It is one thing to raise funds when you have a network that you built in college or university. It is entirely different when you are a graduate of Home Grown University and the connections you make are limited to social media accounts. I used to think that getting 100 bob from each Facebook friend would fund my work with boys in juvenile prison. Well, thankfully it didn’t take me that long to learn how wrong I was!
Much as fundraising is a necessary component of my work, it is the least favourite on my to-do list. For starters, I don’t know how best to ask other than simply asking. Raising funds for a cause is no cup of tea, especially on social media. I believe the likes of John Wollwerth, Jane Anyango, Eric Simba, Oluoch Clifford, Carl Hughes and Julius Wangore will concur with me.
Secondly, I believe that I will be able to raise enough resources from my writing and trust that God will bring clients who will be willing to pay and support my work with Lifesong Kenya. Indeed all the funding I have been able to raise from running and Facebook is God’s doing and confirmation that He is a divine provider who defies all human understanding and reasoning.
Depending on blind faith and belief in God
I am depending on blind faith and belief that God will bring people by divine appointment. I believe that this is the only way I will get the following category of people:-
individual and corporate sponsors for running and triathlon events
Latest fundraising progress report
We recently took part in the Lukenya Trails Run where Kelvin Hondo, Elisha Maketa, Jared Junior and I managed to raise a total of Kshs. 23, 000. This will enable Lifesong Kenya to run its program at the juvenile prison for the next 3 months. We will be able to conduct the following activities:-
visit and spend time with the boys at the prison
engage the boys in bead work and entrepreneurial skills
accompany some of the boys to court
call and trace families and the people the boys have wronged
Despite the daily challenges we face in our work, I am optimistic and confident. I know, beyond a shadow of doubt that God has got us covered. He is the One Who is turning what used to be a solo project run by an individual into a team effort. He is bringing the right people into the team.
By having Kelvin and Elisha in our running and cycling team, God is building our vision, one brick at a time. We already have our eyes set on cycling and running on June 1st as a team. Our duty is to continue working, praying and trusting God to sustain Lifesong Kenya and our juvenile prison program.
Feel free to reach out to us. There are numerous ways you, friends, family and institution can get involved. Every contribution – material and finances – counts. Now only will you be empowering Lifesong Kenya to meet the needs of boys in juvenile prison, you will also be equipping 200 boys to become men of conscience, character and courage.
“Hello James, did you go to court on Tuesday?” Sister Bertina asked this morning. I have been dreading this call and anything else to do with my work with the boys in juvenile prison.
“No, I didn’t,” I replied, and all of sudden the pain and remorse I have been feeling since that fateful Tuesday afternoon when I failed to attend Diamond’s court case set in. I swallowed in pain, stammering in the process, a blanked of heaviness hanging over my weary head.
“What happened? Are you alright?” she asked, when I hesitated.
“I attended a meeting in pursuit of resources I have been chasing for the past few months,” I replied. “However, I didn’t receive anything other than promises to look into it in the near future. Because I have been down this road so many times, I should have known better than to miss Diamond’s court case!”
“Don’t be too hard on yourself James,” Sister Bertina, an experienced social worker, replied. “We get strung along by people in this business of begging on behalf of the people we seek to help. Take heart and do not despair.”
“Thanks for your reassurance,” I said. “Would you like to speak to Diamond tomorrow when I see him?”
“Yes, alert me when you are there,” she said. “I was also calling to let you know that I can’t find Diamond’s mom on phone. I don’t know where she is right now or if she made it for Diamond’s court case.”
“I’ll find out and update you tomorrow.”
“Please be strong for those boys,” Sister Bertina continued. “The images of what I saw in prison still linger in my mind and I am going to continue praying for you.”
Hanging on a shoe string and hoping for the best
There is no single day that I don’t reach out to one more person, organization or institution asking for partnership. Because my original plan has always been using part of my income as a content writer and reading club to conduct Lifesong Kenya’s activities, asking for financial help isn’t top on my to-do list. This being so, I seldom know how to ‘package’ proposals and promoting my work with the boys in juvenile prison. Besides, how can I package my ability and willingness to spend time with the boys?
Like Patty Liston, Standing With Boys president, said when she visited with us, only the LORD knows what kind of work you are doing with these boys. And He alone can give you strength to continue interacting with these boys.
And indeed, God has been faithful. I am not, financially speaking, where I used to be after quitting my job to work as a full time volunteer. I am now able to earn from my writing while my reading club is taking shape. My fundraising through running half marathons and triathlons is also bearing fruit. It is only a matter of time before my income generating ideas fully blossom. This has given me personal fulfillment. What seemed to be wishful thinking is finally becoming a reality and making sense to me and the people closest to me.
