The Watoto wa Ahadi rescue center began as a dream in the mind of Stanley Gitari, coordinator of the Community Health Department at Maua Methodist Hospital. Mr. Gitari approached Michael Goodman in 2012, inviting him to help study and respond to the problem of children living on the streets of Maua and surrounding towns. Together, Mr. Gitari and Dr. Goodman planned research which was conducted in summer 2013 by medical students from the United States and nursing students from Kenya. This first round of study included input from the children themselves as well as community partners who might assist in addressing the problem.
Through this initial research partners from governmental, non-governmental, civic and faith communities were identified. The range of local interest in responding to the challenge of children living on the streets was broad and deep. Tribal elders expressed a commitment to holding families accountable for caring for their children. Governmental leaders committed to supporting the hospital in its efforts. Youth empowerment programs leant their expertise in defining a sensible intervention strategy. The Nyambene synod of the Methodist Church of Kenya provided 73 acres of a beautiful farm to host a transitional center where children could learn to grow food, attend school, detox from glue, receive psychosocial support and an improved sense of self-worth.
Ultimately, none of these partnerships would matter if the children themselves were uninterested in changing their life circumstances. Through the first and subsequent studies, the children have time and again expressed a keen interest in finding their way into a brighter future than what they know living on the streets. The most important partner in transforming their lives and circumstances are the children themselves, who know a better future may be possible with a bit of opportunity.