I want to take the opportunity now to tell you some of the individual stories from the children of Future Stars. I wish I had had more time to talk with each child because they all have amazing tales to tell. Whilst often tragic, there is also so much hope and so much faith. It is the stories of the children that have the power to make me cry and I refuse to be ashamed of that. I love these children with all my heart and that is the perfect excuse to get emotional.
The first of the stories belongs to Mourine
If you’ve visited the child sponsorship page of the Chaffinch website then you may already know the basics of Mourine’s story. When she was very young, her father died due to AIDS. Her mother is also HIV+ and is currently very unwell. It is unlikely that she will survive for any significant period of time.
Mourine’s mother remarried a couple of years ago, to another HIV+ partner. However, Mourine’s new stepfather was more interested in Mourine than in her mother, and Mourine became a repeated victim of rape. She arrived at Future Stars just a year ago in an attempt to keep her safe.
Since then, her stepfather has died. She returned to live with her mother for a few weeks, but it soon became apparent that her mother was too sick to take care of her, so Mourine returned to Future Stars.
Due to the extensive history of HIV in her family, and the assaults by another HIV+ man, there is a relatively high probability that Mourine is also HIV+. She has never been tested. There is still a lot of ignorance about the virus in Kibera, and indeed in Kenya as a whole. This makes it difficult to convince people of the importance of HIV testing. However, if Mourine is indeed HIV+, the sooner she begins treatment with antiretrovirals the better her prognosis. I have tried to emphasise this to the staff at Future Stars but I have a feeling it is going to take more than one conversation to make a difference.
Mourine is a lovely girl. She is quiet, a little shy, and very polite. But when you make the effort, you will be rewarded with the most beautiful smile. She has the attitude of being older than her years, likely because of the things she has experienced, yet she also has a vulnerability about her that makes it difficult not to want to put your arms around her and give her lots of hugs. I see a sadness in her eyes that really affects me. I wish I could make it all better. I wish I could change the past so she didn’t have to suffer. She’s just a child. Please consider sponsoring Mourine. I can promise you that you’ll get back so much more than you can imagine. You can make her feel cared about, give her the chance to be a child, and make that gorgeous smile permanent.
Judis’ story is full of uncertainty
I haven’t had the opportunity to learn a lot about Judis’ background as yet. She’s another very quiet girl, which unfortunately makes it easy to overlook her in a room full of children clamouring for the attention of the mzungu.
But last night, after the dancing, as I was preparing to leave, Judis touched my elbow. In a tiny voice she whispered that she wanted to talk to me. I took her into the office. Judis proceeded to tell me that she’s very sad. She is chronically ill, often missing weeks of school. She finds it difficult to run around with the other children as her chest gives her pain, she struggles to breathe, and she feels weak. To my dismay, she told me that she has been suffering in this way since she was in Class 7. That’s 5 years ago. In that time, she has been to the doctor only once. The doctor informed her that she had a chest infection, gave her antibiotics, and told her to eat plenty of fruit. It worries me. If she has a chest infection that keeps recurring, it seems likely that the original course of antibiotics did not completely destroy the infection. Continuing to treat, on an ad hoc basis, with the same antibiotics, is unlikely to be effective. Even more worrying are the consequences of living with a chest infection for five years. It may well be that her lungs are now permanently damaged and this, due to the lower levels of oxygen reaching her bloodstream, may explain her constant fatigue. It is painful to see this child, who should be running about with her school friends, instead struggling like an old woman. All for the lack of some basic medical care. Such are the challenges of being born a child of the slum.
I desperately want to take Judis to the children’s hospital in Nairobi. She deserves a chance for things to change. Despite the amount of school she misses, she is studying very hard and her grades are good. She passed her KPLC with a fantastic mark, and is hopeful of achieving equal success in her KSLC at the end of this year. Her dream is to become a doctor. Yet without proper medical treatment I fear for her future. I’m currently trying to ‘do a deal’ with a doctor at the children’s hospital and I am determined to raise the funds to get Judis a quality consultation and an effective treatment plan.
Judis had felt unable to talk to the regular staff at Future Stars as she did not want to ‘complain’ when the staff work so hard to give her a better quality of life. I feel honoured that she chose to open up to me, and this makes me even more determined to do something practical to help.
Khamis’ is the last of today’s stories
Khamis Abdi (usually called Abdi) is a tall, very slim young man who has certainly seen a lot of the darker side to life. For four years, he lived on the streets of Nairobi with a gang of other boys. He admits that drugs were a huge problem amongst the boys and he himself would regularly try to escape from the harsh realities of his life by sniffing lighter fluid or industrial solvent. He would spend much of the night walking around the area, afraid to sleep. He told me that all the street boys carried two bags for sleeping: one for their legs and one to go over their heads. Yet they never really slept. They always had to keep an eye or an ear open for the police who wouldn’t hesitate to beat the sleeping boys with sticks or rifles. Khamis tells me that it is on the streets that he learned to run.
Thankfully, Khamis was ‘rescued’ from this dangerous life and came to live at Future Stars. Of his gang, he knows of only two others who are still alive. When he first arrived at the centre, Khamis found it very difficult to adapt to his new life. He would regularly skip school and spend the day in his old haunts. The other street boys tried to encourage him back into the gang, making fun of him for the school uniform that he wore. Yet Khamis came to realise that he had been given a real opportunity. He had a safe place to sleep, enough food to eat, and the chance to go to school. He made the difficult decision to turn his life around and look to the future. He is now working hard in school and tells me that his dream is to help other street boys – to change their lives in the way that Future Stars has changed his.
Inspiration from their stories and mine
Last night, after supper, I had told the children something of my own story. I wanted them to understand that it doesn’t matter where you come from, it doesn’t matter what lies in your past. Where you start is not what’s important. What’s important is where you are going. I wanted the children to know that it’s okay to dream big. In this world, it is your heart that matters, not the clothes on your back or the money in your pocket.
So many of the children later told me that I inspired them but you know what? It’s the stories of these children that inspire me. They inspire me to continue to fight for every new day and to do what I can, however big or small that may be, to make this world a better place. There are so many children fighting horrific battles. Most we will never know about because we see only a microscopic part of our world. Therefore surely each and every one of us has a responsibility to do what we can to help the situations we do know about. And I’ll tell you something – there’s no buzz like it. There’s nothing in this world that can make you feel as good as knowing that you’ve made a difference.
If these stories have inspired you to change a life and become a child sponsor, head over to the Chaffinch page for more details. Maybe you would like to sponsor Mourine, or Judis, or Khamis, or perhaps there’s another child who can steal your heart. Every child has a story to tell – why not become part of the next chapter?