Street Journeys

| December 22, 2013

Street Journeys details the work of Anne Wanjugu in Nairobi, Kenya, at the Shangilia Orphanage where she guides many children throughout their early lives, while using theater, music and dance as the glue that holds it all together.

In the heart of Nairobi, where abandoned children wander the streets with no relief from the grim realities of poverty, hope for the future is dim, until this renowned Kenyan actress restores the children’s spirit through the healing power of theater. When an unexpected event puts their resilience to the test, it’s up to the children to draw on their strength, and glean lessons of faith, family, and the rising of their spirit without their mentor. This inspiring documentary chronicles the triumphant journey from the makeshift stage of a small Nairobi church to the bright lights of Broadway.

The children highlighted in this documentary from Filmbuff have been discarded because of many reasons—some due to the death of their parents; some because their parents may have abandoned them; and some who made their way to the Orphanage because there was nothing left for them at home. The streets of Nairobi are filled with children who are just homeless, with many of them huffing “Tough Bond” glue to take their minds off of it all, according to a physician in the documentary. One young boy and his younger sister ended up in the Orphanage because they were required to hustle for money throughout the day while their mother prostituted herself. When they didn’t come home with money to help with the household, their mother beat them. So the young boy was grateful for the work of Wanjugu, because, “she loved us even if we didn’t have money,” he said.

This is yet another great documentary and testament to the power of the arts in helping children of any economic state to nurture and learn, without the fear of being ostracized by others. When Wanjugu unexpectedly dies, her work is taken up by Minnesota musician J.D. Steele, who travels to Nairobi to work with the group and who has taken the children all over the world for performances, including as the Shangilia Youth Choir of Kenya when they performed in Atlanta under the sponsorship of the Children’s Advocacy Centers of Georgia and Kennesaw State University.

Street Journeys is a remarkable documentary about a group of children that for all purposes would be forgotten in their part of the world. But the group, under the direction of and with the early foundation provided by Wanjugu, persevere and are phenomenal and make their mark on their community and the rest of the world.

To learn more about Street Journeys, directed by Tracy Christian, visit

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen, M.S.J., is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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