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PERSPECTIVES FROM THE FIELD: Supporting children through survivor's trauma

BY CAROLINE GITAU


Kenya Works social workers help children through survivors trauma

My name is Caroline Gitau. As the Kenya Works program manager, I oversee our Kenyan efforts as well as being the case manager for individual children and youth beneficiaries. I have been with the organization for six years. Growing up I always dreamt of being a mother with many children and a beautiful family. Today I am blessed, I have exactly that. Not only do I have my biological children, but I also serve as a mother-figure to so many children through Kenya Works.


Social work was, is and always will be my destined career path. With Kenya Works, I continue to grow my academic background in counseling as well. I have witnessed that many children in extreme poverty are dealing with some level of trauma and know that trauma-informed counseling is an important framework for serving our beneficiaries. One of the most prevalent sources of trauma I deal with in our society is Gender-Based Violence (GBV)—or domestic violence as it is more commonly called in the United States. Poverty breeds violence for a number of reasons. Supporting children through survivor's trauma would be unbearable for me as a social worker if I didn’t have the power and the resources of the Kenya Works community to break its cycle. A recent example of GBV’s impact is the case of two siblings referred to me, Gloria and Victor. Gloria had just finished secondary (high) school and her younger brother had just joined secondary school, boarding away from home. Their mother was killed by her boyfriend, stabbed in an act of violence made even more insidious because Gloria was witness to the event, hearing her mother screaming through a locked bedroom door. Unable to get to her, she ran to the police station for help. Sadly, her mother was deceased when they returned. It was heartbreaking for me to see the children left behind suffering and trying to figure out their means of survival on top of the psychological trauma of losing their mother in such a violent way. "I can’t believe my own mother was dying next to me and I couldn’t even help her," Gloria confided to me, carrying blame for something so far beyond her control. We see the heartache, but also have the power to change lives. A generous Kenya Works sponsor quickly stepped in to ensure the boy could complete his secondary education. The sponsor was also keen to ensure the girl could build her future so is sponsoring Gloria to attend university where she studies travel and tourism. Both young people are successfully undergoing counseling to help them cope. Our greatest task is to engage young people as they find their destiny connectors so they may build better lives and grow a more hopeful future. I find such fulfillment in this work and define my success by opening opportunities for children who carry the heavy weight of poverty. Lack of a daily meal, unable to afford school fees, and often without the safety of a home with a loving parent–these are the barriers we break down together as a community. Drawing from resources within Kenya Works’ four pillars–Shelter Works, Makini Pads, Education Works and Community Works–I am always equipped with effective interventions for helping children through to the other side. While there are so many stories of heartache, they are outweighed by the successes we see daily. To see the hope that dawns on a child’s face is to know the power of this community. Asante Sana Kenya Works community, Caroline

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