So much has been happening in Kenya and home – just really need to win the lottery so John and I can get right back there!
In our boys house, Rafiki Familia, our new community team, headed by Anisha and includes Jacquie and Joyce, have been busy collecting the boys backgrounds and stories – and finding out how best to help them build or seek contact with their families. It is so sad to know that these boys have felt it safer to live on the streets, with all the violence and exposure to glue and alcohol, rather than with their families. It is an indicator of how difficult their lives were. Some of them have horrific scars that have been inflicted by family members. It seems that step-mothers and step-fathers have been instrumental in many beatings of our boys. And yet to me they are just boys – cheeky, funny, rude, clever, busy, lazy, funny, grumpy, kind, aggressive – you name it they show it.
Our community teams have visited some of the homes of our boys and are slowly placing the pieces of their lives together. Many of our boys have been in ‘children’s homes’ before they came to us but it hasn’t worked for them, and they have run away – often after being beaten for not following the rules, and the boys who lived on the streets have a pretty big reputation for being violent and unmanageable – let’s hope we are proved right that they are boys who need to be understood. We don’t leave it to chance – we train our staff – we monitor their work and we have BIG expectations from them – if a boy struggles I will look at what has happened leading up to that moment and not just be reactive to their behaviour.
Our approach is very much that we have rules and expectations BUT we fill those boundaries with therapeutic parenting – how will the boys ever trust others if they never feel seen and heard. We have 14 boys in one house – you might imagine all sorts of troubles that happen – and some do – but the emotion that runs through the house is one of love – love and acceptance. I am sure we will have some boys who cannot stay living in our family home – the pull of glue and alcohol is strong for these boys – but we are proud of every single day they stay with us – very proud – and look for the days to turn to weeks; the weeks to turn to months; and months to years – They are family.
Kevin, who told us the story of losing his family in the troubles in 2007 has been home for a visit and is now back with us – we are looking for him to find an role as an apprentice – maybe as a mechanic – we’re on it! He is a lovely warm and kind young man, who has missed out on the opportunity of education – I hope we can help him find a trade to support him for life.
Over with the girls, a lot is happening!
Mabel and Lillian have settled well into their new school. Mabel is being Mabel and ‘borrows’ as many pens and pencils that she can find in a day! She is happy to take them back the next day and says her teachers don’t mind as they love her so much! She is upset on Saturdays when she doesn’t go to school, as she loves it! Lillian is a little star and is very settled. She is learning lots and is much calmer all round. I’m so proud of them.
Naomi has started in class 7 at a girl’s school in town. We hope she will continue to do well and be well prepared for secondary school – very happy!
Our little Cecelia has started visiting her family following the end of her court case. She is beginning her journey to returning home. Sadly there was no conviction against the boy who raped her, despite her giving clear evidence in court – no-one seems to understand why – very sad. Her family is so excited that she will be home soon.
Little Mercy has been to court – she has been MANY MANY times before and really struggled to tell her story. She only spoke local dialect when she came to us, and this was a huge difficulty in court. She went back this week, fluent in Swahili and bursting to tell people what had happened to her. Sadly, because of a technicality, her case was adjourned until next week – but she is ready! The judge spoke to her and couldn’t believe she was the same child! The magic of Rafiki Mwema lives on!
Pauline and Margaret went to visit their father and that was a great day! One of the things that happened was that we found out that Pauline’s name is actually Florence! Her mother had changed her name when she ran away from the authorities, taking Florence with her. So no more Pauline – Florence she wants to be known as – so Florence it is!
There are many many more home visits underway as part of our support, which is lovely for the girls who have family, but very very tough for us girls whose mothers are perpetrators or they have no family. Our little Mabel asked to go on a home visit and when she was asked where she thought she might need to go – she looked up to the sky and said ‘heaven’. That broke my heart. Mabel came to us from an orphanage and has suffered greatly in her little life. She has no one in her world, except Rafiki Mwema and her beautiful sponsors. We will arrange for her to do a home visit to one of our staff – she adores Aunty Aggie – and I hope that makes her feel a little better.
Our lovely Tabitha is having a tough time at the moment and is feeling sad. She has a difficult relationship with her much stronger sister and needs all the love and support from her key worker and everyone at Rafiki Mwema at this time. It is a strange situation, and very connected to their trauma, that the person you might think would be close to you considering your shared history, is the person who turns against you – it’s all connected to shame. We are always there for all our girls – always!
So, life continues well in both houses. I continue to be overwhelmed by the way our children evolve in a loving environment and that can only happen by having the right staff. We can only have the right staff because we can invest in training, training and more training – and we can only do that because you love and care about what we do – so again the hugest thank you – I know you care because you are reading this!