Where on earth does time go! People ask what we do when we are in Kenya and the truth is we do a million things – some so huge they literally fills your waking (and sleeping!) thoughts – and others so small you do them and the memory moves on. Everything we do in Kenya is huge in so many ways.
We spent some time today with the boys and were told off because we are not there enough – and they are right! On Sunday we celebrate Rafiki Familia being one year old and we will take the boys out to celebrate – my wish is we could clone ourselves and be in both houses all day every day! We had a meeting with the boys and staff to chat about important house issues – like birthday cakes! I love our boys and we are so proud of them being with us one year on. Some of the boys haven’t felt able to stay and we are saddened they have left us – but we know that the pull of the street is just huge for these lads. They are incredible that they are in school with us, and still living in the house after 12 hard and incredibly rewarding months. Our boys’ staff, led by Ray, are a credit to the boys and we are thankful for all they do. All the Play Kenya staff, in RM and RF, work so hard to develop the skills needed to be with such vulnerable and abused children and we are so grateful for the work you do. Asante
Today, as part of our continued development for the girls, we visited a long-term home about an hour away, as some of our girls do not have a home to return to. They have been with us a long time and we really need to find them a permanent home BUT …
We have such huge standards of care, physical and emotional, at Rafiki Mwema and Rafiki Familia that so many places we visit just don’t match what we are looking for. We are looking for a safe, kind, loving, emotionally supporting home, where children and young people are encouraged to become the best they can. We want staff to be trauma sensitive and loving in their parenting of such vulnerable children, and really love them as their own. We want good, individually planned education, which addresses the needs of the child and not an exercise to promote passing exams but never questioning and exploring life. We want a therapeutic, trauma sensitive residential school for all children who have experienced abuse and horrors in their lives – and the closest we have to that is the two houses at Play Kenya. Nothing seems to touch the approach we live by. How do we extend what we have to keep our young girls safe into adulthood?
This afternoon we had our ‘big girls’ group. Nine girls have been meeting once or twice a week to discuss and explore the difficulties of being a young girl who has experienced sexual abuse at many levels. These girls are courageous in the way they address so many issues around their abuse, and the impact it has on them and their families. It is inspiring and heart breaking, all in the same heartbeat. Today we were joined by the lovely Sarah Rosborg and they welcomed her with open arms and hearts. They seemed surprised that their words brought their tears to her eyes, and wondered if she knew their stories. She knew them so well. She knew the pain and fear they have lived with and she loved them, knowing that this part of them simply opened her heart even more. Our beautiful girls seemed shocked that she could know and still accept them. This vulnerability is part of our fears for their futures. Our fears that they will again fall foul of the lusts of men who have no right to touch our baby girls; The fear that drives us to continue with improving the support for our girls when they leave the safety of our walls. I wish we could keep them forever.
Two of this group leave us next week as they return to their families and we are happy and cautious all at the same time. We are so happy that they have travelled so far and their families are wanting and accepting for them to re-join ‘normal’ life, but fearful their experiences make them more vulnerable than others. We have a robust outreach team and we visit VERY often – I hope we do enough.
I looked into the eyes of one of our girls as she told her sisters she would pray for them. I looked into her heart and saw the hope and fear of going home – just there. I listened to the girls telling her not to spend time in the shops or play outside – and I knew why. The simplest of tasks such as buying water is a dangerous exercise for an African child. Many of our girls have been tricked by the shopkeepers and told they don’t have enough money for the water they need. The evil manipulating shopkeeper kindly lets the girl off the money she owes – all she needs to do is to allow herself to be raped by a sweaty revolting old man, and then her debt is wiped – until next time. No wonder the girls have fear in their eyes. No wonder their sister have fear for them. They know that the voice of a child is not so loud in the villages. Rafiki Mwema has given them a voice and now they will be tested to use it. They know to shout and scream if anything looks like happening – they never knew they could do that before. They paid their price in silence – often not even calling out in pain. We live on inside of them. We are their strength. We guard their future – we hope. Our outreach team visits them, calls them, and speaks with their families – FOREVER. Our outreach team is their safety net – please don’t let them fall through. Please. That is not an option. We MUST keep them safe – they are baby girls in a life where adults trample on their innocence. We must keep them as safe as we can. They take our hearts in their hands and know we are by their sides – is that enough?
It just makes the want and need for a trauma sensitive school, where the girls could return home in the school holidays, but continue to develop as young independent strong women until they are 18. Sexual abuse does not define our girls but it is in their life story and we want to ensure they stay safe forever.
The dream: A year in the protecting, nurturing, safe walls of Rafiki Mwema followed by an excellent education that supports their individual needs and builds their strength to reach their full destiny in a safe loving and trauma aware environment – until they take on the government roles as the voice of the child in years to come!!! I am convinced we have the first female president of Kenya at Rafiki Mwema. Those that can’t return home will live in small ‘pods’ of houses with their own house mother, to be loved, cared for and supported – Oh please bring it on! In the meantime we will continue to search for a good enough alternative for the girls who came from the streets and have no homes; for the girls whose families allowed and encouraged their abuse and cannot return; for the girls who were abused by their fathers/brothers/cousins who are in prison and the families blame the girls for the loss of earning in the family and so they cannot go home. No wonder sleep is a luxury when all this fills my head!