Much as failing to get more resources from a potential partner is a setback, I will keep using my latest failure as a launching pad towards success. There are lots of valuable lessons to be learned, especially by me, concerning everything that is happening. I feel, deep in my heart, that the lessons are adding value to my life as a man, husband, father and visionary leader of the young men God has brought into my life.
Who knows, the next phone call could be from a contact I made a long time ago asking for resource. As I keep waiting, I feel like a man who is hanging on a shoe string and hoping for the best. Because it is a matter I have diligently prayed for I am going to completely trust God and leave the rest to Him. And just as I am about to sign off, my phone rings! It is a new number. Allow me to pick it up and update you tomorrow…
“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us. And the world will live as one.”
I don’t know how disastrous my failure to turn up for Diamond’s court case was yesterday. I didn’t turn up in court due to a meeting where I hoped, and failed, to get more resources for my work. Because of this, I will be spending the next two days wallowing in anger, remorse and fear of the unknown. I am also battling with a thousand ‘what if?’ questions.
What if I would have attended court instead of going to a meeting I hoped would empower me to continue meeting the needs of the boys in juvenile prison?
What if I would have not completely trusted I was going to get a breakthrough despite the danger signs I kept ignoring along the way?
What if nobody really cares about the welfare of the boys I work with?
Because I had been so blinded by my quest to achieve something that has eluded me since I begun working with boys in juvenile prison, there is pain in my chest. I don’t know how to deal with it, or how I am going to face Diamond and explain why I failed to turn up in court when he needed me most. And by failing to turn up in court I ended up defaulting on my word and promise to be there.
As I am writing this, tears stream down my face. I cannot shoulder this burden of reaching out for things I think I lack and therefore hope the same will hugely impact the lives of the boys I am working with. I still remember the very first time I met 100 boys in juvenile prison. I arrived in prison wearing a tucked in shirt, shining shoes and ironed pair of trousers. I had arrived in a taxi that a friend of mine had paid for, not knowing that there was going to be a time I was going to walk foot, lack decent clothes, underwear and have my house locked up due to rent arrears owed to my landlord.
I am no longer in desperate need of underwear, neither do I have a single pair of trouser nor is my house getting locked anymore. I am at a point where I have started earning income from my writing and can take care of my personal needs. This is a very good thing because as a man, I am finding meaning in what I am doing. However, my income is still not enough to enable me to carry out my mandate at the juvenile prison.
In fact, the vision behind Lifesong Kenya is getting bigger by the day and I need help. That is why I keep reaching out and asking more people, institutions and organizations to partner with Lifesong Kenya. Many are the times I have made contact in the past, thought I was making progress and only to discover – at the very last minute and not for the very first time – that I should have exercised more caution.
Back to the drawing board
When I was running during the Lukenya Trails Marathon, I prayed and asked God for direction, strength and wisdom. I asked Him to provide more clients who will pay for my online writing and more members for my reading club. And much I was as not able to find partners and raise enough money from my running, I strongly believe that God has already provided for my personal needs, marriage and Lifesong Kenya’s work with boys in juvenile prison.
It was until I saw this on a wall inside a hostel for ladies in Thika Town that I remembered to revert to the drawing board. My drawing board involves totally leaning and depending on God. While I need more money for my work, God’s peace, joy and affirmation is way better than the money I keep chasing and asking for. Besides, the things my boys and their families need, are intangible and cannot be met and fulfilled by money alone.
For instance, Diamond’s mom has asked for capital so she can start a business. All she is asking for is a tray of eggs and a tin of groundnuts. That is a very humble request I am able to take of on my own, if only I was able to earn more from my writing. On the other hand, the boys need someone to meet their needs for someone to spend time with them, call and visit their family and the people they have wronged.
By going back to the drawing board, I am able to have the strength to deal with blowers of flickering lights and continue doing the things I am capable of doing to the best of my ability. By doing this, I am able to meet intangible needs that no amount of money can ever fulfill or satisfy. This is what is giving me the strength and confidence to face Diamond this coming Friday and tell him I am sorry for abandoning him at his time of need. I leave the rest to God.
Kelvin, Jared and I were up way before our alarm went off at 3:30 AM. We had barely slept 5 hours. But it was okay with me. However, because my wife wasn’t available to drive us, I knew driving, to and from Lukenya, after running 20K wasn’t going to be an easy task. Listening and dancing to Fantasia’s I Made It while taking a shower, taking breakfast and thinking about the journey ahead made it bearable.
