Caring for Street Children

project partner:Tennyson House
location:Durban, South Africa
funding period:1997

summary: Tennyson House is the only shelter and safe haven for homeless girls living on the streets in Durban, South Africa. Set up by Robyn Hemmens of Youth For Christ in 1996, the centre was designed specifically to address the growing number of female street children on the city streets of Durban and to work to reconcile them with their families.

Charlotte visited Tennyson House in 1997 to examine the problems first-hand. As a result Trade plus Aid funded the salary of the centre's first professional childcare social worker for an initial 6 months, to work with the children and their families in order to effect a successful reconciliation.

Tennyson House provides an alternative to young street girls (aged 10-16 years) who otherwise have to align themselves with street gangs to survive, often becoming involved in prostitution or being exploited by unscrupulous employers. The girls are malnourished and often have medical problems, including HIV/Aids. Tthey may be taking drugs or sniffing glue; some have babies.

Tennyson House reaches out to the girls on the street through the Durban Street Children's Forum and the City Police and provides a stabilising and nurturing environment with the end goal of seeing the child placed responsibly back in her family and community.

The centre ensures the girls receive medical aid and works to feed the girls back into the mainstream school with the assistance of outside tutoring programmes which make up for time lost on the streets. The girls receive one-to-one counselling to deal with personal issues, address behavioural problems and set individual action plans for the future. There are dance and drama workshops and sports activities, as well workshops on drug and alcohol abuse.

When they have located the family, Tennyson House identifies services in and around the community where the family lives which can be a resource to the family and offers a Parent Skills Programme to help the parents cope. "It is strongly felt that no matter how well we do with the girls in our care, if we return them to families who cannot cope, we don't help the girls very much at all". When a girl returns home, after-care continues with regular follow-up visits, letters, phone calls and contact with the schools.

For further information on Tennyson House and Youth for Christ visit

These former street girls have been re-integrated into their communities.


Busi Nkabinde was Tennyson House's first professional childcare social worker, funded by Trade plus Aid.