I joined Turning Point not long after it was started. I remember Pastor Shadrack visiting homes, door to door, looking for children who were out of school. Most people in the community would close their doors in his face, because during that time there were stories going round about a certain local preacher accompanied by a white person who would take children from their parents in the name of wanting to support them in school but then the children would never be seen again. Rumours had it that the preacher trafficked the children to countries far from Kenya. Parents from the community were very afraid. They told their children that whenever they see a Mzungu (white person) they should run away. I grew up believing that wazungu (white people) were not very good people.
So, one day, Pastor Shadrack knocks on our door, with him was Jon Parsons, a mzungu! I have never been that afraid. But there was a way they spoke to my parents, which was very gentle and honest. They told my parents about their project that offered breakfast to children. They went on saying that there was Bible teaching for the children and fun activities. At that time, my 2 younger sisters and I, ages between 3 and 6, had not started school. Despite the rumours and the fears, my parents agreed to let Pastor Shadrack and Jon to enrol us into the project.
Every morning we would go to the centre, Mama Judy would serve us some warm, sweet porridge and Pastor Shadrack would teach us songs and some memory verses. We would then go back home around 11am. To date, I still remember some of the verses. They have really helped me through different situations in my life.
I remember our first classroom was a small, cramped and not so well-lit single room. But we enjoyed it regardless. We looked forward to going to the project every single day. It was not long before playtime was extended from 11am-12pm and we couldn’t be happier! We were thrilled! More time in the centre! More time with mama Eunice, mama Judy, babu Kariuki and Pastor Shadrack. More time away from home.
More and more children joined us at the centre with time. And with the increased number, the small room was expanded to accommodate all of us. Then mama Judy started serving us lunch over and above the cup of porridge. By this time, we were leaving school at 1pm.
The daily routine of breakfast, Bible teaching, songs, playtime then lunch went on for quite some time. A few parents got tired of waiting for Turning Point’s next move and took their children to “proper” schools. They felt that TP was wasting their children’s time. Many of us stayed on, continuing with the routine, because our parents could not afford to take us to “proper” schools.
Finally, Turning Point started enrolling us into school. Many preschools declined to take me in. They said I was too old for preschool. And so, Pastor Shadrack talked to a headteacher at a nearby primary school to allow me to join grade 1 at their school. After many days of back and forth between the headteacher and Pastor Shadrack, I was allowed to join grade 2. In the beginning, I did not enjoy school at all, because I had no preliminary education and I had not been to a proper class before. I really struggled to catch up. I can confirm that preliminary education is important as it affects a child’s literacy, numeracy and writing skills even beyond school.
Thanks to my father who one day promised to buy me a hand video game if I moved from position 90 to 15 in my school assessments. I remember working harder than ever before. Sadly, he passed away before I could show him my results. Before he could buy me the video game.
We had to go upcountry for his burial and ended up staying there because mum could not support all of us in Nairobi. My elder brother got a chance to continue with his secondary education back in Nairobi and I felt lucky that he asked me to go back with him. My 2 sisters did not get the chance to continue their education.
So, I rejoined Turning Point and continued with primary education in a government school. I remember Turning Point providing us with full school uniform, a bag and school items. Not forgetting a brand-new pair of shoes! We felt loved and wanted. Every day on our way to school, we would pass by the centre to have breakfast. Mama Judy was always ready with tea and mandazi (doughnut).
In secondary school, because of my good grades and discipline, I got elected as the school president. What an honour it was! I attribute this success to the Bible teaching and life lessons given to me by Turning Point earlier on.
My highlight will always be the holiday camps! All of us would come together from different primary schools. There were loads of fun activities. We would have campfires, drama, singing, competitive games, talent shows and nyama choma (roast meat). Oh, and swimming! The last days of camps were always the saddest. We did not want to go back home.
I also liked how Turning Point offered food to our parents to sustain us during school holidays. Turning Point would engage us during holidays with activities that kept us away from the streets and bad company.
I am very grateful for where I am today. I owe it all to Turning Point. They got me from a hopeless situation, where life was very difficult with no hope for education and a future. I am a Diploma holder and I would like to one day advance my qualifications to Bachelors level. I am currently working as a sales coordinator at a company in Nairobi. I also run my own business on the side. My life is so much better now.
Turning Point will always be my home. Thank you, Turning Point.
– Boniface Onyango – Turning Point Trust Alumnus