After a short prayer from my wife, it was time to hit the road. The Eastern Bypass at 4:20 AM is a beautiful stretch of road that is a different cup of tea whenever Elisha and I ride our bikes on it. And by the we drove off the Mombasa Highway and onto the dirt road leading to Lukenya Hills, it was still dark.
Looking back to Lukenya Trails Run 2016
Unlike the 2016 edition when we arrived 48 minutes after the run had started, I was glad we had arrived at 6 AM. We therefore had plenty of time to pick our tags, network and check out our ‘competition’. In 2016, I didn’t have such a luxury since everyone had had a 48 minutes head start and by the time I finally started running, 7 more minutes had ticked off.
Running alone, and following hundreds of shoe steps that had erased the markings, was the hardest run I have ever run. And with my underwear and the pair of shorts I was wearing cutting into my fleshy thighs, my run wasn’t a stroll in the park. By the time I crossed the finish line and fell into my wife’s welcoming arms, there was blood gushing from my thighs and down my feet. My toes and heels were on fire while no amount of water could quench my thirst.
I used last year’s run to reflect on whether or not I needed to continue working as a full time Lifesong Kenya volunteer with boys in juvenile prison. In fact, that is what I focused on throughout 2016. In the end, God spoke clearly to me, through a number of people, signs and personal convictions. I have already resumed my work as a full time volunteer and enjoying every challenge that comes with it.
I am now in a position where I am able to find and get clients for my online writing, reading club and the various income generating ideas I have. I am also getting a number of organizations and people interested in partnering and supporting Lifesong Kenya and its effort to empower boys from all works of lives.
Thinking about a tray of eggs and groundnuts
“James, what should be our strategy tomorrow?” Elisha had asked the night before.
“I expect a top position from Kelvin and you,” I replied. “Jared will grow our network by sharing our work and vision for boys with those who will be willing to give him a listening ear.”
“Alright!” Kelvin exclaimed.
“Above all else, let’s all have fun and know this is for a good cause,” I said. “This doesn’t mean the run is going to be easy. Trust me, it is going to be painful, tough and you might even spill blood.”
As I kept on running the face of the boys we work with and the young men God has brought into my life kept flashing by. Most of the time, I wished I had a pen and notebook or a laptop to record the ideas that kept streaming into my brain. I thought about Diamond and his upcoming case on Tuesday.
A lot has been happening ever since we met Diamond in juvenile prison. Because the court had given him a free bond, provided we find a school and a place he can call home, our biggest challenge was convincing his step dad to accept him back home. With Sister Bertina having guaranteed she was going to look into taking Diamond back to school, we knew meeting Diamond’s step dad was what lay between us and Diamond’s freedom.
One day, I got a call from Sister Bertina, “James, we have a problem,” she said. “Diamond’s step dad is dead!”
“Well, that is good news,” I said, without knowing why I was saying this. “It means Diamond can now stay with his mom.”
“Yes,” Sister Bertina replied. “However, she cannot pay rent anymore.”
“What should we do now?” I asked.
“She is asking for our help,” she continued. “I know you still don’t have a place where boys like Diamond can stay. However, I need your help walking with him as well as his mom.”
“What about her?” I asked.
“She needs a tray of eggs and a tin of groundnuts so she can sell boiled eggs and roasted groundnuts.”
“Okay,” I replied. “I will work on that. You keep working on finding a schools for Diamond.”
I also thought about Pistar who went to Bible College without having all the basic things he needs for his studies. Much as I had shared his needs with members of our ministry in church, I doubted whether anyone done anything tangible. It is my belief that helping others calls for faith backed by action.
It is then that I decided we were going to drive to Machakos. Having made that decision, and knowing how harder it was going to be after running 20K, I decided to go easy on the run. Seeing most of the runners I had overtaken a few minutes before, was a bit discouraging. However, visiting Pistar to see how he is settling down and doing without the basic things he urgently needs was more important.
Pistar had just arrived back at the college after hospital ministry where he had prayed, encouraged and played songs to patients. Compared to many of his classmates, his need for an official suit made him stand out like the proverbial sore thumb. His engaging and genuine smile just about made up for the material things he lacks. Hearing him play one of his inspirational song on purpose was a worthy reward for our trip to Machakos.
I also thought about thousands of orphans and their widowed mothers back in Luo Nyanza where I grew up. I don’t know why this came to my mind. But it wasn’t for the first time I was thinking about building an iron sheet and mud walled houses to 3 widows this year. I have thought and prayed about it more than once and because I still don’t know what God wants me to do about this, I kept praying about the matter as I kept running.
