How Prison Changed My Life

Three days ago, Lifesong Kenya had its annual graduation celebration. Unlike the other graduations, we only had three boys graduating. Then there was Tobias Odhiambo who never graduated from our program but attended. How Prison Changed My Life is his account.

How Prison Changed My Life

My name is Tobias Odhiambo. I come from Busia County. I was demoralized and had no hope in life when I came to YCTC on June 13, 2017. My offense was breaking and entering. I was a first time offender. That is why I was brought here.

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When I arrived, Mr Abongo (the officer in charge of education) and Mr Masheti (human rights officer) helped me. Without them and Lifesong, I don’t know what would have happened to me. I come from a poor family that still struggles to put food on the table. But after signing up for Lifesong Kenya’s program, I came to realize that there is hope.

When I was here, I decided to change my mind and my character forthwith. Apart from the Lifesong classes, I was also involved in making beads. Beadwork pays when you focus on doing the right things. Look at me, I am a changed person. You will never see me here again.

After leaving prison, I went back to school. Right now, I am in Form 3 and have high hopes for my future. I look forward to joining Form Four next year and doing well. I believe that after I have done well I can come back here and apply for a job as one of the officers. There is nothing that can stop me from doing this.

What I learned from Lifesong Kenya

I learned computer through Lifesong Kenya and I am able to use computers. This is a skill that I could only learn while in prison. Much as there are good things happening here, there are also those who are ignorant among us.

My brothers, discipline is the only way to go. When you are disciplined, life becomes better. Discipline helps you to relax and remain focused on what you need to do in order to succeed. When you misbehave you should be ready to face the consequences. I hope you will find a reason why you should change.

Footnotes

Lifesong Kenya has been one of the most consistent organizations at Kamiti Youth Corrective Training Centre. Despite our numerous challenges with finances we have reliable. Our program enables male teens to gain skills and acquire the courage, integrity and character they need before they exit prison.

Lifesong Kenya’s healing and reconciliation program has also enabled more than 10 boys to reconcile with their families and the people they have wronged. We have also managed to train and graduate more than 100 boys since we began in 2017.

In January this year, we began asking for monthly contributions on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn. Funding is one of our major challenges. We are able to raise 19% of our monthly budget from some of our friends who are already supporting us. However, it is not enough and we are struggling to provide a lifeline to young men like Tobias Odhiambo.

How Prison Changed My Life

More funding is needed to make our project a roaring success. We believe that this will enable Lifesong Kenya to fulfill the potential we genuinely believe we can accomplish. We estimate that our annual budget for the program – including project expenses and salaries for our employees – will be about $20,000.

We also project that our shop will be able to provide more employment through our business ideas. We will be cycling in December to raise funding. Our success depends on your participation and generous donations. That is why we are turning to you and the public for help.

We are committed to empowering more boys and exceptional young men exiting juvenile prison. We are keen on seeing our program being replicated elsewhere because we strongly believe it has high potential.

Anyone – and we know you are one of them – who believes in boys know how rewarding this can be. For those who have daughters and want the best for them, empowering at risk male teens can no longer be overlooked. These are our sons and they need us before a bullet hits them and they hit the dust.

For more information on how to support, visit our Half Way Cycle page.

How Prison Changed My Life
James Ouma

James Ouma

James Ouma is an author and former children’s TV Producer who has impacted the lives of male teens who need to find clarity. He quit his job as a TV Producer in 2013 in order to develop a restorative justice program for at-risk male teens exiting juvenile prison. His work has seen him get nominated for the 2019 Utumishi Bora Award. He is an avid cyclist who uses cycling and running to fundraise for Lifesong Kenya’s REAM Program.

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