48 Totteridge Common
London N20 8LZ
I have recently returned from Harare, the capital of Zimbabwe, and I am at once angry and stuck.
You have helped me over many, many years raise awareness and an incredible amount of funding for street children in Africa. And so, I am turning to you for help. This is a personal appeal, something I have really never done as I have always placed my appeals through organisations.
I was working in southern Africa last month helping to train street workers, which is what I do these days and I decided to visit an organisation in Harare called Streets Ahead. I found them still able to do their work but I also found that because of difficulties in the rich world, the agency paying the wages of seven of their workers has not been able to give them any money for over five months.
In other words, young Zimbabweans, men and women, are going to work for nothing.
The organisation is called Streets Ahead. It is very personal to me because I have helped it over many years and even in 2002 I persuaded it not to fold up. You may ask why? Streets Ahead is the only organisation left that works on the streets, for street children, in Harare. They go more than the last mile for every small street child. I still find them amazing. I respect them, deeply. And I am angry to discover that they are going to work for nothing week after week. If something isn’t done, they will, of course, have to fold up and that will be the end of the last voice for Harare’s street children.
So I got very cross and said to their boss, a young woman, “How much do you need to pay the wages you are owed for the last five and a half months?”, and she told me. I have the figures to prove that. I said “I’ll stand on your side and see what I can do”.
So far I have found £2,000 so the figure is down. Can you help?
What will happen after we’ve paid them their back pay I have no idea. But I want young Africans to know that when we say we’re on their side, we really mean it. And when we ask them to look after their own street children we don’t really mean that they do it non-stop and for nothing forever.
I am happy to talk to anybody about this in Scotland when I see you at the beginning of May. In the meantime, I am just leaving for Uganda where I will be looking at the work that is being done in the capital, Kampala, for street children. The difference between workers in Kampala and the workers in Harare is that Kampala gets paid, Harare doesn’t. So this is not an issue of Mugabe and street children, this is an issue of young workers in Harare trying to stay alive and strong to look after the weakest children in their city.
Thanks for everything, stay well.