“From the cradle to the coffin underwear comes first.”
– Bertolt Brecht
I remember the first time I received underwear on behalf of a boy who was due to attend court the next day. I was having a session with the boys and asked those who urgently needed underwear to step forward.
A 16 year old boy stepped out of the crowd. He was wearing an oversized faded black jumper, a pair of shorts that had two holes from where the cheeks of his buttocks fought for attention. He didn’t have shoes.
I imagined him standing in a courtroom full of well-dressed adults and his accusers. I thought of him standing there, with no one by his side, the cheeks of his buttocks and the source of his shame exposed to the whole world to see.
I didn’t promise much. Besides, needing underwear myself, I offered to help. On my way home, I kept thinking about where I was going to look for help. I thought about the men I knew in church and doubted whether they understood why I would spend my time bothering about boys in juvenile prison.
After making numerous appeals for help in the small groups I was in, I looked elsewhere. I poster a request on Facebook and a lady responded. I made the trip from Ayany to Imara Daima collect a package of three underwear, bar soap and slippers.
The next day, I delivered the package to the boy. Last Sunday – two years later – I picked a package of underwear from Mamlaka Hill Chapel. The difference was; it was from a man! I already have 3 underwear and need 97 more.
Why underwear is such a big deal in prison
Most of these boys have been behind bars for a long time and the underwear they came to prison which is completely torn. The same applies to their clothes and footwear. And because they spend the whole day together wearing the same clothes everyday, the wear and tear that happens is tremendous. Underwear is, therefore, more than a means of covering nakedness, providing warmth from the cold and an important accessory that accompanies a man’s trousers.
Underwear gives the boys dignity and much more…! Just imagine having a boy whose buttocks is showing during a court case. Everyone else is smartly dressed while the boy walks towards the stand, his buttocks exposed to the whole world. Imagine what happens in his mind. He is humiliated and simply wants the agony of not having underwear to end – the sooner the better.
How you can get involved
Lifesong Kenya depends on generous support of wonderful people like you. Feel free to check our ongoing fundraiser on this link. You can also accompany us to prison during our visits or simply share about our work and needs with family and friends.