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.