It’s been a crazy few days – but then it always is here!
We have been really busy with training, staff meetings, visiting the boys and watching them play football.
On Saturday our boys had a match against a local team (sadly we lost 4-3) and while we were there one of the original boys who came with us from the prison, arrived at the field. It was such a contrast to see Daniel compared to the boys in the house now. They look pretty healthy; they are free of drugs and alcohol and are well fed. Daniel was with us for a week but chose to return to the streets where he is in constant danger. He is a smart boy but he could not give up his glue and was disruptive in the house. Having said that we would not have given up on him, and we still help him when we can, but he can’t live away from his danger filled existence. It makes me so sad but I have to accept that living in a house with rules is scarier for him that the dangers on the streets. I am worried that he may persuade some of our more vulnerable boys, those who really miss glue, to leave Rafiki Familia and join him back in danger. His best friend and partner in crime (literally!) is with us and struggling. I really hope all our boys stay with us but I accept we can only do what we can do – that doesn’t mean I wont fight like a tiger to keep them all!
It is so strange – you might think that there would be no contest between life on the streets; living in fear, theft, sexual and physical abuse and so much more, in comparison to a home, education, food, safety and a family atmosphere but because of the trauma these boys have been through, the pull back to their normality can sometimes be so huge. Of the boys who ran away Daniel is the one who now thinks he would like to come back but won’t give up his glue. My offer to him is to help him find somewhere in a different street boys project and if he can manage to come off drugs we will have him back. I won’t see him remain in danger if he wants out, but my fear is that he will never give up this life. Very sad.
We have had chicken-gate at Rafiki Mwema where we have far too many chickens. We built them a chicken coup but they keep escaping! We have found eggs in the strangest of places including in the benches of the girls tables, on the bookshelf, in the office and in our shoes! You can imagine how much chicken poo these noisy blighters produce also! So on Sunday Garry (husband to the very quiet Lorraine who is known as teacher Lorry!) set about a repair job with his tools and constant support by his side – watchman Anthony. They did a brilliant job – apart from the moment when they realised our Mary was skipping INSIDE the coup and all the chickens were outside – but that was rectified. So today we had all our chicken inside and no poo to negotiate – well all except ONE chicken who continues to escape! We have watched her and cannot see how she does it but every 20 minutes or so she appears in the house – hurry up home Garry – we need you!
Garry Lorraine Rachel, Sammy and Janet are taking a 3 day break in The Mara and it sounds like they are having the best time and have already seen a leopard! I am very envious! Garry has been renames as EVEN Garry now but our manager who was very disappointed that her trusty team were off on a jolly. She accepted the first 4 names but shook her head and tutted when she found that chicken man Garry was deserting her and said sadly “even Garry”. He will be forever known as Even Garry!
Back here at Rafiki Mwema we have had some good times but also some very tough times. Our girls have seen many visitors come and go and it is having an impact on them. They are not coping too well at the moment. Particularly Mary, Lillian and Leah and some of the behaviors they are showing are very aggressive. It’s fine when they target me (last night Mary ripped out a handful of my hair and I thought she had dislocated my fingers – she is so strong) but they are also targeting our quiet girls and the animals. This is very normal given their experiences, and no coincidence that these are three of the most damaged by sexual violence) but it is our responsibility to keep all the girls safe. Using our therapeutic parenting approach is working but it is a 24/7 job and very demanding on the staff.
We have continued with our group and in our last one we found out more about the stories behind the reasons the older girls are with us. One girl told us that the son of the man who was arrested beat her daily and told her not to testify. He cut her with knives and sticks and her little face is covered in scars. Heartbreaking and so brave. She came to us a few weeks after the rape was reported and in that time experienced horrific physical abuse on top of the sexual violence. She is in the process of giving her evidence in court – brave is just not a big enough word.
Another of our girls has spoken for the first time to tell the story of her and her siblings and hers is shocking. She speaks of a life where they were all left to roam and many many men had sex with them on a daily basis. Her details are too upsetting to repeat here but she also said that they were bribed by a neighbor with sweets to tell a different story in court – and that is destroying her! She is living in constant fear and I have a clearer insight into why she tries to be invisible in the house and her fear when an official car arrives through our gates. Heartbreaking. To have this young lady who is so careful not to show herself, and most certainly not show any fear or sadness, literally in my arms like a baby, sobbing openly and allowing me to comfort her – I have no words. It IS why we are here – it is why we fight so hard for both houses to continue – these are CHILDREN and their stories are so shocking they almost could seem unbelievable. Sadly they are so real. Saly they haunt our children on a daily basis. Children who have been through more than I can ever even imagine. Children who are finding a voice from a dark place and having the trust to know we can manage their pain and find a way forward for them; The bravest of brave children.
Today John and I are meeting with The Law Society and we will be presenting our concerns for the children’s representation – or lack of it – in court. We have been accused of keeping girls at Rafiki Mwema after they have testified – we will be explaining again about our process. The adults focus on the court we focus on the child. Just because they have given evidence does not mean they are ready to return home as we have found to some of the children’s cost. This is a therapeutic home and they are with us for that journey as well as the court and hospital. Another day in the office today!