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Harvard University

Publication Date

Spring 2009

Program Name

South Africa: Reconciliation and Development

Abstract

As a visiting white, American female, I could not help but be struck by Durban’s highly visible population of young African boys in the streets and on the beachfront. Although my experiences at a student-run homeless shelter and in the Housing Unit of Boston Legal Services have made me well aware of urban poverty and racial inequality, I was nonetheless shocked to see the extent to which young people bear the brunt of the problem in one of Africa’s most “developed” young democracies. Interested in what, if any, measures were being taken to curb the problem, I began to investigate the government’s response to the issue, as well as the role of local non-governmental organizations. Through a series of serendipitous events, I discovered I-Care, a reputable religious organization committed to improving the lives of the city’s most vulnerable youth. For five weeks, I made consistent site visits and conducted interviews (both formal and informal) with staff and children at every level of the organization. Over the course of my research, I learned a great deal about I-Care’s multi-faceted programming, as well as the issue of street children, more generally. My research led me to two clear conclusions: one, that the local and national government response to street children has been largely ineffective, and two, that non-governmental organizations (often with religious affiliations) offer the most holistic approach to curtailing the problem. The following report chronicles the history of street children in Durban. By examining the methods of I-Care, a leader in both preventative and curative measures, I will highlight the strengths and weaknesses of existing outreach and prevention programs. I will also discuss the ongoing challenges these organizations face and how they envision their role in the coming years.

Disciplines

Social Welfare

 

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