The Post (Lusaka)
July 14, 2006
Posted to the web July 14, 2006
A young man in Kitwe has a new lease on life after spending eleven years in the streets, and he reveals the vices that plague street children, including rampant homosexuality, STIs and drugs.
Dulu Chipampa, 22, who is now a reformed adult and employed by Beautiful Gates, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) assisting to rehabilitate street children in Kitwe, says it is difficult for him to believe that he has come this far.
‘I was about 11-years-old when I took to the streets and it all started by vehicle lining with friends’, says Chipampa popularly known as ‘papi’ in the streets.
The young man has never been raised by his family and says the only family he knew were the people on the streets, but says he visits his mother once in a while. The only thing he knows even up to now is the way of the streets, and that is ‘there is no sweet without sweat’.
When he went onto the streets, he did not know that he would be come a potential street adult, but he did it for the money, because people used to give a lot of arms. Little did he know that it was becoming part of him; he could not do without money and would sooner or later become a victim of circumstances.
‘It is not easy to be brought up in the streets I did not choose that kind of life, but due to bad company I found myself there. One has to be strong to be on the streets. It is a bad place to be found, and I never want to go back there,’ he says.
Many people have a negative view of street children, because of their behaviour, but have we taken time to think about the hardships that these people undergo? Maybe it does not affect us because they are not our relations, but suppose our brothers and sisters were the ones out there, would we leave them to live in agony and when are going to listen to the plight of these kids? Chipampa’s story is not different from any other street child’s. They go through the same agony and need to be loved like any other child. The reason they behave the way they do is that they have not yet found love and a sense of belonging.
"On the streets we treated each one like family and we really protected each other. The one reason I ran away from home was because I thought my mother loved my bothers and sisters more than me and I resorted to the streets to look for love and I found people who offered that," says Chipampa.
Chipampa says there are no rules on the streets; and what people consider to be bad is not bad on the streets; everything is good. The only wrong thing on the streets is when a street child is harmed by someone who does not belong to the streets and they become violent so as to protect their own.
He says there is homosexuality on the streets and street children have no problem with it because when they sniff glue they become very violent and out of control, their sexual feelings become high and sex is done with anyone nearby.
"Sex is not an issue on the streets, it is like play. Women who move late at night have been raped by young and older street children and of course it was under the influence of the drugs like cannabis and glue sniffing," he cries.
The former street child says the street is not a place to play with. When the street children and adults sniff glue, they become very violent and can kill each other. They play with different kinds of objects like fire, and if one is not careful, he or she can be burnt to death while others cheer and only realise when they are back to their senses.
"The glue is so nice to sniff. It gives a form of power that a person does not feel pain, cold or hungry. It takes over the body and one feels good, forgetting all the problems, thinking you are the most powerful person in the world," he says.
The reformed young man says diseases like HIV/AIDS, Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STD) and Tuberculosis (TB) are rampant on the streets and a number of street children have died of diseases which can be cured because they do not have money to seek treatment. He adds that he was once a victim and knows how it feels to be in pain.
"People out there do not like street children and I do not blame them. They have never been there, they do not know how it feels to sleep in the cold, to go without a meal for a week, to be called a thief and continuously molested by street adults. You lose respect and become an animal, not having feelings," he says.
Chipampa says among street children the girls are defiled by security guards who guard banks and other places. "They call them and give them a place to sleep and after doing whatever they want with them they give them money." As a result, a number of boys get STDs from the same girls.
He says he had always wanted to move from the streets and his turning point came last year when he fell in love with a fellow street child and had a baby with her. Life became so hard for him because he could not afford to fend for both mother and child. The baby was sickly, and he did not have money to buy the baby proper food and warm clothing. Eventually the baby died from malnutrition.
" I loved my baby so much and it still hurts me that she died because I could not provide for her", he recalls bitterly. From then his passion for the streets was no more and he longed for a time when he would have a job, because the means of survival on the streets was watching over people’s cars, begging from passers-by. Usually the money was only enough for one meal.
"After so much hardship, I was helped by people from Beautiful Gates who used to come and preach the word of God on the streets. Apprently they were looking for someone to work on their farm and I jumped at the opportunity. Upon explaining my problems to them, they listened and took me in. They are good people," he says.
Beautiful Gates did not only help Chipampa move out of the streets, but helped his girlfriend reunite with her family and other streets children who have since gone back to the streets because they could not adjust to rules.
Chipampa says he gets about K250,000 every month and he is planning to marry his girlfriend. He says he wants to marry her and make up for the loss of their child, adding that he wants the best for his future wife and children.
" I want my children and wife to have the best. I only managed to go as far as grade four. I will make sure my mother and siblings have the best as long as I live. Even without an education I can make it," he says.
The hard-working man says he fears for the welfare of his friends on the streets and he is appealing to the public to help because they are vulnerable and could soon become a danger to society.
"I am urging all the street kids out there to try very hard to move from the streets because the streets are not good for anyone. I was a very committed streets kid and I have changed. My cry is that you find jobs and move away from the streets," he says.