I am preparing to leave for Lifesong Kenya’s weekly sessions at the juvenile prison. Just like the many sessions we have had before, I am bearing bad and good news. I don’t enjoy doing the latter. I have come to accept it as being part and parcel of my work and ministry with the boys in juvenile prison.
But I still don’t have the strength to share the bad news I encountered yesterday when I went to trace two parents. But first, allow me to share more about Promise who should be on his way out of prison. I shared a few days that Promise is going to be freed from prison. That is very good news indeed.
However, chances are Promise won’t get a welcoming party after leaving prison. That is the unfortunate sad news. This reality sunk in yesterday, very deeply, I am still shaken to the core. I have had to talk to parents who are reluctant or don’t want to accept their sons and daughters back from prison.
I don’t like dealing with statistics at all. But when all is said and done, statistics tell a lot about the situation on the ground. Unfortunately, Promise and most of the prisoners I have met and know, are walking statistics. I hope Promise has a family waiting to welcome him back from prison. I am praying this happens.
A short trip to hell and back
Back to what happened yesterday.
I left home at 1:30 pm after finally watching the movie ‘3 Idiots’. What was meant to be a short trip of finding and talking to parents turned to be a short trip to hell and back. Not only did I fail to meet the parents, what happened scared me so much I am still shaken to the core.
My trip started with a slow walk to Stage 2 in Kawangware. Usually no one is willing to look at me the same way after I have introduced myself and shared the reason why I am visiting. Yesterday wasn’t an exception. The first place I went to is a community centre that rescued one of the boys from the streets.
I could tell from the way they received and responded to my request to visit the boy in prison that they are not ready to see the boy. I didn’t have the energy nor did I know how effectively to convince them besides telling them that they are the only thing close to a family to the boy who has asked them to visit.
“I am happy about the work you are doing,” the receptionist said. “But I am afraid we won’t be able to do as you have asked.”
“This boy’s rehabilitation, reconciliation and successful reintegration depends on someone from your centre visiting him in prison,” I explained.
“Our work doesn’t involve prison visits sir,” she said.
“What about Teacher Joy who taught him in Baby Class?” I asked, remembering the one person the boy had mentioned as being someone who may visit him in prison. “Can I speak to Teacher Joy?”
“No,” she replied. “The school is closed till September.”
“Okay,” I said, swallowing in pain, frustration and anger. “Would you please share her phone number with me or give her a call on your phone so I can speak with her?”
“That is not possible sir,” she said.
“Okay,” I said. “Can I leave her a message then?”
I left Stage 2 and went to my next assignment, somewhere deep in Gatina. Because I have never went past the Vincentian Prayer Centre, I wasn’t ready for what lies beyond the end of the tarmac road, a few metres from the church gate. I was thankful for having remembered to wear in a way I could easily blend in without my backpack. But this did not stop me from standing out like a sore thumb.
I knew I was in unfamiliar territory the moment arrived at the destination where I was to ask for directions to my next stop. Just ask for Mama Icarus, Icarus instructed when I visited prison last Friday. Everybody knows my mom. They will take you to our house. And sure enough, everyone knows his mom. But I never reached the house.
The woman I had asked knew Mama Icarus. She pulled over another half-drunk woman who was passing by. While they were talking in Kikamba, she referred to Icarus as that little dangerous thief. The woman vigorously shook her head and said she couldn’t escort me to see Mama Icarus.
“The lady says Mama Icarus moved houses a few months ago,” the woman informed me. “Maybe I can give you one of my boys to escort you there,” she added, what she did next took me by surprise. Putting her thumb and fingers on her tongue, she whistled and four boys emerged from behind the dirty Bob Marley curtain hanging and swinging from a string tied on the door post.
“Kama,” she said to one of the tough looking boy. “Take this man to Mama Icarus,” she ordered.
“That place is far,” he complained, the scars on his face constricting in fear and panic. “I can take him there in the night because Mama Icarus only come back home at night.”
“No, you take him right now,” she insisted. “You never know if he has goodies to give Mama Icarus,” she added, giving him a nudge at the small of his back.
“You know what ma’am, I may have to come back another day,” I said, suddenly turning on my heels. “Thank you for your help,” I said over my shoulders.
Now… to the good news
As I prepare to go to prison I am at a loss concerning, not only what to tell the two boys that sent me to trace their families, but also how to say it. Now to the good news… Edward ‘The Nyatti’ Mbogo will be visiting to play the saxophone and also share about the importance of learning graphic and design. The Nyatti is going to be the first man to visit and share what he does for a living and how he gives back using his gifts and talents to serve the community around him.
If there is such a thing as a jack of all trades, then The Nyatti is a perfect example. I am yet to hear there is a single hour where he isn’t juggling balls in the air. He is always on the move, meeting the needs of his diverse clients and playing the saxophone at CITAM Woodley Church or AFLEWO events.
His busy schedule today includes, and not limited to:-
- accompanying us to juvenile prison in the morning
- countless design work and deliveries of client orders
- working and monitoring
- playing the saxophone during AFLEWO’s One Nation One Worship at KICC in the evening
I hope The Nyatti’s visit will bring a cheerful smile to Icarus and the other boys. It is such things that bring hope to our boys, even if it is just for a few minutes. More often than not, visitors are the only people who become a substitute for the boys who don’t have, or have been abandoned by their families. Would you like to do the same thing? Get in touch with us if you would like to visit and spend time with our boys.