From our founder, James Ouma
In 2018, I began working as an untrained children’s TV producer at KBC TV. My work involved interacting with school children and young people who lacked proper parenting. Because I also grew up without a father, I identified with their challenges.
I started encouraging the children to appreciate who they were as opposed to focusing on what they didn’t have. With time, we started exploring what it would feel like when a person discovers and uses the treasures they have inside them.
In July 2012, I met 100 boys at the Nairobi Remand & Allocation Prison, Industrial Area. I was overwhelmed by love and compassion for each of the boys. I soon started meeting them every Friday during my off day.
I discovered that 60% of the boys had not been visited by their families, needed someone to accompany them to court and someone to visit their families and the people they had wronged. Most got released and soon came back to prison as hardened criminals as a result of a vicious cycle they had found themselves in.
I was determined to helping these boys reconnect with their families, the people they had wronged and find basic things they needed such as underwear, slippers, bar soap and toothpaste. I used my salary to go to prison, visit families and when I didn’t have enough, asked for help from friends or walked on foot.
Our story includes the lives of our exceptional young men
One of my supervisors at work heard what I was in prison and asked me to choose between my work as a producer and the boys in prison. I thought about the salary I was earning from a job I hadn’t trained for but was enjoying. I thought about the boys, their families and their future lives.
With a heavy heart, I chose the boys and planned to use my writing as a fall back plan. Six months later, I quit my job to form Lifesong Kenya and continue working with boys in prison.
I continued working alone, mostly staying with one friend after the other. I went to the furthest corners of Nairobi, working all alone, hungry, thirsty and desperate.
Much as I did not have any academic qualifications as a social worker, I felt qualified by God. I also did not have a strategy or a plan and didn’t know how to draft one. I just kept working.
In November 2014, I accompanied a group of family friends to a mission to Baragoi. All I had were buttons, sewing thread and needles. As I sewed button for children, I thought about my future and wondered whether I had lost my mind. A year later, I got married to the love of my life who believed in my dreams and vision for boys in detention.
The best decision I’ve ever made
In 2016, I took a long break from going to prison and reflected on my life. The following year, I felt compelled to resume working with boys in prison. I went to Kamiti Youth Correctional Training Centre and shared my desire to work at the facility where Lifesong Kenya is running its programs to date.
As I look back, I realize my life and destiny with that of the boys. They have become part of my life and success. Each of these boys is a wonderful man, person and human being who deserve a shoulder to lean on and a new beginning.
When crime happens, relationships are destroyed while bonds that were once there, get broken. I welcome you to be part of this healing process. Together, we will empower more boys and transform the present and future generations. It is a duty that we can no longer push forward. The time to act is NOW!
Get in touch and let’s chart the way forward.