Oasis of Hope in Ahero for Orphans and VAWGs victims
What started as a seed has blossomed to be an institution not only for rescuing orphans, but also for assisting women and girls who are victims of Gender Based Violence (GBV).
Ebenezer Rescue and Education Centre in Ahero town, in Kisumu County, is the home of hundreds of orphans who have been given hope and an education in the kindergarten, primary and secondary school founded by Archbishop Silas Owiti, in 1993.
The primate and his wife Winnie came face to face with the dark and desperate situation that orphans and widows were exposed to and decided to use his church, Voice of Salvation and Healing Church (VOSH), to pray and appeal to its partners and well wishers to start a children’s rescue centre.
Today, Mzee Owiti’s dream is a reality and is a household name praised by the civil society, the area chief, police and community leaders including elders for practicing what they preach literally of love your neighbor as yourself. The centre had nine babies registered by the time of this interview.
They started with 23 babies and children and that number has multiplied over the years to over 500, forcing the administration to start a nursery, then a primary and now it has an award-winning secondary school which is top in the national examinations in Nyando sub-County and in the County.
According to the Ahero police station Gender desk officer, Brenda Akinyi, they have a partnership and good working relationship with the administrator, Jared Akech.
Because the police station has no special facility for children, girls or women who are sexually molested, abused or/are abandoned, the officer liases with community based organisations like Nyabende Support Programme, led by Caroline Wambui Omanga, to temporarily address those challenges on humanitarian ground.
Omanga says they have a healthy working relationship with Ebenezer officials where they refer children in need of care and protection working closely with the Children’s department using legal means.
Says Omanga: “Currently they (Ebenezer) are hosting two little girls who were abandoned and were picked at dumpsites in Ahero Town, last month . Nyabende has 50 members, one of who sits in the court users’ committee to represent the civil society.”
Meanwhile, the Gender Desk officer says Ebenezer has helped them as a reliable oasis for the safety for rescued children and the vulnerable in the society who are waiting to testify in a court of law, in cases of violence against women and girls among others.
The officer also deals with cases of abandoned babies by their mothers, orphans being neglecting by their relatives and also of women and girls who are victims of sexual violence in their respective homes, schools and/or neighbourhoods.
Akinyi has served for four years out of her 14 years in the National Police Service at Ahero police station and she is happy with her work and support from the public.
Since the beginning of the year, a total of 11 defilement cases have been reported at her Gender Desk.
The breakdown is as follows: four cases of defilement were reported in January, one was later withdrawn under section 40 of the Sexual Offences Act; two cases were reported in February, they are all pending in court; while in March, five defilement cases were reported; one case was reported in April and four were reported there last month (in May).
The officer says Ebenezer is the only rescue centre in Nyando sub-county for VAWGs victims. The Kisumu County government says it has built a rescue centre at On’geche, but it is yet to be equipped and have staff deployed.
Under the Jami Thabiti Programme and the Kenya Police Service’s adopt-a-school programme on VAWGs, two schools were identified, Okanja and Karanda primary schools where Akinyi and her colleagues on the gender desk have been visiting and sensitising the students and teachers about the vice and how to campaign against it.
On her part, Joyce Orowe, who is one of the three women members of the Nyando sub-county Luo Council of Elders, cases of babies and children being abandoned was common at the height of the HIV/AIDs crisis in the county, but has been reduced after intervention of community and faith-based organisations.
Orowe recalls that Ebenezer played a big role among local churches during the height of the post elections violence, a decade ago, by giving the victims, especially women and children, refuge as they fled from the hot spots in Rift Valley and Central provinces (since renamed as regions), before they were resettled in other parts of Nyanza and Western region by their respective families, relatives and well wishers.
In a recent interview, on the sidelines of a Jamii Thabiti and AWC Feature Service VAWGs community forum in Ahero, Orowe also praised the partnership of Nyabende and the Ahero police’s Gender desk, manned by Akinyi and her colleagues saying it had helped reduced, and sensitise the public about how to address the vice.
Says the elder: “I work closely with the chairperson of Nyabende Support Group, Caroline Omanga, and the police in addressing the cases of violence against women and girls in our area. So far we have made progress and Ebenezer Rescue Centre has been very useful to us and the victims and their relatives.”