Where to start!

The boys project – the girls project???? So much to tell you about – let me start with the boys.

The boys project – Rafiki Familia is really taking shape. We had around 20 people for interview and from that we have selected 3 new staff and we have one of the Auntie’s moving from Rafiki Mwema – so we will be fully staffed by the end of the week – exciting but expensive! One of the things we will be developing is a sponsorship program that runs in much the same way as the girls. Our boys, we have 14 in total, are very damaged and complex boys who have been through so much in their lives. Imagine having no home, rejected by your family for no reason apart from maybe your father having a new wife who takes exception to his previous family, and being left to fend on the streets for everything. The streets are a horrific and dangerous place to live – many young boys do not survive and have been murdered in their attempted. These boys have been treated like scum of the earth – no-one wants them. Businesses employ men with whips to drive them away – they are treated like vermin. And yet I’d love you to meet our boys – they are like your sons, brothers, cousins and friends – except maybe a little rough around the edges – but then I think I might be if I had had their life! If you walk through our gates you will meet boys who play football, try hard in school, laugh with their friends and fall out with them too! Ours is a house of love – just like the girls – and a family that is taking shape.

I cannot tell you enough just what an amazing job the staff, led by Ray, have done – it is early days but the boys are showing their more vulnerable sides. One boy, Peter, I had known well when he was on the streets. A huge character who had the gift and cheek that made tourists love him and fear him – he was unpredictable– and it was also those qualities that make him difficult in the house. The staff are learning to see that Peter, at around 14, is a very scared young boy, who cannot manage his fear, and so he hits out – or storms off at everything. He is frightened and needs to be therapeutic parenting – we cannot manage Peter in conventional ways – we need to show him love and respect and know he will eventually be able to show us the same. We don’t tame Peter – he is not a wild animal – but we show him that he is loved and wanted – a strange experience for a young boy who has been whipped and chased away year after year – he is a huge character and yet sometimes can be like a baby – needing your attention at all times.

On Sunday all the boys and carers where invited by Longsands Academy to spend the day with them at their base, Greensteds International School. Imagine how are boys felt – they would have never been allowed even near the school in their previous lives and yet here they were – treated like honoured guests by the most wonderful group of students and staff. I cannot describe what amazing people this school are – just wonderful, kind, caring, playful and respectful people – the best role models for our boys. It was a brilliant day – up there with the best! The boys took part in a football tournament in the morning (it breaks my heart to report that Chelsea won!) – the joy on everyone’s face was amazing – and playing in mixed teams, Longsands and Rafiki Familia – just lovely!

We then all went for a lovely lunch – and again to see our boys at the tables with the other students, chatting and laughing – it made me cry!

After lunch the boys all went swimming – and I joined them! It was great fun but I discovered that one of our new staff couldn’t swim – who knew I’d need to remember my life saving skills from school!

The boys just LOVED the gym facilities and spent ages with the punch bag! One of the friends of Play Kenya back home has given us a donation and we will use it to get some equipment back at the house – they really need a punch bag and gloves! It was a perfect day – and one that will live on in the boys conversations for a long time. To be treated well must mean so much. Thank you Longsands Academy for everything you are doing! You are loved.

Yesterday Janet and I spent the day with the boys. We started with an art lesson outside (Can’t wait for our new internet connection so we can share the pictures with you). The boys were just amazing! They loved the glitter and paint and made a brill freeze for their newly painted rooms (courtesy of Mick, Dan and the students at Longsands).

We joined them for lessons and helped Max (teacher) and his team to work in a slightly different way – I’m no teacher but we have one arriving tomorrow!!! To see the boys achieving in Maths was great – Janet sat with Denis who hates school, working with balls and pick-up sticks – this evening he asked for more resources so he could be better at his Maths!

A great meeting with the manager Ray and then the teacher (courtesy of Hands Up for Action) and then a meeting with the boys rounded up the most brilliant day. Our boys are just awesome – in every way!!!!

Meanwhile, back at Rafiki Mwema life is very loud! We now have 25 girls and they sure make a noise! 10 of our older girls went out with the Longsands students yesterday to climb Mount Longanot – they were so excited and were out all day – but seeing them crawl back into the house 12 hours later – maybe they didn’t realise just what it entailed!

Naomi is settling back with our family and is looking less haunted by the moment – I can’t imagine how she is feeling. She is a very quiet young lady and it will take time for her to feel safe enough to share what has happened to her. Her sisters are happy to have her with us – they are a loving family.

Some of our little girls are unsettled with the changes (visitors coming and going) and are showing their feelings with some big behaviors – some biting and pinching. It is very hard for them – they love visitors but it also upsets the status quo in the house. We are SO grateful for everyone who visits and spreads the word of Play Kenya and our houses – asante x