This blog post is written to encourage you to open your heart to children that I call dear friends, and that I love greatly. They need to know that they are loved. They deserve to know that they are loved. Click this link to read about Hope Beyond Transitional Center, and DONATE! Thank you to all who have and will contribute to this cause.
I lived in Kimana, Kenya for ten weeks this summer. I know the Hope Beyond Rescue Center children personally, through teaching them lessons in Science, Christian Religious Education, Social Studies, and Reading Comprehension among others. I have played soccer and volleyball with them, pushed the young children on the swingset, and taught them how to throw a frisbee back and forth. FGM, human trafficking, extreme poverty, and the like are not simply vague ideas or incidents that occur somewhere far off in the world; they are very real, and have impacted those that I love dearly.
Throughout the summer, I heard many stories about the rescue center students; some were rescued literally as they were being transferred in crates from one car to another, at a price of $20,000 each. Others have walked 35-40 kilometers alone day and night to find safety from childhood marriage, with only a name to go off of. Some of the children that I know incredibly well and call close friends have been raped and abandoned for dead in the woods, and others have been locked in outhouses for days at a time. Some have carried children at the age of 11 only to watch them die in their arms within the next sixth months. These students need your help. They need a safe place they can call home, somewhere that they can run to where others will play close attention to them. They will need to know that they are loved, and they will not feel the pressures of a school environment immediately after being rescued. As you sit in front of your computer and read these words, or while you lie in bed, scrolling through this blog post on your phone, remember that many of these children have never, and may never experience the comfort that you do. You can change this. ONE person can make a difference. ONE person can change someone else’s future. Who do you want to be?
The idea behind a transitional center is simple; students need a home which is dedicated to facilitating their transition from a dark past to a bright future. Children who have never been to school before need somewhere to transition and come to terms with their new reality before they are thrown into their new education system. Hope Beyond Rescue Center (soon to be: Hope Beyond Transitional Center) at Lenkai Christian School provides aid and sanctuary for children from a wide variety of backgrounds.
When a girl has been abused, forced to undergo female circumcision, or has been married off to a 60 year old man all before the age of 12, she not only needs a place to run to, but she needs a place of true refuge, somewhere where she will be cared for not only physically, but psychologically and spiritually as well. FGM, or female genital mutilation, is the official name of this process of circumcision for young women. Though it is outlawed in all of Africa, many people still hold on to these traditional practices, due to the rich cultural heritage which says that a girl is only pure and faithful if she is circumcised. If she is not circumcised, she is believed to be promiscuous, and even cursed. Whether dealing with poverty and the inability to pay school fees, or running from FGM and child marriage, these students all are on a path towards a bright future due to the the guidance of Hope Beyond.
For some students, the drastic change from the lifestyle they have always known to a completely foreign environment actually amplifies the trauma they have experienced. Though they may have run from their family only days before, to avoid child marriage or FGM practices, students who experience this second wave of transitional trauma sometimes opt to return to their previous way of life. However, not all students come from backgrounds of FGM or human trafficking. Childhood marriage is the selling of a child for marriage without any type of consent on their part. This is, in effect, human trafficking. But some students come from families afflicted with extreme poverty, others from families that are sick and/or broken, and many of the boys were rescued because they used to herd their father’s cattle day and night, without ever attending school. These students are able to return to their families during the holidays, because there is no fear of them being sold off, or not returning for the next term. However, a large number of the students currently have no where to go, and Hope Beyond Transitional Center will become their refuge.
The long term goal of Hope Beyond Transitional Center is to have counselors living on site at all times. This is a great expense in Kenya, and so the Center must begin with what they can afford. This seed money will allow Hope Beyond to jumpstart their new program, and build upon it through the sustainable growth of the farm and livestock on the property. Transitional centers are different in nature than their rescue center or orphanage counterparts due to the highly individualized care the children receive through counseling and therapy. This personalized aspect of the transitional center will allow students to discover gifts and talents they never knew they had, through avenues of craftwork, the arts, and more.
These children need a safe home. The students need to know that they will not be left alone on campus during holiday. Many need counseling and therapy, but Hope Beyond does not currently have the resources to provide this for the children. Be the change. Help them to make the transition from FGM and child marriage to an educated life full of promise.
The Time is Now
Property prices are not only going up quickly, but they have suddenly reached a level where the property owner is prepared to sell to someone with a higher offer. A close friend of John and Dorcus, the property owner used to live in Kimana at this home. On the property there is a running, up-kept farm which produces a variety of produce for the community to purchase throughout the year. There is already a borehole dug at the property, so there is no fear of the lack of water. In other words, if purchased, the property will provide not only a home for the children, but it will create a nurturing environment and allow for the school’s self-sustainability for years to come.
Below is plenty of information on the fundraising campaign, but you can learn more and donate here.
Due to the rapidly developing area and high demand for land, our deadline for a downpayment to secure the property is August 31st. It is of the utmost importance that this deadline, and the goal of $15,000 must be met, as this downpayment will allow the property to be held for an additional 60 days to raise the last $35,000 to purchase the property. This is the first of a two-part goal, with $50,000 being the total cost of purchase. Otherwise, it could take years to secure another piece of property which would provide the same long term development as this one. The end result will be a transitional home for children newly rescued from the traumatizing realities of human trafficking and abuse that are childhood marriage and FGM among others. At risk children and orphans will have a place to call home, separate from the school, where they will receive psychiatric counseling and support on an individualistic, regular basis to aid in their adjustment from past to future.
