The boys center is where I am spending most of my afternoons. Still, obviously, I do not understand 98% of what the boys say. So I usually sit with one of the COH folks and listen to them converse in Kiswahili. Sometimes they kind of translate what’s going on, and sometimes they don’t. Which is fine. I mean, I would like an idea, but I don’t think it’s necessary for them to continually stop, while they are relating one on one with a child, to tell me what they are saying. I am happy for the focus to remain where it belongs.
But it does not take a Kiswahili translator to know that there is a whole lot of hurt in that place.
Today there was a new boy there. He is so small! Can’t be more than 6 or so. We just talked with him for a bit, but apparently his Dad died a few years ago, he has never been to school, and his mom sends him out to the streets to beg, which is where he was picked up by the police and taken to the center. So, so sad.
One of the staff members was telling me that last year at the center there was a big rat problem. I mean big, not only as in they were heavy in number, but they were apparently quite large. Like, they scared the dog. There is barely enough food to go around for the boys, sometimes they only get one meal a day or less, so that left nothing for the rats to eat. So the rats CHEWED ON THE BOYS. Seriously. They said that the boys had bite marks and open bleeding wounds on their legs and ankles. The lovely folks I worked with paid for them to be eradicated. Good people. Can you imagine?!
According to the stories I have read and one girl that I work with the center used to be a whole lot worse when it first started in 2005. There were over 100 boys in a small room, 2-3 to a bed, they were never let outside, had only one small cup of porridge a day, and many of them were sick. A little while after the place had been in operation; because it was so bad a group of 150 kids or so who were still living on the streets banded together, made makeshift weapons, broke into the center, and set the boys free. They carried the sick boys out on sheets of metal and took them straight to the hospital where they demanded treatment for them. Isn’t that kind of amazing? The guards of the center said after the fact that they were kind of glad that someone did something because it was so bad there.
Which brings me to my next thought. Hope. Obviously I do not outright advocate all the destruction and use of weapons and such. But the leadership, teamwork, passion, and ingenuity that went into setting those boys free are incredible. What amazing potential for good! The other day at the center a teenage boy came by to give his grade report to one of the COH staff. This kid was nicely dressed, clean cut, polite. He was rescued from the home a couple of years back, and is under sponsorship for his schooling. You would have never guessed, He is one of the 325 or so kids that have been rescued, and while not all are success stories, he is the reason why they do what they do. He stayed a little while and went around talking to some of the boys about how he used to be exactly where they are, to encourage them to go home, and tell them that they can do great things. Incredible.