When I was in campus I took a class on Poverty and development and one definition of poverty that has remained with me is that poverty is the denial of freedom to choose. This is a quote from
“Tony is now playing in the national youth league with Cheza Sports! And 2 other boys have joined the Cheza Sports Academy, one of the top football academies in Kenya!” reported the coach of the Turning Point Football Club (TPFC) during a recent managers’ meeting. There was celebration and awe at this news.
As the pandemic continues to affect many in the world, the number of children who are likely to experience loss and trauma is increasing. With schools closed across Kenya, more children are subjected to child labour, early marriages, child pregnancies, abuse and domestic violence.
Schools are starting to reopen and bearing in mind how difficult these past few months have been, we want to be ready to address any psychological trauma or emotional distress among our students and staff caused by the pandemic. We want to ensure that the staff members are able to overcome their challenges and perform at their best. We also want our students to come back to a safe space that allows them to continue developing holistically.
In September, staff members underwent online training to equip them to improve mental health and trauma support for children and adolescents. The training was run by art therapists from The Red Pencil Humanitarian Mission. The training equipped the staff members to use art therapy tools and techniques to support their students’ mental health as they also take care of their own mental health.
Our Transition Programme Teacher noted that “as a teacher, I have learnt practical ways to use art to help students communicate their emotions. I can create a safe space for children to express themselves and thrive.” Our Children’s Pastor reflected on the benefit to our frontline staff team, saying, “the training has shed more light about self-care and how to self-regulate. In taking care of ourselves, we won’t be fatigued through our work with the new tools in our counselling sessions.”
The use of art therapy is a unique experience for our team because even though we often engage our students in art activities, we have not used it to intentionally create an environment that supports the wellbeing of children and staff.
“The use of art will be useful during our mentorship sessions as it will help the shy students open up more about their problems.” Football coach.
The days have been filled with a lot of learning and self-reflection through art activities. Here are some of the reflections from the staff members:-
“By understanding how trauma affects children differently we can create a safe space” Children’s Welfare Officer
“In our transition programme, the lessons on how to assist students to self-regulate will enable the teachers to help the students settle in and make their transition to school easier.” Kianda Centre Manager
“The training has included staff members from different departments and this will enable TP to support our students more effectively as a team.”
The Red Pencil Humanitarian Mission believes that “When we rescue the child, we save the adult” and by helping our children develop better coping skills, heal from loss and trauma and grow, we ensure that we give them more opportunities to fully develop their God-given potential.
All of the children in Turning Point’s programmes have spent time out of school in the past when their parents could not afford the fees. With schools closed, they find themselves at home again. We asked them how they’re getting on…
9-year-old Mercy joined our School Transition Programme in January this year, she was busy catching up on grade 4 work excited to go back to school. But now she finds herself out of school again. Mercy has kept busy at home reading the revision workbook her teachers provided when schools closed. She also has lots to do around the house, babysitting her younger siblings: washing dishes and cleaning the house.
Turning Point has been returning out-of-school children to school in Kibera since 2004. Our School Transition Programme is a one-year programme that helps children to catch up on what they’ve missed so they can integrate back into the school system. The children we serve are out of school due to poverty, not forced to stay home by a global pandemic. Coronavirus school closures may only last a few months while some of the children we work with have been out of school for years. We’ve been working with kids on the margins, kids who slipped through the gaps. But now across the world, we find 9 out of 10 school kids are not in school. Out of school is the new norm, at least for a time. As more countries start to reopen schools or make plans to do so, perhaps we have something to share from the years we’ve spent returning children to school. We thought we would pull together some of the lessons we’ve learned from working with out-of-school kids over the last 17 years…
We admitted 40 new children into our School Transition Programme in January. It’s always a joy to meet these new kids. But, there’s a hint of sadness as we listen to stories of children who come to seek a place in our education program.
One notable story is that of Cynthia, Cynthia grew up in Nairobi and lived with her father. Her father provided everything she needed to lead a healthy life. One day, thugs injured her father during a robbery and he was in the hospital for a long time. This one incident changed Cynthia’s life. Her mother left, she dropped out of school and had to go live with her father at their rural home.
On your mark, get set, go! This year’s summer camp, our first since 2016, was new for a lot of people. A new bunch of energetic youth ready to fellowship together and learn from God; a dedicated group of teachers ready to get in the groove and a team of coaches ready to stretch everyone’s fitness.
This question was our starting point as we talked about our vision for the kids we work with in Kibera. We had gathered the team at our School Transition Programme who prepare children to return to school.
We talked about wanting our children to be healthy and happy, to be confident, to be kind to others and have friends. We talked about our dreams for them to go to university and get degrees and good jobs. Maybe you have similar dreams for the children in your life.
Just as we have dreams for our own children, our father God has dreams for each of us. He has dreams for each of the children who come to our centres in Kibera every day.
Like Joash*, who is eleven years old and lives with his mum in Kibera. Joash dropped out of school 4 years ago because his mum could not get the money together to enrol him. For four years, he’s been out of education, he is so far behind his classmates but he is also so eager to learn.
We talked with our team of teachers, cooks and social workers about our mission to demonstrate God’s love to vulnerable children in Kibera. As we work with Joash to get him ready to return to school, we show God’s love and point him to the hope that God holds out to him.
So when Mary, our cook, wakes early to prepare breakfast for 25 kids. It might look like she’s just cooking another meal but actually she is taking part in God’s great work in Joash’s life.
(Pictured above: Kids in our School Transition Programme showing off their new pencil cases)
*We have changed the name to protect the child’s identity
“Welcome, welcome! Please have a seat!” the mother excitedly greeted us as we squeezed through her half-open doorway. If we had opened it any further, it would have fallen off its hinges. I squashed onto a seat next to social worker Margaret, our knees touching the bed in front of us.
Once a year, Margaret and Daniel, our social workers, visit the home of every child in our programmes to conduct a home study. It is a chance to catch up on how the family are doing and see first-hand their home situation. Last week I joined them as they went house to house in Laini Saba.
The new year is always exciting for us at the transition school, we not only welcome new kids to the project but we also celebrate as the kids we had transition to formal primary education.
This year 27 kids out of the 30 chidren have successfully transitioned and Maria is among them. When you meet Maria along the corridors of her new school, Fountain of Hope Primary school, she exudes a gentle confidence. She’s calm yet has blended in with the rest despite her being the new kid in Class 5.