‘Dedicated’ River Falls woman reaches out to street kids of Africa
Sadie Clarke has gone far since graduating from River Falls High School in 2010 and UW-River Falls in 2014.
She’s gone all the way to Tanzania, Africa, in fact, where she helped start an organization called “The Next Chapter.”
The group works to help children living on the streets of the city of Arusha, Tanzania, to pursue better lifestyles.
“Each child has their own reason for having themselves in this predicament,” Clarke said, via email, from Tanzania. “Many have left their homes to try and find a better way of life for themselves.
“They leave hoping to find a job but are frequently unsuccessful because they are too young to work; they lack training and are unable to access basic items to ensure even proper hygiene. “Others leave their homes due to rejection, exploitation and abuse from their families. Diseases such as HIV/AIDS have also left many of these children orphans.”
These children sleep along storefronts on city streets, Clarke said.
“If they are lucky, they will have a mesh tarp to use to cover themselves at night to try protect themselves from mosquitoes and to provide minimal protection from the cold night winds,” she said. “When we met the children, most of them were wearing thin T-shirts, ripped holey trousers and worn rubber sandals.
“Those living on the streets don’t have access to showers so the children try their best to maintain cleanliness by washing themselves and their clothing in the river (rarely having soap).”
Despite their troubles, Clarke said the children are “positive,’ and “spirited,” and pleased to get any kind of help.
The Next Chapter has been providing these kids with meals, warm clothing, shoes, basic healthcare, soap and toothbrushes whenever possible.
But, Clarke said, she and “The Next Chapter” want to do more.
“Our ambition is to open a center for children in Arusha, Tanzania,” she said. “Donations we have been raising will be used for the running cost of the center that will provide a shelter for the children to sleep in at night; an area where meals can be provided, showering facilities, and a space where they can be taught skills to then go on to find jobs or finish their education as needed.”
So far The Next Chapter has been renting a property in a rural suburb of Arusha for $3,300 for a year. The house the group rented has a large sitting area, kitchen and dining area, and four bedrooms.
Clarke said the initial goal in opening a center is to offer an open-door policy during the day for the first three months.
“All will be welcome and have the option to receive training that will be beneficial to their recovery. This training will include seminars on mental health, physical health, sexual health, criminal avoidance, work training, basic English, and any other seminars the government has for guidance on how to help these boys,” Clarke said.
Clarke first visited the east African country of Tanzania in 2013 to volunteer for a month at a local orphanage.
She returned there in 2014 to volunteer for two months. It was during her second stay that she became familiar with the street children of Arusha and the lives they led.
“After seeing the harsh realities of their lifestyles, I knew I wanted to return to Tanzania again with a project focusing on empowering the lives of those children forced to live on the streets,” Clarke said. “Coming from a community like River Falls has given me the support and encouragement to follow through with this project.”
The Next Chapter is raising money for a shelter through online fundraisers.
The Next Chapter is also holding a special online fundraising effort called "Christmas on the Streets," through which The Next Chapter team will take to the streets for a day and a night and live the way the kids being helped often live.
For the complete story, see the Dec. 3 print issue of the River Falls Journal.