What I want to do is to change the underpinning belief in Kenya, and beyond, that somehow children are emotionally unaffected by the huge life changes adults inflict on them.
I fell in love with Kenya on my very first visit and it changed my life, but not always in a good way. I saw and experienced first hand some loving parenting and some horrific parenting, both in families and organisations.
In the UK I work with children and families with trauma and one of the groups I most enjoy working with are teenagers – often those who the world seems to have given up on. I had never experienced a world truly giving up on children until I met the boys and girls who lived ‘in town’.
I had never seen so many empty and emotionally dead children scraping to live another day. The violence that was experienced from within the street community and from the officials who should have been protecting them, is embedded in my heart forever. To stand talking to a beautiful young man, aged about 12 or 13 and have a escare (guard) come and HORSE WHIP him in front of you, because this was a tourist area and the boys were like street rats, to be driven out, gave me the push to work with these boys. And I am so glad I did. My life is richer and theirs is safer too. Connection drives relationships.
I have been honoured and disgusted to be allowed to work with some of the most vulnerable children on the planet. I have laughed and cried in equal measures. I have seen children being brought to courts to stand 3 feet away from a man who has physically or sexually abused them – and to be questioned directly by them; I have seen judges shout at these same children for wetting themselves through fear; I have seen families support other relatives at the death of a mother and pay no attention to the children- Kenyan has the 4th highest rate of AIDS in the world, and that shows in their orphanages; I know children who are left at orphanages for 6 years only to be ‘collected’ by their families when they are big enough to do work and be useful, leaving everything behind to go off with strangers – often these children are later returned beaten and abused; I want schools to understand that a child cannot learn when they are consumed by fear of violence in the home – and so much more.
Our girls are all with us because they have been used and abused sexually by both men and women, some for many years. They were vilified in their communities because they were ‘unclean’ and brought disgrace to their families. Some of these are baby girls, barely old enough to walk.
I want everyone to play their part in emotionally supporting these children and families and we have started educating and changing lives.
I want a safe place where children who are victims of abuse and neglect can come, be therapeutically supported and given a safe home for life, away from institutions where often children and staff continue the cycle of abuse to each other.
I have picked up the work of Dr. Daniel Hughes and embedded it into the communities we work. We have staff who therapeutically parent our children and have made huge changes in how they parent their birth families.
I’m hoping we can enable local staff to keep the ethos of Play Kenya for generations to come.
Changing lives one word at a time
I’m prepared to work for the rest of my life to make this happen.