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This page is dedicated to the legacy of Father Patrick Shanahan, co-founder of StreetInvest and champion of street children's rights.

Patrick’s work with street-connected children began in the slums of Accra, Ghana in the 1980’s when he discovered children living and working, completely alone, in some of the most appalling circumstances. 

His philosophy of believing in these children as the experts in their lives, and his determination that we must start by going to them rather than demanding they come to us, was born when a 10-year-old street child looked him in the eye and asked, “Mr Patrick, you seem like a nice man, but what for your school?”  It was at this point that he understood that we will only be able to help to bring lasting, meaningful change for these young people if we first listen to them and accept the reality of their lives. 

This is the basis for StreetInvest’s child-led, rights-based approach which he advocated for street-connected children throughout his life.

In doing so, Patrick founded many organisations in Ghana and beyond.  He came to England to set up Street Child Africa in 1993 and joined the co-founders to establish StreetInvest in 2008.  He supported the Consortium for Street Children for 20 years and, in 2011, was awarded their inaugural Street Child Champions Award in recognition of his unwavering commitment to street children

In 2013, he initiated and became Research Director of the Growing up on the Streets research project, which documented the lives of 198 street-connected youth in Africa, for which the street-connected young people themselves were trained as the peer researchers and advocates for the changes they identified.  The project gained a number of awards and was the pioneer for StreetInvest’s latest Wellcome Trust funded Vulnerability and Service Mapping research project in Kolkata which has already been replicated on a smaller scale in Sierra Leone.

Patrick was also critical in the journey towards the publication of the United Nations General Comment on Children in Street Situations No.21 (2017), which for the first time explicitly recognises the rights of street-connected children and provides guidelines on how the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child should be applied to them. 

His legacy at work

StreetInvest is proud to be part of Patrick’s lasting legacy.  We work with a network of 71 Global, Regional and Local Partners all joined by a common commitment to rights based responses for street-connected children.  These are some examples of the work of our Regional Coordinating Partners in India, Kenya and Ghana.  They are real stories of the lives of street-connected young people and the Street Workers that support them. Some of these stories may be upsetting and we are sorry for that.  However, as Patrick said, we have to accept the reality of these young lives before we can help bring positive change:

Patrick at the UN

Patrick was, of course, a compelling public speaker and addressed the UN on no less than three occasions in his fight for international guidance on the protection of street-connected children’s rights.  Here is an extract of his final speech

More of Patrick's work

Please contact StreetInvest should you wish to learn more of his work and/or the ongoing work of StreetInvest and our partners. 

Here are some additional examples of his writing:

Shanahan 2003 – Streets versus Elites

Shanahan 1998 – The alternative Africa – street children in Accra Ghana

Messages from friends

“Patrick was a great man who influenced many lives. Without him the world will be a worse place. Without him the world would have been a much worse place. Street children have lost a giant champion. StreetInvest will do our best to live up to his dreams of a just life for street children around the world”  Duncan Ross, Co-founder & CEO, StreetInvest

Click here for more messages of Friends:

Remembering Fr Patrick Shanahan


StreetInvest has put together some information should you wish to consider your own legacy arrangements.  This can be found here

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