Street kids miss family values

Street kids miss family values
BY Duncan Mlanjira, The Daily Times
09:43:30 – 16 July 2007

Fourteen days after completing 3,000kms bike ride to South Africa to raise awareness of the plight of street children, South African Missionary Felix Starker intends to set up a reform home where these kids can learn the family values they do not enjoy.

The new home will enable the kids to appreciate the potential they have to become influential citizens in the future.

Starker went on this long and difficult journey on June 1 and completed it on June 30 and after collecting pledges from Malawian sponsors, he is expected to raise over K1.12 million, which he and Steka want to use to set up the reform home where the children, most of whom come from broken marriages, could realise their potential.

“These children need counselling,” Starker said on Saturday at one of the sponsors MultiChoice Malawi premises in Blantyre soon after his arrival at Chileka Airport. “They need our love because it’s what they have missed.

“From what we have discovered, most of these children are not orphans, they have parents whose marriages broke up.

“Most of them are from single parent homes and are encouraged to go into the streets to beg because they are not well provided for at their homes,” he said.

He said it was wrong to give the children money because such handouts encouraged them to stick to the streets.

“There are several orphanages in South Africa where people go to on weekends to pick up a kid and spend a lovely time with in their homes just like their own children.

“This is what we can also do here. Take them out and spoil them, give them the love they miss and inspire them to work hard in school so that they too can enjoy such luxury in the future,” Starker said.

He was optimistic that his plans would materialise because he now had many friends in South Africa who know of Steka’s existence.

“Trust Steka now as an indigenous-run NGO. They are genuinely doing something for street children and I will see to it that they get a good foundation.”

Also present at the press briefing was MultiChoice’s Office Manager Freddo Chikalimba, who made a bold confession that he was a product of street roaming himself.

“I am proud of what you have done and I want you to know that I am where I am because someone inspired me to get off the streets,” he said.

“I was a street kid myself until I was 15 years old when a Good Samaritan took me in and paid for my school fees. I felt loved and I worked hard to repay that love.

“It’s not easy being in the streets, you have to be tough and I must say most of these robbers are products of the streets because they learn to be rough in order to survive.

“I concur with you that street children need love and what you are about to set up, a reform home, is a noble venture that will surely change this nation and I am very proud of you,” he said while urging all Malawians to support this noble programme.

Steka is a registered local NGO that helps victims of child abuse by inspiring them to become reliable and productive citizens and its director Godknows Maseko and three other Steka volunteers, Stanley Hara, Emmanuel Saiva and Daiton Machira, completed a similar fund-raising campaign by walking for 21 days from Blantyre to Mzuzu via Zomba and Lilongwe, covering a total distance of 898km in February this year.

The four people’s accomplishment motivated Starker to try the 3,000kms bike tour to South Africa.

On his blogger – http://www.felix-fila.blogspot.com – Starker says: “With the recent increasing reports of child abuses especially on defilement cases in Malawi Steka has nationalised awareness operation in the interest of educating and expressing concern to the magnitude and severity of child abuse in Malawi.

“The organisation felt strongly that a big campaign walk with collective action will redeem children from the pandemic as child abuses have became an integral part of the widespread domestic violence.”

Steka’s Finance Director Joseph Munyonga said their mission in February was not solely to raise funds per se for the organisation but to get the nation realise that there was potential in these children in reforming them back into school.

“It’s our job to take these children off the streets and inspire them to get the education that can reform them into useful citizens,” Munyonga said.

“People should be conscious that these children are our hope for the future, they are in the streets not because of their making but because of circumstances beyond their control.

“By transforming them, we are building this nation and we at Steka are proud to have had our prayers answered because God sent us Mr. Starker to help us in our goal to reform the children,” he said.

Starker reported that he had a wonderful journey through Mozambique, then into Swaziland before entering South Africa for Pretoria.

“It was such a safe trip that South African journalists, who came to cover the final stretch, joked that there was no news in my trip because nothing happened to me.

“God protected me and He helped me make so many friends along the way, who assisted me in many ways – and never asked for any payment.

“Steka is now well known in South Africa and my friends already have Steka in their plans. So what we intend to set up here is going to receive support both within and outside this country.”

Starker came into the country as a missionary three years ago and during that period he helped set up a farm for Kondanani Orphanage at Bvumbwe in Thyolo District and also worked with Tiyamike Mulungu Centre at Bangula in Nsanje for a couple of months.

He said the trip was an enlightenment for him because he had come to be part of this nation and by helping Steka, he intended to complete his missionary work a satisfied man.

During the trip, Starker covered over 100kms from Blantyre to Mwanza, about 2,000kms in Mozambique then the rest into Swaziland and to Pretoria in South Africa, a total of 2,959.4kms in 186 hours and 36 minutes.

On his arrival in Pretoria, he was welcomed by local traffic police and a vehicle from one of the sponsors, Group 4 Securicor and he was also interviewed by one of the main Afrikaans newspapers.

Starker received a lot of support along the way like when he arrived in South African town of Middleburg, he found there were no single rooms available at Midway Inn where he intended to stay for the night but they kindly gave him a double room for the price of a single room.

But when he returned from a [prayer] cell group later there was an envelope in his room with a refund of the money – that was after they learnt of the man’s noble cause of his adventure.

“I am back to prepare for the second trip and I want this to be bigger and more exciting by involving more sponsors,” Starker said. “So I pray that I will receive more support and once again I say a big thank you to all who made th
is a success.”

Starker’s corporate sponsors (in alphabetical order) include: AB Mechanical, Agora, APL, Bata Shoes, Beit Cure International Hospita, Blantyre Cycle Club, BMW, Candl, CarGill, CFAO, Colgate, Combined Cargo, CPC, Chibuku, Deekay, Entyre, Ericsson, Farmers Organisation, GPH Auto body repairs, Group 4 Securicor, Henred Fruehauf Malawi, Illovo (one tonne of sugar), Innscor, IT Centre, Land Rover, Leopard Match, MacSteel, Manica Malawi, Midway Inn (Middelburg, South Africa), Monolux Paints, MultiChoice, Nico, Ori Meat, Portfolio Graphic Design, Quinta de St Antonio (Mozambique), Riverside Spares (Swaziland), Robray, Siku Transport, Standard Bank, St. Patrick’s Academy, Stanfield Motor, TFI Welding Services (South Africa), Toyota Malawi, Ukhozi Glass (Swaziland), Universal Industries, Zululand Cycles (South Africa).

Family and friends sponsors: Samuel Mlanjira (Malawian student in UK), Andrew Baster, Aslam Sabadia, Cathy Franze, Eddie Smith, Godsknows Maseko, Phil Wetten,
Piet Linda Uys, Rashid Jakhura (all in Malawi), Rodney Leoni Starker Fox (sister), Ewald Starker (brother), Althea Meyer, Andrew Acker, Basil Kenmuir, Christo Martie, Grobler Jock Anderson, Johan Smuts, Leslie Kenmuir, Oom Hennie de Swart, Skallas Yolande Smit, Tienie van Schalkwyk (all from South Africa), Bram Joke Schoo, Chrissie Onderstal, Marcel Glenda (Holland), Brian (Canada), Cal MacLennan, Dave and Sue Godfrey (UK), Clifton Koen (Swaziland), Dave Lewis, Dennis Appel, Kirk and Jayne Flanagan (USA), Jerry and Gina Silva, Neels and Margie Botma, Paul and Adele Rodo, Vic and Adelaine dos Santos (Mozambique).

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