The Children and Youth Empowerment Centre (CYEC) is a residential and educational program for former street-dwelling children and youth in Kenya. The Centre is located in Nyeri, Kenya, approximately 175km north of Nairobi. More than 130 children and youth, ages 6-22, call the CYEC home.
The Centre ensures that all of its young people are provided with the resources and skills necessary for a happy, healthy life. The Centre’s Residential Program provides a safe living and learning environment. Children receive all of life’s essentials, including clothing, shoes, toiletries and three balanced meals each day. A registered nurse provides health services to the children five days a week.
Education is an integral part of the Centre’s services. All children are required to attend Primary School (up to Standard 8). It is our goal to have all Secondary School aged youth attend school (up to Form 4), but the high cost of Secondary School in Kenya makes this difficult. Alternately, Secondary School aged youth who do not have sponsorships to attend school take part in the CYEC’s Vocational Skills Program. These youth learn metal work, carpentry or tailoring.
Upon completion of academic or vocational studies, youth have the option to join Zawadi Youth Enterprises, an incubator for youth-run businesses. Members of Zawadi Youth Enterprises can access a small micro-lending program and work together to build their businesses. These businesses help the Centre’s youth become financial independent, allowing them to confidently start their adult lives.
The CYEC is financially supported primarily through funds from Zawadi Fund International, a registered US 501(c)3. The Centre collaborates and receives technical support from many Partner Organizations.
The mission of the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre is to identify and develop sustainable solutions for the care and development of street-dwelling children and youth and other highly vulnerable young people in Kenya. The CYEC is intended to be a locus of innovation and a model for similar Centres.
A mere two generations ago, the idea of a class of homeless children would, to most African communities, been difficult to comprehend. Today, however, street children have become a normal feature of society. The CYEC was founded on the understanding that the phenomenon of street dwelling young people is a many-faceted, many-layered issue that touches on the key organizational challenges of the broader society. As with other complex, seemingly intractable social problems, finding genuine and lasting solutions for the population of street dwelling children and youth requires active engagement of social imagination. This is because such solutions often require a shift in ways of thinking and acting.
Therefore, the idea of the CYEC is not only to treat the symptoms of this phenomenon by providing housing and educational services to street dwelling children, but also to provide a convergence point for people of different backgrounds to share their experience, debate, research, experiment and consolidate knowledge concerning the empowerment of young people.
The idea of empowerment in CYEC programs is for young people to recognize their freedom to imagine and create a better reality for themselves. Empowerment is an intellectual, organizational and cultural process facilitated by:
CYEC programs have three main target populations:
The choice of target populations is based on the understanding that there is no hard line dividing the different categories of young people.
The major circumstances underlying the street life phenomenon, including communal violence, family breakdown, drug and substance abuse, poverty and disease – especially HIV/AIDS – are common features of daily life. This means that even as rehabilitation activities proceed as desired, it is important to engage the overall population of young people as a means of spotting potential difficulties and dealing with these in good time.