Plight of street children in limelight at Stratford

A new grassroots not-for-profit organisation launched in Stratford last week with a panel discussion about homeless children.

Soleha Khawar, 26, first become concerned about the plight of children running away from violent homes while working in the borough as a domestic violence case worker.

After travelling to Morocco to volunteer with street children, Soleha decided to start a grassroots organisation called Streethands about a year ago to raise awareness about homelessness and young people and try to address the root causes.

While studying International Politics at the Unversity of East London, Soleha found that she resided in a borough with an extremely high level of young homelessness and set about basing Streethands in Newham.

She said: “I researched it and I found that 84,000 children are living homeless in the UK and that really troubled me.

“I thought I really owed it to them as a professional to try and do something about this issue.”

‘Prevent’, Streethands’ first public discussion forum around street children, took place at new independent cinema and exhibition space Sugarhouse Studios on Stratford’s High Street and attracted representatives from names such as the NSPCC, the Muslim Youth Helpline, and a neuroscientist from the University of Cambridge.

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Around 60 people turned up for the free event on Saturday September 22 and Soleha believes the discussions opened a lot of eyes to a problem they did not know existed.

She said: “I wanted to instill a sense of responsbility in people because there’s so much apathy. A lot of people were amazed when I said that there were 84,000 homeless children in the UK because they said they didn’t really see children on the streets.

“It’s getting over the invisibility problem and, once people knew about it, they really wanted to do something about this issue.”

Lots of the audience participated in asking the panel questions and contacted her at the end of the debate through social media to see how they could volunteer.

Soleha said: “Something I wanted to get across at the end was that you don’t have to be someone to do something like this you just need to have some empathy and drive and want to do something about these issues.”

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