My running has become more than a means to raise funds for our work with the boys we work with in juvenile prison and elsewhere. It has become a means through which I pray, reflect and listen to what God has to say concerning my engagement with boys and young men. As I continue recovering from the Lukenya Trails Run, I am thankful for the amount of money we managed to raise during this run.
I am also thankful that Elisha, Jared and Kelvin were able to join and be by my side. Their support, and of course my wife’s tremendous faith and support, enables me to continue working as a writer who spends his 9-5 empowering the boys and young men God keeps bringing into my life. It is the most wonderful place and position to be in and God willing, I will continue running and staying on course.
There are 4 more days left before we embark on our first fundraising half marathon during the Lukenya Trails Run. And I got the call that brought a cheerful smile to my heart as well as a jig that I performed in our sitting room. It was such a sudden jig of joy Patty Liston and my wife couldn’t help but applaud in response.
“Hi James,” a friend, who has since became a brother said over the phone. “I have read your posts as you prepare for your fundraising run. Can I join the Lifesong Kenya Team?”
“Let me see what I can do,” I replied.
Well, raising funds through individual running isn’t an easy thing to do. And seeing that these kinds of events cost money, to sign up for and attend, it is a miracle we are actually able to go. Granted, we are not getting lots of donations coming in. However, I am thankful to the people who are already supporting us. The other thing is that having a new member join our growing team is a huge blessing; I believe in disguise.
So tonight, we welcome Kelvin Hondo to our team, knowing that our goal to grow to 10 members by August is well on track. Much as I still don’t know where or how I am going to find more money for his entry fee, I believe our team of 3 runners and 2 cheering squad is complete. At least, for the time being.
Team Lifesong Kenya
Thinking about Diamond
Diamond’s court case is due in a week’s time. Because of this, we have been talking, thinking, praying and encouraging his mom to accept him back. The court has given us a free bond on condition that we find Diamond a school and a place he will call home. Since Sister Bertina has already guaranteed to pay for his school fees, Elisha and I have our work cut out for us.
Unfortunately, Diamond’s mom is a single mother who doesn’t have a job. And for her to accept Diamond back, we need to find her a casual job to do. The other alternative is finding her seed capital so she can engage in a business. She has already asked for a tray of eggs and ground nuts that she is planning to use for her business. That doesn’t seem like a very huge mountain to climb, if only we had enough to spare.
I will therefore use this Sunday’s run to think about Diamond and the opportunities available for him when he exits prison. I will be praying and thinking about him, his mom and his up coming court case. Of course, I will also be thinking about the 100+ boys Lifesong Kenya works with on a weekly basis.
Feel free to support us on the links below. Every contribution matters and counts.
The countdown to this year’s fundraising run during the Lukenya Trails Run continues. In just under 6 days, Elisha and I will be running to raise funds for Lifesong Kenya and our work with boys in juvenile prison. This won’t be the first time I will be taking part in this marathon.
Looking back to last year’s run
Last year’s run was filled with disappointments that kept cropping up at the turn of every corner. First things fast, I didn’t even have money to pay for last year’s entry fee. However, Shiku Shikuku, a friend I had met during the Shompole Wildlife Marathon gave up her slot so I could run and raise funds.
The day of the marathon was also full of drama. Cynthia James Love, Jared Junior and I arrived 47 minutes after all the runners had started running. And by the time I picked my runner’s tag, changed into running gear and informed a surprised race official that I had come to run, 7 more minutes had ticked by.
“Are you sure you would like to do this?” he asked. “The other runners started running almost an hour ago!” he added.
“I came here to run,” I replied, my lower lip trembling in fear.
“Okay then, step to the starting point,” he said.
“Gem,” my wife whispered. “I know you can do this. Jared and I will be waiting for you at the finish line.”
“Thanks,” I said, approaching the starting point.
“Onto your mark, get ready, go!” the race official barked.
Following hundreds of windswept shoe steps
After running few metres from the starting point and making sure I was out of sight, I stepped from off the running track and into the bush to pee. When I resumed running, I met one runner who had thrown in the towel. I waved to him and kept on running. I did not want to ask how far he had run and why he had stopped. I knew that would dampened my spirits.
I kept running. Many thoughts of defeat came to my mind. Running a half marathon when hundreds of other runners have gone 54 minutes ahead isn’t an easy thing to do. Luckily, I could follow hundreds of windswept shoe steps left behind by the runners who were an hour ahead.
I thought about why I was running. Seeing that it was my third fundraising half marathon and that my efforts were not handsomely being rewarded, I realized I had to find fresh inspiration and new meaning to push me through my lonely long run. I had run alone, many times before, preparing for this particular run. However, I had never started a run an hour late!
