Some weeks ago, the awareness group of CAS decided to invite people from the neighborhood to the House of Refuge to explain to them what we do as an organization. It was an interesting meeting because, the assembly man and many others attended, they also asked very interesting questions. Unfortunately, the electricity failed when we started and we could not show the power-point presentation which was prepared. A general explanation about CAS was given after which the visitors where divided into smaller groups so that the premises could be toured. After which they re-assembled in the main hall and the power-point presentation could now be shown. The visitors were given the opportunity to ask questions. Interestingly many questions referred us back to history.
1. Why don’t you give all the children uniforms so that the people in the neighborhood can identify them?
2.Why do we not train the children batch by batch? One group progresses and a new intake is done.
3.Why do we not control the children better outside the premises?
4.Why don’t we counsel the children better?
These questions show that the people in the neighborhood did not understand what we are trying to achieve. Many thought that we were running a school. Nobody knew that CAS has many children in schools and workshops.
They only saw and heard the children in and around the Refuge. Many did not understand that the children who visit the Refuge are not “our” children.
These questions bring us back in history. I have explained the history of the fieldwork and that of the sponsorship scheme. Now the history of the Refuge could be explained.
HOUSE OF REFUGE.
CAS wants to be available for all the children who are in the streets. Therefore we do not have a particular period for intake. Children are welcome any time. Some come for a period of time, and then disappear. Children are invited to take part in the activities. Every hour a different activity is organized, we do not run a school. A child can take part whenever s(he) wants. Now the skills of social work are tested. Try to interest all children.
In the past, we organized some sleeping places for them, but these were very difficult to control and they were removed. We offered lockers to the children so that they could keep their belongings. Shoeshine boys have hammers and screwdrivers and no locker was safe. We organized baby cots for babies but they became storing places for clothing.
Carpets and curtains were installed to make the Refuge more homely. You can guess what happened with them. Chairs and table do not have to be nice but very strong. In addition we make sure that no one can lock himself in when the Refuge is closed because some try to steal everything.Some years ago we, managed to obtain a secondhand home-trainer, this could be nice for the children. Within a week all the ball-bearings disappeared. We bought a big dustbin on wheels. Before everybody had seen it the wheels disappeared. In other words, yes we run a home for street children but a home with a difference.
An internal survey conducted some years ago revealed that children were happy to come to the Refuge because they felt free and safe.
Did we not receive the same answer from the women who lived in the mud at Konkomba market who preferred freedom as their main treasure?
If we can provide a safe and free place to the children at the Refuge, then we have done enough. We only hope that the neighbors will understand that as well.