Catholic Priest Spends Ksh12,000 Daily to Feed 200 Abandoned Children

Meru Catholic Priest Barnabus Baariu speaks to journalists on Monday, May 11, 2020.
Meru Catholic Priest Barnabus Baariu speaks to journalists on Monday, May 11, 2020.
Daily Nation

A priest at the Catholic Diocese of Meru has won the praise of Kenyans after he came to the rescue of about 200 street children in Meru town.

Speaking to the Daily Nation on Monday, May 11, Catholic Priest Barnabas Baariu disclosed that he was spending up to Ksh12,000 every day to ensure that the children did not go hungry in the streets.

He further narrated how he was moved to action after a heartbreaking encounter with five street children in the county who were collecting peelings to make a meal.

After he started cooking for the five, he added, he saw the number of vulnerable children increase to include adults and decided to start a food programme costing between Ksh9,000 and Ksh12,000 in daily expenses.

A section of street children in Nairobi.
A section of street children in Nairobi.

"I started this project when I met five children collecting peelings at the market so that they could earn a living. When I asked them what the peelings were for, they told me that they were going to cook it for food.

"I was touched and so I started preparing food and taking it to them. When we carried on with the project, I observed that the number gradually increased," stated the priest.

"Right now, the number includes street children and adults with the total standing at 200. When you come here at night, the street families comprise a huge number. 

"Right now, we use between Ksh9,000 and Ksh12,000 because we have developed a menu. On a day like Sunday, we note that it is a day to celebrate Jesus and so we make them Chapati and green grams accompanied by Irish potatoes as well as meat stew," he added.

The priest explained that the ecstatic children confided in him that even the residents who could afford a meal were benefitting from the project.

"They told me that they would sleep hungry while the shops all around them were full of foodstuff. They said that even those capable of buying themselves a meal, were benefiting," he explained.

They Covid-19 pandemic has exposed the decades-long neglect of street families under a largely unstructured system of ensuring the welfare of these vulnerable Kenyans.

A 2013 study published in the International Journal of Science and Research (IJSR), titlled Family-based Factors Leading to Street Children Phenomenon in Kenya argued that little had been done on a policy level  to improve the deteriorating family conditions in the society, yet it was identified as the main push factor for influx of street children.

“People don’t want to look at me. I’m trash. I don’t want to live in the streets, but I have nobody. My uncle beat me hard when I lived there, and so I ran. Living in the street is the only way to survive,” William Githira a street child in Nairobi sated in an interview with The New Humanitarian. 

The study identified stability in family system as a significant factor in enhancing socio-economic sustainability and reducing social deficiencies in interventional programmes dealing with street children in Kenya.