A common feature in many large cities in Nigeria, particularly Lagos, is the presence of homeless children and youths, also known as “children of the street.”
These children work and live on the street. They are unlike other street children (children in the street) who normally return home to sleep at night.
These homeless children have drifted from their homes and family orientation, and they make the streets their homes.
Although the United Nations has estimated the number of homeless people globally to be in excess of one billion, a survey puts the number of homeless children in Lagos at over 2,000 and these children do not have any kind of education at all and at their teens they resort to hawking and selling sachet water on the street.
These children sleep under bridges, at the beach, in motor parks and vehicles, in market places, and in uncompleted buildings. Their survival strategies include engaging in some income-yielding activities such as carrying load, being bus conductors, packing refuse, buying and selling, engaging in commercial sex and begging.
Substance abuse and engaging in risky sexual behaviours were common. They faced the problem of insecurity, police harassment and all forms of exploitation and maltreatment from social miscreants (area boys).
They were also predisposed to a number of hazards, including sexual abuse, molestation and health hazards.
To keep the children busy a nine-year-old, Grace Busari, the daughter of Stephanie Busari has stepped in to bridge the gap between the children and their low life on the street.
Referred to as Kidpreneur, Grace Busari started GraceTeddies Foundation to help Homeless Children in Nigeria.
With the festive season gathering momentum, Grace Busari, 9, is part of a new generation of young people with big ideas that can drive social change. She launched a social enterprise to renew joy and hope in the hearts of homeless children in Nigeria.
Grace Teddies, which was launched to mark her 9th birthday, showcases a range of cultural teddy bears she created to help raise funds for homeless children on the streets of Nigeria.
The teddy bears, which are made in different designs of Ankara and other African fabrics such as Adire, will be sold and part of the proceeds made will be used to cater for and support the homeless children on the streets of Lagos.
Grace, the daughter of CNN Nigeria bureau head Stephanie Busari, explained what led her to start the brand.
She said: “When I was five, I moved to Nigeria with my mum. I cried when I saw children that should be in school or at home with their parents, begging on the streets. I always begged my mum to give them money. I have been thinking of how to help them and now I believe I have a chance to. As I turn nine, I am so happy to announce the launch of my foundation and the #GraceTeddies brand. With this brand, I will be creating and selling teddy bears, and helping to support the children on the streets.”
The nine-year-old recently celebrated her birthday with the children of the Dreamcatchers Foundation in Ikorodu. They partied with Grace and her friends, eating cake and teaching them special dances moves at the birthday party. This foundation will be among the beneficiaries of the funds raised through Grace Teddies.
She urged Nigerians to give the children on the street a chance to be regular children and enjoy their childhood especially with Christmas around the corner, by supporting #GraceTeddies and its cause.