Sunday, June 16, 2013

Just Imagine

Imagine for a minute that you are 14 years old. You live with your mom and step father in a poor community in Kenya. Your step father is a drunk and and at night when he returns home he takes his drunken rage out on you. Because of this you decide that it is not safe for you to be at home so you start sleeping out in the forrest or you find friends you can stay with. This angers your step father more, which in turn angers your mother. They decide they no longer want to deal with you so they take you to court and wrongfully accuse you of stealing money and being disobedient. It is your word against 2 adults. The court system finds you guilty as a minor and ships you off to a remand center for a sentence of 2 years. The intent is that YOU will be rehabilitated from behaviors that you did not exhibit to start with, while your mother and step father continue living just as they were.

Now your 2 years is over and you are sent home. Here's the kicker- you get home to find everyone in your family gone with no explanation. Eventually you get a hold of an uncle who is now taking care of you little brother and sister, but will not take you in. He will give you no information about your parents. You have no idea whether they are dead or alive. You are now 16. What do you do? The government has no luck tracking down your family so you are just sent back to the remand center for an unknown amount of time feeling hopeless, unwanted, unloved, bitter and lost.

Meet Mary Wangui. That is her story.

Me with my new friend Mary!
I do not know about you all, but I believe somewhere along the line the system failed Mary. In 2 more years she will be 18, considered an adult, and the government will no longer support her and regardless of where she is in her education or training she will be released with no where to go.

Yesterday I spent the day with over 100 girls like Mary who live at a remand center in Dagoretti. Through conversations with these girls we learned that the main cause behind their placement there is dysfunctional families. If they were not turned into the court by their parents, then most were found living on the street due to abuse or neglect. The remand center is a nice place with nice teachers, but in terms of rehabilitation I do not know how much they can accomplish with their resources. These girls put on a brave face everyday and as much as I know they enjoyed having visitors they are still filled with bitterness and loss. They need one on one counseling to understand they are loved and be reminded there is more life left to live and they have a choice in what that looks like.

My heart broke for Mary. What do you tell someone like that who has lost everything and has been told by her own family that she is not wanted? There is really nothing you can say and nothing frustrates me more than that. All you can do is listen and be a friend and show compassion. I do not blame her for feeling hopeless. Nothing in her life has told her otherwise. I believe there is hope for Mary and for each of the girls there and I am praying earnestly that God will reveal Himself to them. Please join in praying with me for Mary and the millions of children living in poverty. Pray for their parents, the governments, and those working to find solutions and bring change.

Entrence into the center.
I do not want this post to be all sad. Yesterday was a fantastic day because we got to know what issues the girls are facing and now we can use the information to work on creating a partnership between Nafisika Trust and the center. Not only that, but we learned more about where the gaps in the system are and now we can start looking at ways to close those gaps.  It was a day full of dancing, singing, and laughter.
The wonderful group from Nafisika.

Introduction and games!

Lunch time.

Small group games and conversation.

Mary, as I said, is one of many many children living on the street. The Be The Change projects in Rongai, Nkoroi, Ngong, and Dagoretti are working to get them back into school by working with the parents and with all of the stakeholders in the communities. You can support the project in Ngong by clicking here and donating on Global Giving. We have 15 days left to raise 2,000 pounds!


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  2. This was an amazing day the girls will never forget. They miss you big Jenny!