Night Outreach

Every Thursday evening we go out into the streets of Tabunok at around 9.30pm for our Night Patrol. We prepare hot chocolate and buy bread and spend a few hours with the children, chatting and playing games. I think for all involved, Night Patrol is one of the best, but also hardest, parts of our week, and I’d like to try and explain why.

For me, the first thing that hits me about Tabunok is the smell. Its hard to describe, it almost has to be experienced. But for this purpose try to imagine a festering bin combined with a public toilet, and you’re part of the way there. There are certain parts of Tabunok, especially under the bridge, that are barely breathable.

The second thing that hits you is the busy-ness. There are people and vehicles everywhere, even at 11pm at night – if anything its worse at night than during the day. The pollution is terrible, and motorbikes, cars and jeeps drive around without much attention to who’s on the pavement or in the streets.

This is not a clean or safe place to be. And yet this is where many people work, sleep and live. And in amongst those faces are many of our street kids.

It’s on Night Patrol that you truly see how vulnerable our kids are. Tabunok is a place full of crime, drugs and violence, yet for many of our kids this is the only place they have to call home. I remember as a child having to hold my mum’s hand and look both ways as I crossed the street. These kids don’t have that luxury – I regularly find myself shouting “Watch out!” as they run across these crowded and dangerous roads to jump in our truck with no thought for the risk involved.

Once they’ve had their bread and hot chocolate and we’re just hanging out you can see these children for what they are – just kids. Whether its break dancing, singing or doing clapping games, its scenes that are familiar from any school playground. Except this isn’t a school or a playground. It’s a car park, by a busy road, at 10pm at night. These children range from 3-16 years old, and there’s not a parent in sight. There is no one to pick them at the end and walk them home, or tuck them up in bed. Leaving them at 11pm is one of the hardest parts of the week. We watch as they walk back under the bridge to settle down on the hard concrete for the night. For us, it ends when we go back to our comfortable homes, just to see them again the next morning for activities. But for them it doesn’t end. Every day and every night is spent on those streets.

Mercy in Action needs a drop in centre, it needs a night shelter. Its not just somewhere the kids can come, have fun, and then go home. Its somewhere they can be safe, be shown love, be able to enjoy the joys of childhood that have been stolen from them. A place that they can be secure, can grow and learn, and have the opportunity to have a future that is wholly different from the situations of their childhood.

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