Brad Voss, Executive Director
When I was much younger I loved sleeping outside. It was so much fun. I slept in the backyard, on porches, in treehouses, on trampolines, in state parks, on football fields, in tents, in hammocks – even on the side of a mountain (or two). Anytime I got the chance, I was so happy to sleep outside. On balmy summer nights growing up in Texas I was thrilled to sleep outside with little more than a blanket of stars across the sky as cover. As I grew a little older I was lucky enough to travel to places like Colorado and New Mexico and Alaska where warm nights were replaced by much cooler nighttime temperatures and thin quilts were replaced by down sleeping bags and four-season tents. Waking up on those crisp mornings and crawling out of a toasty sleeping cocoon was the stuff of dreams. For most of my life sleeping outside was incredible. It was romantic and exciting and fueled some of my happiest memories.
When I made my first trip to Kenya in 2016, sleeping outside took on a whole new perspective and meaning. It was during this trip that I first came face-to-face with children and teenagers who sleep outside every single night. And not because it was fun or adventurous. And not inside a nice tent or wrapped in a down sleeping bag. It was on this trip that I learned and understood for the first time that thousands of kids go to sleep - no, try to sleep - outside on the streets of Nairobi, Kenya (and in many other cities around the world). It’s not romantic. It’s not filled with happy memories. It’s cold. It’s dangerous. And it’s real.
Each night tens of thousands of kids in Kenya and millions of kids around the world will lay their heads down on cold ground – not because it’s fun to sleep outside, but because there is no inside. They didn’t plan to be there, but because of abuse or neglect or lack of resources or a myriad of other reasons, they are there. The nights are cold and scary and very dark. They will hopefully find friends with whom they can share the night. They will huddle close together to increase warmth, and they will take turns staying awake to fend off the dangers that often appear in the darkness. And they will pray. They will pray that the night passes quickly and that the sun shows itself sooner rather than later. These precious kids love the mornings. They love seeing the sun come up and feeling the heat that it brings. And they love seeing people (like the team at MADE IN THE STREETS) who love and care for them.
I still really like sleeping outside. I like camping under the stars and the moon with friends and family. But now, on every night I sleep outside (and on most nights that I sleep inside) I’m mindful of the many incredible kids that are also out there. I pray that they find warmth. I pray that they find friends for protection. I pray that they find a softer, more comfortable spot than the one they found last night. And I pray that somehow, someway, with God’s help and all of us working together, more of those kids can find their way off of the streets and into the exciting, fun, romantic, and adventurous life of sleeping inside.
For more information about how you can help street kids move from outside to inside check out the Plan A Fundraiser or Serve In Kenya pages on the MITS website.
When you do this for 27 years, you're bound to pick up a few stories and lessons along the way. Thoughts, impressions, news, and highlights from our staff, visitors, donors, students and alumni.