This trip is amazing but a bit like having 2 children – when you have one you think it’s hard work – when you have two you know it is!!! I never seem to have enough time to do everything!
Things at Rafiki Mwema have been full on as usual – we have 25 of our own girls and 5 are visiting who were with us for a year from another orphanage. This has caused a bit of excitement in the house to say the least – and having 30 girls sitting around the table for meal times is nothing short of engineering genius.
I have taken some time to observe our Attachment Play sessions with our carers and they are doing so well – the girls are building strong relationships with their key children and this shows in everyday life. I cannot tell you the huge differences in some of our most challenging little ones. Lillian, who has had more trauma than you could imagine stood up in worship last night and led prayers – a little girl who couldn’t even form a sound apart from screaming when she came to us – speaking from her heart, praying for Sarah Rosborg and the boys project – and of course John Tipper!!!!
I have laughed and cried so much with the girls – little Mary-Ann is as funny as our Mary with some of the best facial expressions I have ever seen. Her heartbreaking story will take many years of therapy – but she is beginning to feel safer with us – and can tolerate visitors and us now! We are very careful not to encroach on her space and she is doing really well. There will, of course, be set backs but all moving in the right direction.
I think we are seeing many many changes with the girls. Our older girls have their therapy group which has been so important for them. We have the names of new perpetrators and we will be passing those on to the authorities. They are better at understanding the needs of their sisters at Rafiki Mwema and the empathy some of them are showing is heartwarming. Our Jennifer was into her stepdown programme when we discovered that her family member was not safe (as a result of the group) and so we have halted this process. It confirms the importance of this part of our programme. Without the attention to detail in this stage we have averted a possible disaster for our young Jennifer. Phew!
We had a great visit from a lovely fried of Play Kenya, Ross, with his brilliant family and friends. They have given us a lovely donation and we are going to use it in Rafiki Familia to buy metal boxes for the boys to keep their personal belongings in. Imagine living with no home and no possessions – anything you may have had was stolen. The need to have some ownership is huge and contributes to your identity – so a huge thank you to Action Not Words – you are lovely!
Over at the boys, Rafiki Familia, we have been building relationships with these incredible young men. They started by being polite with us and greeting us ‘nicely’ when we arrived. There was a huge turning point when Janet and I turned up to watch their football training on Wednesday. (They go to a field to train and then play a game). We got out of the car and Small Brian saw us and his face just lit up – it was such a special moment. Then about 10 of the boys left the pitch to say Hello. A magic magic moment. I personally think it was built on my incredible contribution to their football earlier in the week, when I saved a shot from their best sticker – ok it was a bit lucky – I turned to tell Janet that I was far too old to play football and with that the ball struck me like a cannon on my very padded backside – I was a hero for stopping the shot – but really there was not a chance he was going to get a shot past that part of my body!!!
We have spent time just ‘hanging out’ and chatting with the boys. Some have zero English and some speak it well. They have had mixed experiences with some of our boys having been passed from family member to family member before being left totally alone on the streets from tender young ages. How frightening must that have been. I cannot imagine. Others have had better starts in life and fell on hard times after deaths in their families. Some boys have been to school – others cannot read or write.
Sitting chatting to one boy led us to talking about what it was like to be at Rafiki Familia – he looked straight into my eyes and said – It has changed my life and given me a chance to be a better person’. The impact of those words will never be lost on me. It is exactly why we do the work we do – and I am grateful for him putting it so clearly.
We have spent some time training local staff and have been grateful for the opportunity to help folk understand that the behaviors they want to change, simply cannot be changed until we recognise that they are driven by emotions and feelings. Only when we understand what pushes the child to show, in some cases, such shocking behaviors, will we ever be able to change them.
We have also been meeting with the local Rotary club and our great friends from the local branch. They are going to be helping us with so many things, including equipping our boys project and school. Janet and I met up with a lovely lady from the Nakuru hospital (thank you Kenya Health) who has arranged for us to meet with the Kenyan Law Society next week. They are keen to find a way of offering us free legal representation for our girls – imagine that! Only 2 weeks ago one of our girls was taken to the scene of the crime and had to travel with the prosecution lawyer!!!! They wanted her attacker to be in the car with her at one point, but luckily our staff refused for that to happen. With representation and video link the trauma of testifying may just be a bit easier for the girls.
There is so much happening on a moment to moment basis – time is slipping through my fingers once again. Next week we have 2 days full training for the staff of both our houses and we have invited another orphanage to attend if they can. We are also working at a woman’s refuge centre, training the staff there to help them support the many women who are survivors of domestic violence and also support their children too. There is so much work to do and always such little time to do it!
I am really delighted that Janet is taking a couple of days to go on safari next week (she has been here 4 times and not made it to The Mara yet!) but I seriously don’t know how I will manage without her!!! We have such a great team here with myself Janet and Anisha – it will hard breaking it up even for a few days!
In the middle of everything our lovely, crazy and very funny friend Lorraine arrived with her husband Garry and children Rachel and Sammy. Lorraine is a teacher at a special needs school in the UK so on her first morning we just up sticks and left her in charge of the school – all seemed fine and the children LOVED their teacher Lorry!!!! I am very excited that she is over and experiencing Play Kenya with us – just hope they got some sleep last night!
I think one of the toughest bits for the girls this trip has been having had so many fantastic volunteers – they have had to say so many heartfelt goodbyes – so so tough. We have said goodbye to Will who the girls loved playing football with and his skipping – he spent lots of time with the girls – and spend many happy hours playing football with the boys. He was a great asset to our volunteer team.
Eloise also left this week. She spent 8 weeks with us last year and 2 this year and the girls – especially Leah – adore her. I really believe the way our girls are now able to show emotions is a huge huge positive, but sitting along side their tears and pain is heartbreaking. Our little Mabel, who had been so abused and neglected before she came to us, has changed so much. She used to laugh when visitors left but she truly truly cries now – imagine feeling when you had been numb before. The good thing is when you can cry and feel pain, you can also laugh and feel good.
Last night was the goodbye to Sam and Chloe. The girls spoke about how much they had loved playing football, skipping, dancing and talking with them in the two weeks they have been with us. We will miss you all and thank you so much for coming to stay with us – please feel free to spread the word about the work we are doing. Asante.
It is now 6 in the morning and I feel I have done half a day’s work already! Need to take a break at the coffee place in town – so will blog more later. Sorry about the lack of pictures – our new improved internet doesn’t work at all!!!