In December 2017, while completing my master's degree in Forensic Psychology, I traveled to Zambia with a study abroad program. We spent two weeks side-by-side, with the Zambian Association of Child and Youth Care Workers, and together, we conducted workshops, became educated on each of our work and practices, and brainstormed about effective ways to serve the children and families of Zambia. During this time, I was introduced to the Footprints Foundation and the street children of Lusaka, Zambia.
With over 300 street children living in Lusaka, I spent time getting to know a handful of them and their stories, understanding their needs, and hearing their hopes and dreams. Known to most of the county as the “invisible children,” they live on the streets due to being orphaned, abused, no schooling, having contracted HIV, among many other various issues. Footprints focuses on beating HIV, supporting individual needs, raising awareness and giving children a happy and healthy life. They use a unique model of meeting children where they are at by physically going into their life space on the street. Meeting with the children on the streets daily where they eat, play, and sleep, fosters trust with members of Footprints' team. They support them with the objective of moving them off the street into partner organizations or back to their own family to give them a brighter future.
Every child has the right to health.
Every child has the right to shelter.
Every child has the right to education.
Every child has the right to play.
Every child has the right to respect.
I returned to Zambia in November 2018 and with the help of family and friends, was able to raise money to throw the children the first every Footprints Birthday Party. For most, it was their first birthday party they had ever had! Due to being on the street, many of the children have never had the chance to celebrate their birthday and/or are unsure of when the actual date of their birthday may be. Just over 100 children were brought together for the day at Vision of Hope, a shelter for girls and women where the mission is to help girls living on the streets refine their futures. We spent the day dancing, laughing, eating, had a talent show contest, ate cake, and most importantly, celebrated the children for the incredible, unique, and lovable humans they are!