Habari (Hello) from Kenya! It has been a blessing to see the growth of Sodzo's work firsthand during our trip this May/June. Here are a few brief stories and quotes to give you a hint of the way lives are being changed through your support.
Watoto wa Ahadi (Children of Promise) Rescue Center
The ARC is currently home to the 6th cohort of children, with 11 from this group already home with families and 23 with plans for reintegration soon. Our staff has been hard at work pouring life, love, and food into these boys. It shows on their smiling faces and in their growing bodies.
The youngest boys are 8 and doing well with transitioning back to school. The oldest currently is 17 and is in his final year of high school. He is doing very well and plans to take the exams for college entrance in the fall.
The boys often come to the farm struggling with self-image, as many have been told for years they are trash, unwanted, and incapable of having a good life. Staff members work hard at the center to instill in them the knowledge that they are children of God. The community is also taught to cherish these children as God does. One way this is happening is through soccer. Every week or two the Sodzo soccer team plays a local school team (and usually wins!). We were able to cheer them on this past Sunday, and enjoyed their victory march.
Another way the boys are growing is confidence is by growing in skills. They each have a Shamba (garden plot) of their own, and they are so excited to show off their cucumbers, herbs, squash, and beans. The farm animals are also doing very well. This year we will be able to send each reintegrated boy home with a pig to care for. We find that having an animal to raise helps the boys maintain the sense of purpose, skill, and value they first learn on the farm and improves the chance of successful reintegration with family.
Our social workers are also busy in several townships building trusting relationships with the children surviving on the streets. For some, particularly those new to the streets, we have been able to directly trace families, enroll them in our family strengthening program then reintegrate and follow these children. Since 2016, over 350 children are back in homes with families or at trade or boarding schools instead of on the streets thanks to our staff's hard work and your ongoing support.
Kuja Pamoja kwa Jami (Come Together for the Place Where We Belong) Family Strengthening Groups
There are so many systemic factors that drive children to the streets. How does one try to make sure a child returning from the streets is going to a home that is safe and can provide? Our Sodzo KPJ social workers have been working over the past several years to refine our program and help communities provide the best support for each other. We currently have 10,000 families meeting weekly in 39 villages. Sustainability is one of our core principles. Groups of 20 to 30 families each invest an amount defined by the group (usually 20 cents per week). With this pot they are able to make micro loans to each other. The interest earned on the loans goes toward a group project that benefits all members. Listen to some of these comments from Luluma, where groups have started in the past 6 months:
I am so grateful to this group for renewing my hope. Our families are stronger. Our children are not going to the streets. We are able to provide them with food, pens, books for school. — Alice Machobo
Aside from poverty with its lack of food, living space, school fees, etc., our research has found that having a parent with HIV is one of the leading factors that predicts street migration of children in this area. Because of this finding our social workers have started new groups in high risk areas with the specific intent of decreasing stigma.
My son was on the street. He went to the rescue center and is back home. Now he is in Form 4 (senior in high school) and doing so well. This organization is called Sodzo. It is indeed our salvation, praise God! We have started businesses. We are able to pay school fees. Before, when you did not have the fee, your child was out of school, getting behind, and ashamed until you were able to pay. Now if you do not have it, you come to the group and get a loan. Then you are able to pay it back, and your child stays in school. Now we are able to buy things we never had before, like spoons. Before in our community the HIV stigma was very high. Our people were suffering. They were dying of loneliness. We were afraid to visit with them. Now because we have a better understanding, we go and visit. When they are sick, we take them broths. I think this has decreased the suffering of our people so much. — Mary Nokobia
Our social workers have also been walking groups through our new Pathways to Flourishing curriculum, which addresses many topics to promote mental and spiritual health, positive parenting, decreasing family violence, and addressing intergenerational trauma. Groups that have been through the curriculum so far have been very positive. We have an ongoing study to observe how this curriculum impacts mental health, families, and communities. We are also preparing to partner with the national and county levels of government to implement Kenya's new national positive parenting curriculum. Please pray for Sodzo, the staff, the communities, partnering organizations, and the children as we look for ways to grow in new villages and new counties.
Thank you for your prayers and your support.