New app to see life through the eyes of an African street child

A new app that puts you at the centre of a street child’s life in Africa has been launched by researchers from the University of Dundee.

The team behind ‘Growing Up on the Streets’ have created an interactive story map that lets you see life through the eyes of street children and youth living in Accra, Ghana. Led by Professor Lorraine van Blerk from the University, Growing up on the Streets was a three-year project that ventured into the African cities of Accra, Bukavu and Harare to find out what life was like for these young people. She was joined by Father Patrick Shanahan, Dr Wayne Shand and Janine Hunter on the project.

The story map is an interactive web app divided into 10 chapters that represent the 10 things that street children and youth had identified as being important to them. They include shelter, keeping safe in the city and time to play.  It incorporates video, sound and images. The user scrolls through the pages and becomes fully immersed into life in Accra. They can read the children’s stories, while listening to the sounds of the place the children call their home.

Professor van Blerk said, “This story map gives people an insight into our research. They can see how street children and youth create livelihoods for themselves, experience where they live, eat, work or bathe and get a sense of their real lives.

“When we started the project we wanted to understand the capabilities of youth living on the streets in order to improve policies and practices to help transform their lives. The story map is a knowledge exchange tool that we can use to change negative portrayals of street children and youth by the public and other stakeholders.”

In May this year, Janine Hunter, the project researcher from the University’s School of Social Sciences, went to Accra to meet with the street youth to gather footage for the story map. Eleven young men and women who live on the streets were provided with tablets that enabled them to take photos and videos to help explain what life was like on the streets.

Janine said, “Through the story map you get to see where street children and youth live, the market places where they sleep and how they access money to survive. It provides a visual showcase into their world.”

A key success of the project has been the consultation for the United Nations General Comment on Children in Street Situations which is due to be released in July. This will provide an addendum to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The app was made possible thanks to prize money the team received from the Stephen Fry Award for Public Engagement Project of the Year, which they were awarded in February. The awards recognise the work of staff and students who work to communicate the University's research and practice to a wider audience. The recipients receive a trophy and £1500 prize money to use towards their future public engagement activities.

‘Growing Up on the Streets’ A Story Map by Accra's Street Youth’ is freely available online at:

For media enquiries contact:
Cara Longmuir
Media Relations Officer
University of Dundee
Nethergate, Dundee, DD1 4HN
Tel: +44 (0)1382 385243