Napenda Kuishi Rehab Trust brings hope in Nairobi
Kariobangi, Korogocho slum, Dandora and Huruma Estates in Nairobi’s Eastland areas have over the years been considered a host to majority of street children, teenage gangsters and a majority of child abuse and neglect .
Teenage gang groups such as Gaza, Mauki family and 40 brothers are some of the gangs that were formed as a result of the presence of these street children.
These teenage criminal gangs according to security experts are much more dangerous than renowned gangs such as mungiki. Unknown to many is that, little by little, thanks Comboni missionaries, an international catholic religious order, living and working in Kariobangi North, these cases have drastically reduced.
Napenda kuishi Rehab Trust, a center that gives hope, love and dignity to the hopeless and the most vulnerable, is a non-profit rehabilitation program Trust sponsored by Comboni missionaries.
Its main purpose is to transform the lives of young people, educate them and help them become responsible citizens.
It offers a wide variety of rehabilitation opportunities to teenagers and young adults aged between 13-18 years in these areas. Founded in 2006, it has rehabilitated and facilitated the education and medical care of over 620 street youth and abused children.
Some of the rehabilitated children are professionals in their field of interest and have started their own families according to the officials. Napenda kuishi Trust does not charge any fee to rehabilitate a beneficiary with addictions. Rather it mobilizes resources both human and financial to support health care, rehabilitation, education and nutrition needs.
Although it is heartwarming to hear success stories of ex-street children who received their education and a chance in life, the smile quickly fades away when you hear the dangers faced by these children in the streets and others under their parents and relatives care.
The Executive Director, Fr. Maurizio Binaghi, is a missionary priest who hails from Chicago, U.S and is two years old at the centre. He says, the rehab runs its activities in three different centers so as to cater for each and every child since they receive these children almost on a daily basis from well wishers.
Two centers are located in Korogocho slum, (Boma rescue center close to Dandora dumpsite and kisumu ndogo rescue center in the midst of Korogocho slum), the second infamous slum in Kenya which is also part of Kariobangi north informal settlement. The third center is a residential facility in Kibiko just outside Nairobi City County in the gorgeous Ngong’ hills.
The program according to the Director, offers a wide variety of opportunities to homeless teenagers living under the influence of drugs and substance abuse, children involved in child labor both at home and working illegally in Nairobi’s immense garbage dumping site at Dandora, and also rescues children who are physically and emotionally abused and neglected by their parents and relatives.
“I am the only mzungu at the center and the young boys and girls always call me Obama,” says the jovial and relaxed Fr. Maurizio. High levels of insecurity, lack of water, and insufficient disposal of solid and liquid wastes, unemployment and the presence of numerous local and illicit brewers are some of the factors that have resulted to the rise in the number of homeless children said the priest.
“HIV prevalence rates and use of drugs continues to be on the rise among these young people, as a result of the above human rights violations,” says Fr. Maurizio.
Breakdown in family values and lack of knowledge among the teenagers according to the Director, are some of the major factors that drive the young people to Dandora dumpsite where they resort to collect used plastic bags, scrap metals, plastic bottles to sell them for economic value.
As a result, the teenagers are vulnerable to infectious diseases, illiteracy, a bleak future and a vicious cycle of poverty. A situation he says has left majority of the youth on the streets while some survive by sniffing glue to escape hunger pangs.
“School-aged girls hardly attend classes as they are compelled to spend their childhood lifetime at the dumpsite helping with baby sitting their younger siblings, while their single mothers scavenge for food and other valuables from the garbage heaps,” says Fr. Maurizio.
Program coordinator Boma rescue center Nicholas Kuria is a certified graduate of counseling in psychology from Moi University. He makes it clear that this is the only center out of the three that admits girls. The program according to Nicholas takes a year for each of the rescued teenagers before re-integration back to their families and the society. “Those whose cases are more serious, i.e. have mental problems or need detoxification process carried out, we admit them at our residential facility in Kibiko Ngong’ for further treatment,” says Nicholas.
“Jan – March is street work period. Counselors, social workers and support group staff hit the streets of Korogocho slum, Huruma estate, Mathare estate, Kariobangi and Dandora dumpsite and its environs, in search of the youngsters”, says Nicholas. They create awareness and try to compel the young boys and girls to visit the center. “Some of them respond right away while others take their time but they eventually all come,” says Nicholas.
Some of the activities these teenagers engage in at the center according to the coordinator include; life skill sessions, individual and group counseling, non-formal education and other extracurricular activities such as acrobatics, cultural and contemporary dances.
Joseph Otieno 19, a form two student at Silver High School in Nairobi, is one of the rescued boys who advanced his education courtesy of the centre. Joseph says his first time on the streets was at the age of 10, at Mlango Kubwa streets in Eastleigh. The reason being his drunkard father who physically and emotionally abused him, his mother and siblings from time to time.
”My mum had to toil hard every day to feed us as dad always worked hard to get drunk from dawn to dusk. Every time he came home he physically assaulted me and my brothers. Sometimes he he also beats my mother.I could not stand it and so I decided to run away from home,” says the emotional Joseph. He further says, he survived all the street hunger pangs until Napenda Kuishi Trust staff approached him and rescued him from death.
Elsie Nabwire 15, a student at Tom Mboya Primary School, one of the girls rescued says she and her two siblings were left behind by their biological mother in the hands of a step mother.
With their absentee father, they were always given difficult activities meant for adults. Something she says made them move from place to place for shelter. “We hardly attended classes because we had no permanent residency. It was until I got rescued that I started going to school,” says Elsie. She says she is the only hope for her younger siblings and vows to work hard to better their lives as well.
Program coordinator Kisumu Ndogo center Irenius Murema is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in sociology and psychology from Kenyatta University. Different cases ranging from child defilement and child abuse and neglect cases he says, are the most reported at this center.
“Sodomy cases are rampant in Korogocho slum due to the presence of video halls playing and showing different films including pornography that traps most of them,” says Irenius.
He further says so bitterly that the video hall owners end up defiling them. He says, without proper medical attention, some of the boys’ end being physically affected.
Child abuse and neglect cases are reported at the centre from time to time according to the coordinator. Such is the case of John Mwangi 15, from Murang’a who was forced to flee for his dear life from his hostile relatives who were baying for his blood because of a piece of land left to him by his diseased grandfather.
“He was brought to our center by a prison warder from Kariobangi police station where he had been held after he lost his way in search of his relative who resides in Nairobi. Right now he’s in school. As soon as he attains the right age, we will see into it that he gets what is rightfully his,” says Murema.