By the time I reached the first water point, I made up my not drink a single drop of water. I was going to run the whole marathon without drinking water! Since that day, I don’t drink water while running. I thought about Shiku Shikuku who had sacrificed her spot for me and the boys she was yet to meet. I was grateful that someone had been kind enough to give me the chance to run.
I thought about the many boys I had met and how their lives had turned around when they decided to stop engaging in crime. I thought about the joy and peace their mothers were able to enjoy as a result. I also thought about the two people who had followed me to the run; my wife and Jared. These are the things that enabled me to keep running to the end.
Lukenya Trails Run 2017
This year has been full of blessings. Not only was I able to secure my running tag, I also managed to secure one for Elisha Mateka, who I begun mentoring towards the end of 2016. As we continue preparing, my fundraising marathons is becoming something bigger. My running is no longer about just raising funds. It is about growing physical, spiritual and mental strength that we need to continue growing Lifesong Kenya.
Of course, it is my desire and prayer that we will be able to raise more funding from the half marathons and triathlon events that we will be involved in. Since signing up for these events costs a lot of money I hope we will be able to raise more awareness on our work and find partners willing to invest in our initiative.
A big thank you to those people who are already donating and contributing towards Lifesong Kenya’s work. Feel free to see our fundraising progress on the following links below:-
Elisha Maketa, the 21 year old young man I am mentoring, and I finally have our tags for the Lukenya Trail Run on Sunday 21st May 2017. This will be our first fundraising half marathon this year. Our aim is to raise funds for Lifesong KENYA and our work with juvenile offenders. In 2016 I participated in half marathons and duathlons alone. However, since Elisha Maketa joined this year, the team has grown to two members.
The Story Behind Lifesong Kenya
I would like to give this appeal for funding a personal touch. About nine years ago, I got a job as a children’s television show producer. My work involved interacting with 75% of school children who were growing up without fathers and lacked proper parenting. Because I also grew up without a father, I identified with their challenges.
After awhile, I started challenging the children I was meeting to envision a better world for themselves, families and their communities. I encouraged them to appreciate who they are as opposed to focusing on what they didn’t have. On July 2012, I met 100 boys in juvenile prison and begun a weekly mentoring program. Six months later, I quit my job to focus on working as an online writer in order to focus on working with the boys in juvenile prison full time.
Since then, I have worked with over 1, 000 youths. The boys we have worked with have embraced crime-free life and successfully reintegrated back into their families and the community. The ones we are currently working with are finding alternatives to crime and learning how to discover treasure that is within them. Our work is adding value to the community since the communities and families where our boys exit prison to are able to enjoy peace as a result of the boy embracing crime-free lifestyles.
Lifesong Kenya is a Community Based Organization that aims to rehabilitate, reconcile and reintegrate juvenile offenders back into the society. Our programmes and activities include the following activities: –
Visiting juvenile prisoners every Friday for 6 hours
Calling family members and encouraging them to visit their children in prison\
Calling victims of crimes and initiating reconciliation process with the boys
Tracing homes of parents and victims of crimes who are not on phone or haven’t shown interest in reaching out to the boys
Visiting police stations to verify information and collecting charge sheets on behalf of the boys
Accompanying boys to court
Other activities include shaving, providing tissue paper, toothpaste, toothbrush, bar soap and underwear
The Current Situation and Steps to Achieve Our Vision
The Lifesong Kenya vision has surpassed my personal capacity and resources. I am therefore appealing for financial support to enable Lifesong Kenya to rehabilitate, reconcile and reintegrate 200 boys back to their families and the community this year. Additional ways the Lifesong Kenya staff and volunteers raise funds: –
(a). A percentage of their monthly salary
(b). Running half marathons and taking part in duathlon activities
Lifesong Kenya is a 501(c)3 fiscally sponsored organization through Omprakash. Every donation and contribution made through our link on Omprakash website is tax-deductible. What’s more, you also get a special receipt acknowledging your donation or contribution.
You can also contribute through our link on M-Changa which has numerous platforms such as MPesa, Equity and Airtel Money. This is ideal for the Kenyan currency. Your generous financial support will enable Lifesong Kenya to undertake its mandate of empowering juvenile prisoners to reintegrate into the community as responsible and young men ready to adopt crime-free lives.
Not only will you be helping us impact the lives of juvenile offenders, you will enable hundreds of families to have a peace of mind as well as impact thousands of future generations to come. Feel free to contribute any amount. Every amount counts…!