Self-Help Groups for Street Youth

Self-Help Groups for Street Youth

Addis Ababa, EthiopiaWashington, United States
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$1 million - $5 million
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Retrak's program of Self-Help Groups for Street Children enables marginalized youth to take their future into their own hands by planning, setting up and running their own small businesses. Young people work in groups to support and encourage each other's ideas and plans.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

There are an estimated 10,700 children living unaccompanied on the streets of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Not only have these street children experienced the trauma of a family situation which has led them to run or be pushed away from home, but once they are on the street and disconnected from the protection of their family, community and social networks, they are at risk of falling ill, suffering abuse and neglect, working in hazardous environments and engaging in criminal activity in order to survive. Over 75% of the street children at Retrak Ethiopia identified poverty and lack of education as two of the reason they came to the streets.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Just as poverty pushes youth to the street, a stronger economic environment can pull them back into the community. Using the Child Association Group model, Retrak will work with older youth who have been living on the street for long periods of time but have expressed a desire to move away from street life. A dedicated social worker will empower these street youth to form self-help groups. These groups will participate in business and leadership training and after receiving a small grant will be encouraged to set up a small business. Income earned will be used to break the cycle of poverty and homelessness as youth have sustainable alternatives to street life. The associations will also be key in providing protection to new children joining the streets and informing staff to facilitate early intervention. This model draws on good practice from the charity Undugu in Kenya.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

With this model, groups of 10 street youth, ages 15 – 18, are given training and support to save money and establish a street-based activity. Youth are trained in business skills, including how to develop a business plan, leadership skills and financial skills, such as saving money. They are given seed money to start a small business. The model will take place in two stages: 1). The Formation Stage: Social Workers establish contact and gain trust with groups of children on the street, and help them form small groups and elect a leader. The groups will then begin learning basic life skills. 2). Capacity Building Stage: Groups will receive business and entrepreneurship training, education, health and hygiene lessons, and design a business plan. This program enables children to work their own way out of poverty and build their own future with very little external help. Examples of businesses include shining shoes, washing taxis, operating a fruit stand, etc. All activities are done on the street, with a social worker meeting with the children on a daily basis to help them establish safe, productive and innovative ways and tools to make a living. With this support and encouragement it is expected that the boys will be able to move on and build independent lives as valuable members of the community.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

There are several other NGOs and international aid agencies working with marginalized children and youth in Addis Ababa, but Retrak’s Child Association Groups model is innovative because we’re not simply giving handouts, but rather we are empowering youth to work for themselves. The youth in our program will be self-selected and highly motivated to make changes in their lives.

Founding Story

Retrak’s child-centered approach informs everything that we do, and our “Aha!” moment also came from the children themselves. Retrak Ethiopia has a drop-in center in Addis Ababa where the children can have a meal, wash up, play, learn and participate in the many activities that we offer. One of these activities is a debate club, which helps staff to remain in touch with important issues raised by the children. Recommendations from the children themselves resulted in the understanding that the children wanted to be empowered to change their own lives. Older youth who did not want to return to their families wanted to find their own path to economic independence, and felt that they could support each other in their journeys. Self-help groups were the answer.
About You
About You
First Name


Last Name


About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country

, DC, Washington, Washington

Country where this project is creating social impact

, AA, Addis Ababa

Age of Innovator

Over 34

Gender of Innovator


How long has your organization been operating?

More than 5 years

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How long have you been in operation?

Operating for more than 5 years

Social Impact
What solution(s) does your initiative address to help emerging entrepreneurs and small businesses grow and thrive in underserved communities? (select all applicable)

Access to financing, Access to talent, Access to economic opportunity.

What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Our model is based on the Child Association Groups model developed by the Undugu Society of Kenya, and one of our partner organizations, Child Rescue Kenya, has applied this model to their work with youth in the Kitale slum in Nairobi. This model has shown to create a tremendously positive impact on the lives of street youth, reducing their exposure to street life and helping protect them from sexual abuse, violence, gang crime, and exposure to drugs and disease.

Previous work in Ethiopia by Retrak has demonstrated that street youth are highly motivated to be entrepreneurs. Our street business and street banking initiatives have enabled young men to start businesses such as shoe shine, street trading, keeping and breeding livestock, and sale of food or produce. The impact of these ventures is that the children are provided a secure environment where they can overcome their problems, gain confidence, realize their potential and begin to build a future.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

Over a three-year period we plan to work with 125 street children, whose participation in the Self-Help Groups will enable them to secure a livelihood and move away from street life to live independently in the community. While there is no fixed timeframe for the groups to progress through the process, we expect that within the next three years we will see these children not only living independently, but also saving substantial amounts of money and planning for the future.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

One of the significant barriers to the progress of street children out of their situation is the lack of belief in their own abilities to effect change in their lives. One of the key methods of restoring a sense of belief and self worth is to help children recognize their own individual strengths and provide them with the means to generate a legitimate income of their own.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

2 Retrak Ethiopia social workers trained on empowering street youth to form self-help groups

Task 2

Daily meetings/workshops held with street children to facilitate the formation of groups and identify leaders

Task 3

4 Self-help groups (of 10 children each) formed and leaders identified

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone
Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Business plans formed

Task 2

Small loans given out

Task 3

Business start-up

Tell us about your partnerships

Retrak has always valued the synergy that comes from partnering with like-minded organizations, and we have collaborated with several partners in Uganda, Ethiopia and Kenya. For the Child Association Groups program, Retrak Ethiopia is partnering with Hope for Children Ethiopia, a local NGO that has provided community-based care and support to children affected by HIV/AIDS since 2000. Retrak will work exclusively with groups of boys, and Hope for Children Ethiopia will work with both boys and girls.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

Retrak is dedicated to sharing best practices and collaborating as much as possible to enable street children to realize their potential and discover their worth.