I have been unable to write for the past 4 or so days. I have also failed to run in the morning in preparation for my first marathon where I am hoping to raise funding that will equip 20 girls with bakery skills before they exit the juvenile rehab center. A few of my friends have agreed to donate $1 for every kilometer that I will run in the 10K event. An because I have failed to write or run for the past 4 days, I have a lot of catching up to do.
Christine Royse Niles has asked that we write about Gandhi, Mother Teresa or Dalai Lama as part of our daily 500 words writing. These are three individuals whose sacrifice and work challenged me to be the change that I had hoped someone would become in my part of the world.
There are two reasons why I haven’t written, or run four the past 4 days. Every once awhile, my life goes through a critical phase where I have to pause ant take stock of what lies ahead of me. Three years ago, I quit my job as a TV producer after I began mentoring boys in juvenile prison. My decision to quit was based on the fact that I thought I was going to earn enough income from my writing to support me and the mentoring program I had began at the juvenile prison.
Though I have already gotten an online client to write for, my old computer broke down, and as a result, I began wondering whether I am doing the right thing in terms of working as a juvenile prison mentor. As I was reflecting and taking stock, I got two calls, one after another, from two girls that our organization have mentored in the past two years.
“Teacher James,” one of them said over the phone, “I need your help.”
“I am listening,” I replied.
“My mom has rejected me and I need a place to stay…,” she continued. “I also want to go back to school. Please help me!”
“I am going to try,” I said, making a promise that I intend to keep.
I have heard stories about how girls – the boys I met in prison and adult prisoners in Kenya – don’t make it in the outside world when exit our correctional facilities. I don’t like it at all. But I am helpless at the same time. I have been managing our mentoring program without funding. Instead, God has enabled me to use sewing thread, needles and buttons to continue running Lifesong Kenya. But I have reached a point where I need much more than sewing buttons. The children and young people I work with may appreciate buttons while behind bars, in the outside world, they need much more than buttons.
For me, justice translates to one girl leaving rehab with a vocational skill that will enable the community to embrace her with open arms. Records have shown – even with adult prisoners – that the girls who leave juvenile correctional facilities without a vocational skill find themselves engaging in crime, prostitution, drug abuse, or if they are lucky, early marriage. Most of them find themselves back into the juvenile correctional system where the vicious circle of helplessness continues.
I need your help to break this circle. As a new day dawns and I turn a new page, I know and believe that we are getting closer to changing the lives of our loved ones who are behind bars.