Rafiki Mwema means ‘Loyal Friend’ and that is what we are to the children in our care. The impact of sexual abuse and the profound lack of care and support for children in Kenya who experience abuse is heartbreaking, compounded by the stigma that then follows. While they are with us, we work to reboot the safety and love the kids feel so they can grow up to be balanced and loving adults.
Our Co-Founder and Director, Anne-Marie Tipper, provides some insight into one child’s journey towards trust –
The First Step
Nothing can ever prepare you for the moment a locked down child allows a ray of trust to filter into their heart. The process takes time. You watch and wait. You wonder how you can reach this child who has been in our care for many years. Who pretends all is fine and that she needs no-one. You watch her laugh a laugh that sounds a bit too forced. You see a smile that never reaches her eyes. You worry for this child and the woman she will become if you can’t reach her. You feel her pain and you see her fear but can’t ever get close enough. You know her story, she tells it freely with a giggle and a joke. You feel the pain she denies herself and you watch her break when she thinks no-one sees her. This intelligent young woman fails in school. She fights every system she meets, and she lashes out at anyone who comes near. She is close to breaking yet continues to push the world away. She flinches if your hand accidentally touches her and the hurt she denies hits your heart like the poisoned arrows of our Masai guards. Her defence wall is high and you can’t get in.
Then one evening as you settle in for the night, there is a tiny knock on the door. When you open it this girl is standing there looking more vulnerable and afraid than you have ever seen. She passes you a note and tells you to read it when she is gone. She walks backwards into the darkness. The note that would have cost her every resource she had sits in your hand. The weight of its message is big and the responsibility is immense – ‘Help me. Teach me to control my feelings and not abuse others’. My heart broke in that moment and sang with joy the next. Her heart was ready to open and I was there to help her.
We are now a little way into her therapy, and it’s early days. She has far to travel but the change is visible to all. She is ready and willing to walk slowly and carefully towards trust. She has laid in my arms and cried a million tears for the mother who sold her body and soul; for the people that entered her life tricked her into opening her heart and then left her; for the hundreds of rapes that she endured before most little girls even start school; for the anger she lived with and the belief she was born bad.
The world is beyond tough and sometimes I feel like the path I am on in this project is hopeless. Can we do enough? Are we getting it right? Could I be better? Am I too old for this stress every day? And then, a moment in time where all your own tears and frustrations mean nothing. A moment when you know you are doing the right thing. The most locked down and damaged soul will fly free into a future because she has chosen to connect rather then stay isolated. She has seen and knows that we are here when she is ready. That 10 year wait for her to be able to believe she is good enough is worth every tear I have shed; every doubt I have faced. This isn’t about me; this is about the children whose lives are touched with love and kindness; the children who must follow their own agenda and take their own time to reach out and trust they are enough.
A Bright Future
Our beautiful damaged and scared soul has a dream. A real dream. She wants to learn how to help girls that feel they are hated. She wants to learn to love herself and help others to love themselves too. She wants to be a therapist and share the love she is opening up to. Her dream is the most beautiful gift I have ever received, and it is a dream that drives me forward. Thank you for the gift of your love.
Notes on Our Approach – Support for children in Kenya
Children who have experienced trauma need to be parented and cared for in a unique way. We use the PACE Therapeutic Model to care and support best charity in Kenya. It is a method which was developed as a way of thinking, feeling, communicating and behaving that aims to make the child feel safe and begin to trust again. You can read more about our methods HERE.