My name is James Ouma aka Jim Buttons. I’m the founder of Lifesong Kenya. I would like to give the history of Lifesong Kenya a personal touch.
In 2008, I got a job as a children’s television show producer without formal training as a journalist. My work involved interacting with school children who 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. I encouraged them to appreciate who they are as opposed to focusing on what they didn’t have. With time, we started exploring what it would feel when children discovered and used the treasures they had inside them. This revived the desires I had growing up without a father or a man to hold my hands.
History of Lifesong Kenya
In July 2012, I met 100 boys at the Nairobi Remand & Allocation Prison. I started meeting the boys every Friday, which was my off day. What begun as a weekly mentoring program soon turned into a long lasting engagement.
The weekly program involved;
- visiting the boys in prison
- tracing their families and the people they had wronged
- verifying information with police officers
- seeking for reconciliation with victims of crime
Six months later, I made the most difficult decision in my life. I decided to quit my job as a TV producer so I could work as a full time volunteer. My conviction was that I was going to earn an income as an online writer. I also believed that I was going to use my earnings to sustain Lifesong Kenya.
The Making of Jim Buttons
However, things never turned out the way I had projected. I started experiencing all kinds of difficulties. I would come home after visiting and encouraging boys in prison only to find my house locked due to rent arrears. But God gave me favour with the caretaker who would open the door for me and even give me food, sugar, milk and kerosene so the volunteer I stayed with and I could have something to eat.
One day, children from Oshwal Academy Nairobi visited our program at Dagoretti Girls Rehabilitation Centre with donations. Some of the donations were clothes. While the children’s clothes were brand new and in excellent condition, the ones fitting adults were in tatters and not fit to be worn. As Jared Junior (the volunteer) and I sorted the clothes, we got an idea.
“Why don’t we harvest the buttons and put them to good use?” I said.
“How?” Jared asked.
“I’ve noticed that most of the girls and even the other children we normally meet in school don’t have buttons,” I continued. “I’m thinking we should start sewing buttons for children!”
That is how Jim Buttons was birthed!
Follow this link to see how we use buttons in our work.
For close to 3 years, using buttons sustained Lifesong Kenya and our vision. We would go to schools, the prison and children’s homes to sew buttons for children. In between, we would talk to children about dreams, treasures and purpose. We also conducted reading programs as we continued working towards our main agenda; empowering boys.
We still use buttons, however, Lifesong Kenya has reached a point where we need more resources. I am currently looking for work as a creative writer. That means I am not earning enough to sustain an organization. It is not easy operating without resources. But, I haven’t given up.
I know it is not going to be an easy road. But it is a cause that I am willing to lay everything else aside. I invite you to be part and parcel of our journey. Together, we are going to give vulnerable children a platform to grow to their full potential. I look forward to hearing from you.