Where the rubber meets the road

James Ouma
Posted March 10, 2017 from Kenya

Running for My Life 2017: Day 70

I resumed my work for Lifesong Kenya at Five Star Academy, Kangemi and in juvenile prison this week. By resuming my work as a full time volunteer who isn't on salary, I am also exposing my wife, family, relationships and myself to conflicts that comes with my work. While other people, especially the men I would like to support my work are working 9-5, I am usually involved in non-income earning activities.

Well, it is a choice I made a few years ago. I used to have a job as a children's television producer. But after meeting 100 boys in juvenile prison my life took a new turn. With time, I started spending a lot of time visiting the boys in prison, tracing their parents and the people the boys had wronged through crime.

And as time went by, I decided to focus on growing my capacity as a writer in order to find time and resources to work 9-5 at the juvenile prison. My decision to quit my job was informed by the fact that I strongly believed - and still do - I was going to earn from my writing and the many business ideas I have.

I realized things were not going to happen the way I had thought they would three weeks after I had already quit my job. The salary I had hoped the earn - for the last time - had not been sent to my back account while the reading proposal I had submitted at NPC Academies Buruburu had been rejected!

I was single then. However, I had to put up with different friends at different points before I got my own house. The going was rough and I don't know what kept me focused on my goal. There are many times my house was locked due to house rent arrears, I didn't have food and had to walk on foot to and from the prison.

Reality check

Now that I have resumed my work - after a long break of self-reflection - I have found myself in a vicious circle of conflicts. Most of these conflicts comes from what goes around in my world. Take yesterday for instance. My day begun at 4:30 am with a morning run then we left the house for the 40.8 KM trip to Kamiti Prison where we spent 3 hours meeting officers and the boys we will be working with.

After this, we went to Five Star Academy, Kangemi where we spent a further 2 hours, and by the time we arrived home, we were worn out and ready to crash to bed. However, we had to discuss Saturday's activities with Tracy Hanson. Of course, in my line of work I get lots of advice on how to get partnership, resources and funding for my work, which I usually listen to with loads of patience.

However, the reality is different and by patiently listening to new avenues of partnerships, I end up avoiding fresh conflicts. The truth is, I have sought for partnership - and will continue doing so - from lots of people, organizations and institutions. My long list includes friends, social media, fellow church members, churches, universities, banks, telecommunication companies, IT firms and supermarkets.

It is harder to find and get men who can partner with Lifesong Kenya. Most of the time, it is women who are willing to come on board. And because most of the boys we work with lack father-figures getting men on board is a great deal to us.We have come to learn that the boys are more attentive whenever we bring men to prison as opposed to when women visit with us.

Because we will be working with boys at Kamiti Youth Corrective Training, which is 40.8 km away from where I live, I can no longer walk on foot the way I used to in the past. This means having fuel so I can drive to and back from the prison. I will also do the following:-

  • phone calls to parents or guardians and the people the boys have wronged
  • tracing and visiting parents or guardians and the people the boys have wronged
  • conducting monthly shaving activities
  • preparing and printing learning materials

These activities require money and resources. Failing to find partners is a challenge we are going to face and soldier through. Getting partnership will enable Lifesong Kenya to get the resources we need to fully impact the lives of the boys we will be meeting in prison and the many children we work with outside the prison.

I look forward to hearing from you.

How to Get Involved

I am appealing to everyone, especially men, to get fully involved in our work. There are many ways that don't necessarily require financial input such as visiting with us. If you know of an individual or institution, kindly get in touch with us. We are also looking for university or college students who are looking for volunteer opportunities to come and work with us.

Give me writing jobs for your website and social media

Comments 2

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Mar 11, 2017
Mar 11, 2017

Hello James, thanks for writing about your plans and efforts. It does seem necessary that we must have a job to support our family and lives! But I admire your efforts and time to support the boys in prison. Surely they have not had good male models for their own lives, otherwise they wouldn't  be in prison. I urge you to keep helping them. Maybe you can find some other men to go with you, and to help you in this important effort.

James Ouma
Mar 12, 2017
Mar 12, 2017

Thanks for your insight. Much as finding resources and men who are interested in joining us, I am determined to keep moving on and working with the boys who are in juvenile prison.