I serve. We strive to do our best but funds are often all too scarce, hence my appeal for everyone’s support… One dollar can do much!

Do you have a message to pass ?

Street children are just like your own children; they are human beings, just like you. Every one of them has potential, what they lack is your support. If you can offer to support one of them, you’ll be able to transform our world for a better tomorrow. If I had not been able to reintegrate back in my community, who, and where would I have been? By helping a street child, you will be nurturing another George somewhere. But the most important thing is to give them love, because one million dollar without love is valueless, but one dollar with love goes a long way.