I am going down but this time not alone! That is what I wanted to tell my coach during our session a few days ago. Instead, I vowed to continue making sure that boys and young men exiting juvenile prison will have a place to call home. It is a dream that began in 2017 after I resumed my work at Lifesong Kenya.
I have reached a point where I am finally at my breaking point. This is nothing new because I have been here more than a thousand times before. The only difference is that this time around, I am not going down alone. First, I have support from a number of wonderful individuals who are offering their support as coaches. This is the kind of support that I did not have in the past.
Learn about what inspires me here.
The kind of email that I'd like to get
Much as I am getting valuable support and help through life coaching, I am still not able to get enough support where it matters the most. I have tried several times and receive hundreds of rejections and regrets in my mailbox. Despite knowing half of the content, I still read every rejection and regret email to the end. I do this because I believe that one day one of emails is going to read like this.
Hello James, we commend you for the wonderful work that you’re doing with young offenders in the Kenyan prison system. Having gone through your compeling request for support and website, we regret to inform you that we’re not going to give you the 30,000 USD that you need for your work. Instead, we’re going to 150,000 USD so you can, not only run your prison program but also buy land and build a Halfway House.
In addition to this, we’re going to equip the prison computer lab with the latest state-of-art equipment as well as help you start projects and businesses that will generate income and create jobs for your exceptional young men. We also hope you can now employ the right personnel who will add value to your program. Lastly, one of our partners – Education for All – has offered an additional 30,000 USD for your WOW Education Fund that aims to educate boys and young men who are not academic high achievers.
I am going down but this time not alone
As I wrote the above letter, an overwhelming joy, peace and gratitude overflooded my heart. Working with boys and male offenders who are in conflict with the law gives me joy and a lot of fulfilment. Despite the numerous challenges that comes with lack of funding and getting support, my commitment to breaking boys out of prison remains the same.
Since 2013, our team has been going to prison and working with families, the police and the people who have been wroged and hurt. Of course, we often take breaks when we don’t raise enough financial support for our work. Apart from taking a break during the Covid-19 pandemic, I have taken my longest break from going to prison in 2016.
I took this year-long break in order to reflect on my decision to quit my job as a TV Producer in 2013 to focus on developing a restorative justice program. During my break, I considered the things that I needed to do in order for me to resume going back to prison.
One of the decisions that I made was to learn how to write articles, web content and using WordPress to create websites for clients. In addition to this, I also decided to learn Life Coaching, not only to earn income for myself but to use it to empower male offenders exiting prison. To cut costs that comes with going to prison, I decided to ask for a bike donation from one of Kenya’s leading bicycle shops.
The joy of seeing tangible fruits
I received my first rejection when the bicycle shop sent me a regret email. We don’t encourage giving handouts to people who don’t want to work hard, the email said. Please work hard as other Kenyans, earn an income then come buy a bicycle from us! My explanation that I needed a bicycle to go to prison fell on deaf ears.
When I was finally able to buy a bicycle, I approached the Green Cycle Shop where I got a bicycle on discount. A long the way, I decided to use the bicycle for fundraising as well as use to earn income through bicycle deliveries.
After learning how to write content and create WordPress websites, my eyes were set on learning how to become a life coach. I posted on social media askign for referrals for a coaching scholarship program. Someone from Canada read my post and shared my contacts with Carol McLean, who told me about CTI. Through CTI’s sponsorship I have been able to learn how to create a coaching program for our prison and halfway house programs.
Through this, I have also been able to network with different people across the world. Despite the differences in our contexts, I have been able to make valuable connections with wonderful people who are very supportive of our work. One of the tangible results from coaching is getting clarity that I needed to start renting a Halfway House for boys who need shelter and a safe space for their healing and restoration.
This has enabled us to have a place where we can offer transitional housing and kickstart our projects. After starting the transitional housing program, we have been able to start growing vegetables, fruits and rearing rabbits and chicken. Our dream is to produce food and eggs for our Halfway House as well as generate income and create jobs for boys who staying at our facility.
It is a dream that I am ready to continue fighting for until the whole world gets involved. That’s why I am going down but this time not alone because giving up means locking down our Halfway House. it also means taking away the only thing that has the potential of transforming the trajectory of the life of a young man who has nowhere else to go.