The problem of African children who end up living on the streets in extreme poverty, degradation and neglect is assuming dramatic proportions. AIDS and poverty are the main causes of this tragic situation.
In Zimbabwe more than 1.6 million children are orphans and the number is constantly rising. Their parents die from Aids and they are left completely alone with no alternative other than the street.
The streets of Harare, capital of Zimbabwe, are home to thousands of street children. Poverty and the HIV virus have caused a worsening in living conditions, which is the basis of the phenomenon. But the street is a place of exploitation and violence, where children are constantly exposed to the risks of drugs and delinquency.
These are the reasons why Cesvi has set up a House of Smiles where abandoned or orphaned children can be taken in to a welcoming and peaceful setting. A reception centre which offers them a real chance of salvation and redemption: a place where they can get food, medical care, sanitation and schooling.
The house also plays an important role in making the children aware of the risks of HIV and prevention techniques, involving them in music, poetry, theatre, painting and drawing workshops.
Art thus becomes the instrument for spreading not only knowledge about AIDS but also on drug and alcohol abuse, violence and fundamental rights. Because only education can really set them free. The street is nothing but slavery and misery.
Everton: a story of success
When Everton was ten he lost his mother to AIDS. Left alone with an aunt who compelled him to work he decided to run away and find his father in Harare, the capital. But when he got to the big city, alone, lost and desperate he started living on the streets with other children like himself. He spent his days in theft, robbery, drink and violence. By night he didn’t dare sleep for fear of being killed by rival gangs.
But one day while he was begging in the city he met the Cesvi operatives and began to spend time at the House of Smiles. Here he could eat, wash himself, study and receive medical care. He studied very diligently, gaining distinction for ability and intelligence. Now, at 17, young Everton has won a bursary and is enrolled in college.
Thanks to the House of Smiles his dream of becoming an accountant is about to come true.