by Patrick Sila
Miale ya Tumaini Social Worker
Maina was rescued on 16th November 2019 alongside four other boys from the streets of Nairobi. This was done with the help of the national police and community policing officers who held a football tournament in a nearby children’s home. Their mission was to feed and encourage behavior change through sports.
After a good game, lunch and talks, a call was made to those who were ready to go back to school and get out of the streets. They were promised support in whichever direction they chose.
Five young men followed Miale Ya Tumaini's social worker home accompanied by the police; Maina was among them.
Upon admission at Miale Ya Tumaini, all the boys gave stories that had a common theme, and based on our experience with children who do not want to be found, we listened, prodded further and we knew that we had a task to join the dots, observe patterns and keenly listen to help them rebuild their lives and work on their past. They all exhibited signs of troubled children. Just asking for help.
With time, two could not cope with rules and structures and they just walked out, we were left with 3 who were enrolled in school, this included Maina who was interviewed and admitted in class 5 in a nearby public school. A very competitive young man, his strong area was in skilled work. Maina wore his heart on his sleeve, but one important bit of information about his past remained hidden.
At the beginning of the year, Miale ya Tumaini was constructing a dining hall and Maina would wake up very early in the morning and sleep very late trying to help out in one way or another. He fixed all windows and ensured that they remained there. He was very neat in dressing and work.
During the Covid period, students were required to be home from as early as March. This was a confusing period for everyone. The Centre was in the process of having daytime structures, in the process of creating a routine. One morning, the children woke up to find Maina gone. He had run away from the center and gone back to the street. The management discussed his case and decided he should be brought back. We had achieved more gains and were not ready to lose him yet.
The Social Work Department decided to engage his friends, the remaining 2 to help find him. The team set out at 6:00 a.m. and started searching for him in areas they spent the night-- shop corridors, alleys trenches and abandoned houses. At about 3 pm it as it looked like the search would be called off, we learnt that there is an unspoken rule in the streets: when family comes looking for one of them, they all deny ever seeing them. They observe from far and will even hide the person. The team became aware of this through the stares, coded messages and questions asked at every stop.
The team was exhausted and chose to sit and just put their thoughts together. A few minutes into the discussion, Maina walked by, he would have gone unnoticed was it not for one of the children who decided to turn at that particular time.
On coming back Maina spoke of an urge far too strong for him, that kept asking him to leave. The power of voice as he called it was too strong to fight.
A few months later he was taken for initiation, Celebrations followed the 21-day period of being indoors. After the actual celebration, he totally lacked peace. He sought help from the counselor, visited the local hospital with different body aches every day, spoke with his mentor on a daily basis--it did not seem to help.
We tried to engage him in different activities include bead making which he did an amazing job. The beaded work involved a lot of quiet time. he seemed to like the moments spent joining beads lost in his own thoughts. He was encouraged to share but not pushed to.
On the night of 3rd November 2020, he packed up his things along with other items that didn’t belong to him. He had planned to disappear with the items before other staff members got to work. In the morning he walked out of the Centre, but this time he was not as lucky, the big boys were alerted and they followed and brought him back. He was held and locked in a room until all staff arrived. According to him in an interview, he said he wanted to go home, that he had missed his family members. He disclosed that he was ready to go home to his people, ready to be found and be with his family.
He spoke of a troubled time, waking up in the morning and thinking of his mother, going to bed with the same thoughts, disturbed dreams about his family. The Miale family felt that there was a need to do a proper reintegration.
We got a friend of the organization who lived in the county to help locate Miana's family. He happened to have a motorbike-- he is a teacher by profession which is an added advantage since teachers know all students. He was not far from the mentioned location and within no time we were able to establish contact with his family. Miana spoke with his sister who was very excited to hear her brother's voice; she gave us the mother's number. When we called she cried and prayed at the same time, overjoyed. She said that she had prayed, fasted, called people of God and finally told God that she had tithed her son.
With clear locations, we embarked on a farewell where all children are required to say kwaheri to a brother. This is often an emotional moment for everyone. The children reported of a long night, they all wanted to be up early in the morning to see him off.
His journey home took about 5 hours, and they arrived to find family and neighbors waiting. Despite the humble home, the family celebrated with song, dance and food. Unending prayers were said and the social worker was seen off late in the afternoon. He must have enjoyed the celebration or did not want to say his kwaheri because he got caught up with curfew causing him to spend the night in Nairobi.