Street-children that loiter around every traffic light and marketplace in Pakistan are a common sight for those who live here. Most survive on the streets through a combination of strategies: they pick trash from large, unhygienic rubbish dumps, sort and sell the waste product to assorted dealers for a pittance. Often, they just beg for money.
These children, who are as young as 3 years old are amongst the most neglected, exploited, victimized and abused in Pakistani society. According to the current UNICEF statistics, estimates 30 million in Asia and 1.2 million street children only in Pakistan. If nurtured, educated and trained properly, they can be turned into a massive productive force and progressive citizens of Pakistan.
A child with no home is a global problem and although there have been noble attempts at both state and individual levels to come up with solutions, most of them fall short on two very important fronts:
1. Most of these solutions rely completely on donors and rarely generate their own revenue, which leaves them completely dependent on philanthropy.
2. More emphasis is placed on the physical aspects – to provide food and shelter to these kids. There is no long-term plan to integrate them into society and to cater to the psychological, emotional and intellectual growth of these kids. It is little wonder that most children from orphanages and foster-care end up in prisons or are usually on the fringes of society.
Lettuce Bee Kids proposes a self-sustainable, entrepreneurial solution that has a mandate to reintegrate street children into society and equip them with the skill set they need in order to embrace a brighter future.
The process hinges upon four basic guiding principles of life, which not only provide social inclusion and self-actualization to these children but also generate internal revenues for the LBK eco-system to be self-sufficient:
• Arts and Crafts | The more you draw, the more you draw [Lettuce bee Design]
• Relationship with Nature | The more you grow the more you grow [Lettuce bee Deli]
• Importance of Music | The more you play, the more you play [Lettuce bee Band]
• Respect of Elders | Adopt a grandparent [Lettuce bee Yours]
Led by a young, dynamic team – LBK has already pre-piloted this program with a small group of 53 children from sector F-11 and F-7 and witnessed tremendous results. Following art therapy sessions at the park and ‘Kuch Khaas’ a community and dialogue center, Lettuce Bee design has just launched a series of greeting cards line, both nationally and internationally, the revenue from which will be used to fund further activities. A national radio-channel, FM-91 has just committed to sponsoring music therapy (Lettuce Bee Band). A national university offered their computer labs, where the kids were given basic education through Khan Academy, with the help of volunteers. IE Business school in Madrid, Spain is taking up LettuceBee kids model as a case study for their 400 business students to come up with more sustainable solutions for the model to be successful, scalable and universal. LBK conducted its first very successful art and products exhibition at Serena Hotel on world street children day, April 12th 2013 with Mr. Richard Olsen, U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan, inaugurating the ceremony. It was a three-day event that was sold out the first night.
Current challenge | Channeling the Requested Funding:
After a year of working out of temporary locations and borrowed spaces, LBK will channel the funding on acquiring/renting a space that can be dedicated to the needs of street-children in Islamabad. This space will be the materialization of the research by the founder, Sarah Adeel, a Fulbright scholar and an architect, who has dedicated 5 years to explore family and community structures, understanding how a prosperous social structure takes physical form through design.
This facility will allow the organization to further its mandate of ‘reintegrating street-children into society’ by providing LBK with the space and platform necessary for the organization to implement planned programmatic activities. Located centrally in order to ensure that children working in crowded marketplaces can easily access the center.
Specific, measurable, indicators of LBKs success after one year include :
• Establishment and setup of a suitable space for Lettuce Bee Kids
• Recruitment of a dedicated program team to undertake programmatic activities
• Registration of 200 children (with a special emphasis on girls) as LBK members.
• Establishment and availability of the following services for street-children:
o Out-of-School Learning Facility (Art, Music, Vocational Training, Computer)
o Clinic and Counseling Center
o Shelter & Bathing Facilities
o Kitchen Garden and Community Kitchen
o In-house store for the products sales