During two years working in Kenya, one afternoon after another, I sat in my small make-shift office at The Children’s Village, listening to children talk of sleeping on stree verandas, foraging gutters looking for garbage, fighting animals for a crust of bread, and in desparation, eating cigarette butts to appease hunger pangs. I wondered if there could be any children lining as difficult an existence as these former street boys?
One year later I discovered the answer when a group of 140 war-torn children arrived at the village who witnessed their homes burned, their families lost of killed by machetes during the post-election violence of 2008. Clearly the children of Kenya continue to suffer. This past winter I returned to The Children’s Village. This time Father Riwa asked me to listen to the life stories of a few young girls recently rescued from the desert in northern Kenya, girls from the Samburu Tribe.
I spent hours with these children, the victims of extreme poverty, drought and hunger. Most significantly, however, they are the victims of an ancient Samburu tradition. Young girls, ages of 8 to 12, are married off in exchange for a dowry of a few sheep or cattle. The children shared their stories.
They told of fleeing their homes when observing preparations for their marriage being made, often to men they had never seen, sometimes relatives, and always at least four times their age. They said their mothers helpted them escape. They spoke of fear, yet determination, to find their way to a location where child activists would assist them to leave Samburu. They talked of the journey from the desert to unfamiliar towns and finally to St. Clare Girls Centre. They shared feelings about life at St. Clare, and their first experiences: wearing real clothing, eating regular meals, attending school, and feeling safe.
Many thoughts and feelings came to me after hours of listening. Clearly finding words to describe those feelings was at best difficult. One piece was however very clear. The work Father Riwa is doing for suffering Kenyan children is truly God’s work; the assistance being given by generous folks like you is invaluable. He cannot do this without you.
Thank you for all your support.