Gregory John Smith
This profile was prepared when Gregory John Smith was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 1999.
The New Idea
Gregory is rehabilitating and integrating street children into society by providing them with an opportunity to enter foster care. Gregory's Hummingbird Program is based on his in-depth analysis of who street children are and why so many return to the streets in spite of well-intentioned projects. Through his close contact with youth who have lived on the streets, Gregory has learned that a yearning to belong to a "normal" family lies deep within each child, and his approach incorporates that discovery. The program provides comprehensive services (including food, clothing, and shelter), but it also deals with long-term aspects of the children's lives. The program seeks to uncover each child's life history as far back in time as possible. By understanding the child's background, the Hummingbird Program works toward the goal of integrating him or her into a structured family "space." The program seeks to make foster care work by building trust, teaching conflict resolution, and reducing dependency on the child's street community. For some children, placement with relatives is not a promising option. Gregory is designing a process to establish other sources, although fostering by non-blood-related caregivers is uncommon in Brazil. Existing laws make this practice theoretically possible, but there is no public financing, and it remains culturally unfamiliar. Gregory will be addressing these obstacles. After children are placed in foster homes, the Hummingbird Program will provide follow-up support and guidance to the foster families.
Gregory John Smith is the recipient of the 2014 World of Children Humanitarian Award.