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Glue Boys: Mama Streetlight

Picture from Project 58 in Eldorate, Kenya.

Throughout my years in East Africa, I’ve often heard of the tragic epidemic of street children that numb the pains of hunger and desperation with glue fumes. However, until now, I had never actually witnessed it.

Looking off the balcony of Philip’s apartment, I can see the corner where many these Glue Boys dwell. The street is lined with a sea of large burlap sacks filled with discarded water bottles waiting to be sold to recyclers in town. Apart from begging for money from the few expat tourists and aid workers, this seems to be their primary means of existence.

Thousands of them line the streets with plastic glue filled bottles clinched between their teeth, fumes rising continuously into their nostrils. They become so high that they stumble through the streets, often meeting their demise in the circus of rampaging traffic. I have yet to learn how they obtain the glue.

I wonder how long their lungs and hearts can function with such toxins coursing through their veins. They don’t seem to beg when they are high. It’s only in the absence of the numbing fumes that they are plagued with overwhelming hunger and suffering.

On Glue Corner there is a streetlight. Philip says, “They cherish it. It keeps them safe. It is their mother and their father, watching over them and protecting them in the dark of night”.

These boys are someone’s children, robbed of their lives. By selling water bottles, numbing their pain and sleeping under the protection of Mama Streetlight, they have developed a way to survive and cheat death. I long to discover a way for them to actually live.


To see a 3 part series on the Glue Kids of Eldorate, Kenya, visit this link Ross Kemp Meets The Glue Kids Of Kenya: Part 1 of 3

For a full documentary, visit Glue Boys The Movie.


  1. benjo on May 6, 2011 at 3:08 PM

    We encountered a lot of glue kids down in Sao Paulo and Rio. I had similar questions as you are having. Where are the kids getting the glue? I found out one day as we were hanging with the kids and teaching them how to ride my tall bike. There was a local shoe repair lady that supplied the kids with the glue. Obviously, we confronted her about this and she responded by saying she was trying to “help” them. Can you believe that??? Couldn’t believe her line of thinking and so we made some attempts to actually physically take the glue from her. Didn’t work and the kids ended up snatching it away from her and running away with it.
    Also, one of the heart wrenching problems we found out is that when the kids are high they were taken advantage of by the local pedaphiles. Again, we had to confront one of these men that was trying to lure a kid away. He scrammed but we knew he would be back once we left the scene.
    Gosh, you would think something could be done about this? These kids need homes and a safe place to grow up.

  2. Guru on May 6, 2011 at 7:17 PM

    I have to say that the most appalling thing is that someone sells them glue and goes home happy with the days business. They beg, steal, do odd jobs around Mombasa and the little they get promptly ends up in the glue-selllers cashbox. Something needs to be done about this, I remember once a streetkid outrightly rejected an offer for from a someone, he wanted cold hard cash instead. Most likely to buy glue.

  3. Joanne Miller on May 7, 2011 at 3:30 PM

    This just makes me weep for these poor children. Knowing how you have such a tender heart, Jared, I know you must ache to help them. This is tragic. I don’t even know how to respond. I love you and pray you find ways to help change situations like this. I know you will fight for them and others like them. I pray for your safety and your ability to change the world, one person at a time.

  4. Johnny Brooks on May 9, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    Here in Nakuru they buy it from the shoe repairmen. It can also be bought in the supermarkets.

  5. Teri @ StumblingAroundInTheLight on May 9, 2011 at 6:17 PM

    This is so agonizing. Hard to read, helpless, from across the world.
    Praying for you & Ilea – for wisdom – that God will reveal His ways for caring, fighting, serving, loving these children.

    Trusting, expectantly, for steps you’ll be able to take…

  6. Glue Boys: Mama Streetlight « angaza-ness on June 13, 2011 at 2:42 PM

    […] Glue Boys: Mama Streetlight […]

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