This memory from 4 years ago has made me so emotional tonight…

These boys are now turning into adults. Our love is immense and we could not do this life changing work without you.

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This, like all trips, has been amazing, humbling and moving on so many levels. The changes at both Rafiki Mwema and Rafiki Familia are immense with all children having made life empowering changes but it is the boys house which is almost totally unrecognisable!

Remembering that we have 16 young boys, ages from twelve to seventeen who have all survived the horrors of living on the streets, some for many years; remembering that physical, sexual and emotional violence has been part of their daily lives for so long; remembering that the very people who should have been protecting them were the faces of fear and violence to our boys; remembering they literally lived by their wits and dominance over their street brothers. Then put 16 boys together, off the streets; drugs and alcohol removed from their lives; place them all together under one roof; insist they attend school at Rafiki Familia; train the staff in therapeutic parenting; put clear guidelines in place; be playful, loving, accepting, be curious and buckets of genuine empathy – stand back and wait to see what happens! Imagine all those boys under one roof – and picture 16 boys learning to feel loved and part of a family for the first time in their troubled lives! I am beyond proud of the progress our boys have made, and the commitment of the staff. I can promise you there have been many many full-on moments which have been managed so well by our staff.

As part of their school holidays we have arranged for the boys to have clubs on a daily basis. They attend dance, karate and debate clubs and are really benefiting from working together as a group. They are accepting the rules of karate and dance and finding a voice in the debate group – pure magic to see.

I think the biggest moment of the whole tripe was saying goodbye to our boys. For the first time the boys were brave enough to show the connection they were making to us. One of our boys who has had a life of extreme violence, has spent the last week making a bracelet with my name on it. The time and connection that have been put into those beaded bracelets is earthmoving! From boys who are unable to put the needs of anyone before their own, because thats how they have had to survive, spent time and effort to give a gift to someone else.

As we were leaving they put on an impromptu farewell concert where they showed off their dance and karate skills and stood up and said goodbye to us. To hear small *Beau saying how much he had loved our early Christmas – that no-one has EVER remembered him at Christmas and he has never received a gift – he was outwardly emotional. He said that he will remember this Christmas for the rest of his life (cue tears from me!) and then *Parker – who is a really headstrong, angry and adorable young man, thanked us again for giving them church clothes. He said in his life he never imagined he would own his own, Sunday best clothes, and all the time, *Jarrod carried his bag of gifts he had received the day before, under his arm, loving the ownership he had over something for the first time in his life! I’m not sure if I am articulating well enough how humbling, beautiful and moving the gifts the boys give us – the gifts being the things they are teaching us about remembering that every single person has a story to their lives. Our boys weren’t born to live on the streets, they arrived their through no fault of their own. They are truly strong and amazing young men and we will help them to become the adults they were born to be – before drugs and alcohol diverted them from the horrors they have had to face. We probably won’t be 100% successful (but I am determined to TRY to get 100%!!!!)