Below is a Q&A session I had with John and Dorcus shortly before leaving Kenya (yes, I am home now!) Read through for detailed answers to questions you may have. Again, please visit this site to donate to help Hope Beyond Transitional Center become a reality!
What will this money be going to?
Dorcus: “We need renovations, furnishing, and employment, but all we need is the seed money. Once we have the property, it will be very easy to run everything else. In terms of food, where we are looking at how they have a borehole, they have a mature garden, a mature farm with bananas, sugarcane, fruits, and so much more. You can just take it and run it. We are looking at, well, as soon as possible. Property prices are going up very very quickly.”
What is the problem that Hope Beyond Transitional Center will be able to solve?
Dorcus: The challenge we have is that when we rescue a child…when they go to school immediately they are more confused. There are some that have not yet been in school. They are 13 years old, but when they go directly to class they become confused and the trauma actually becomes worse. We lost one, because she decided to go back to where she came from, to childhood marriage. Hope Beyond Transitional Home will help by counseling them, one, two, three months before going to school.”
Where will the counselors come from?
Dorcus: “From Nairobi. They are friends currently working in a woman’s hospital, doing counseling. They can come and volunteer, maybe once a week, for three days at a time. We will have a retired nurse who can do basic counseling on location. She has done basic counseling, but that is what we can currently afford. We will hire two people: a matron, and chef. It will be a temporary contract/commitment, but the goal is a full salary. Our long term plan is to have a full counseling/therapy program, but to hire the very good counselors is very expensive… Before we get to that point, I MUST look for other ways. By the time we have the farm up and running, and people buying water from the borehole, we will be able to sustain a full time counselor.”
Are there other programs similar to Hope Beyond Transitional Center in Kenya?
Dorcus: “This will be the first Transitional Center in all of Kenya. The others are normal rescue centers and orphanages, but not specifically transitional centers, so that the students will be prepared to go to university.”
Dorcus: “[There was a] 20 year old in class five. They understand little to nothing in the classroom. The more you force them to be in school, the more you lose them. They are so creative, they want to sing, work in a salon, dance…These children must go to a transitional center, to help them find new skills.”
Can you explain the differences between Hope Beyond Rescue Center and Lenkai Christian School?
Dorcus: “Lenkai is the school, and Hope Beyond will encompass both the transitional center and the rescue center. Once we have the home, [the rescue students] can go there during the holidays. We are targeting 40 students who will live at the center.”
John: “When we break for holiday, where do the rescue center children go? They will go to Hope Beyond.”
Will all of the rescue center students live at Hope Beyond?
Dorcus: “Some of our rescue center students we can send back to their families, because [the families] need them. Often, when parents see their children are being educated, they appreciate it more. Then, they help stop other families from enacting traditional practices of FGM and early child marriages in their neighbors, because they show them the promise of education instead. Often, child marriage is a result of poverty. You can get many many goats, sugar, and blankets, from selling off a daughter to an old man, but after several days this is all gone. Then, the parents want the child back, but it is too late and the damage is done for the child.”
John: “This is a restorative center. Say a child has been defiled, and comes to Hope Beyond. They stay there for several weeks, so that they can become acclimatized to Kimana and their new way of life. There was a girl who came here that didn’t want to come to school. She said,
“When I look at the blackboard, I see darkness. I want to go back.”
We say, “You want to go home? Fine. We will take you home.”
“This only happens when the family/relative situation back home is safe for the child, but this is a girl who has never been to school, all of a sudden in class with people who are half her age. She was 14, in class with 7 and 8 year olds…. When we have the center, it will help us. It may take anywhere from one week to three months for each student, but we need it for FGM and child marriage victims.”
Any final thoughts?
John: “If we can be able to fundraise, especially to get critical support to establish that center, that is going to be a very huge thing. I am looking at the center for much more than just the rescue. It can expand to help other people… Most people don’t see what we are seeing. When we started this school, most people didn’t know what we were thinking. We wanted first of all to have a good school; a place where people good go to class in the morning, and enjoy the experience. In other schools, the first thing that happens in the morning is that you are caned. The food is not conducive to desire to eat, the books and teaching not conducive to desire to learn. When we first started here, people would come just to stand around and see the school. We warned the teachers, do not cane the students. There are many other ways of punishing children. Caning is wrong. It was very difficult for our staff to embrace the culture that you don’t have to cane the kids. After the staff embraced that, the children loved the school. We give the kids enough time to play, to socialize, and they love it. You have to make sure that every time, the children have a heart of expectation. They should be looking forward to Fridays, because they know that in the afternoon we have a football match. Other schools even try to copy us. But you cannot copy the culture and vision of a school.”
Help John and Dorcus meet this vision. Click here to donate now, and help us further their vision by donating. Share this blog and the fundraising page on Facebook. You can change someone’s life. The rescue center students have a beautiful desire to learn and a powerful drive to succeed. Help them to achieve their goals.