It is a notably chilly morning; the dew is still fresh on the grass. Today marks the beginning of one of the best weeks at the shelter: the cultural week-our week to share. Bonita*, who is now 15 years old, is one of the girls we host at the shelter for care and protection. She was well groomed in her traditional attire ready for presentation. Bonita has been at the shelter for 10 months now and has grown into a tall, lean and amiable girl with ebony black hair.
I look at her keenly and retrospectively recall the first time I met her. It is all fresh in my mind like yesterday. She was emaciated, withdrawn, quiet, and hopeless. She would cry most part of the day. Today, she is a very happy girl, healthy, outgoing, outspoken, determined and very ambitious. I have come to terms with Albert Schweitzer’s quote which states, “One who gains strength by overcoming obstacles possesses the only strength which can overcome diversity”. If there is a success story to vividly describe the meaning of beating all odds and giving meaning to the broken fragments from the past, then Bonita’s is an epitome of such.
The story starts in a village somewhere in the western region of Kenya. A place she once resided with her deceased parents. Her father was a village drunk known by all and sundry. Domestic violence in her home wasn’t something unusual. Her father on most occasions arrived home late in the night, banged the door of their grass thatched house shouting the name of her mother. Immediately he sets his foot inside the house, he would start battering her mother. Bonita witnessed this together with her sibling who was barely a year old and would only throw tantrums as a way to show discomfort. Bonita narrates to me in tears “One day, my father came home, got into the house and started quarrelling my mother. He was quarreling about food which he said wasn’t enough. He then took a knife and stabbed my mother. I shouted for help but no one came to help us. She bled until she died. My sister who was still breastfeeding sucked my mother’s blood in the dark crying until she also died.”
Bonita’s mother and sibling were laid to rest and her father apprehended. She was taken up by a certain lady who exploited her. “She would overwork me, beat me up, deny me food and abuse me mercilessly,” She narrates. An elderly lady who lived close by witnessed all this and decided to take Bonita and live with her. “I still call her grandmother because she treated me as her own child”, She said smiling. Given that the lady was poor and couldn’t finance Bonita’s education, Bonita dropped out of school and helped her with farm work. Bonita was later informed that her father passed away in prison.
A seemingly well-meaning lady convinced her grandmother to send Bonita to Nairobi as a house-help job promising her a handsome pay. She succumbed to the deceit and Bonita was trafficked to Nairobi. On arrival, the receiver- Bonita’s then employer-to-be, lucky enough realized at the first instant that she wasn’t of age. She reported the matter to the police who later referred to the District children’s officer as a human trafficking case. The DCO then referred the case to HAART Kenya for temporary accommodation.
Since she came to the shelter she has receiving trauma informed and client centered support specific to her presenting needs in a bid to help her in the healing process. She was offered psycho-social support to help he overcome the trauma she underwent. She has been able to access all her basic needs at the shelter including medical care. Bonita has shown her immense abilities in the skills training classes and has learnt a lot in dressmaking, crocheting and mat making. She also has been able to be equipped with basic computer lessons. To prepare her for her future responsibilities, she was engaged and equipped with knowledge and skills in different areas. These skills included Communication skills, numeracy skills, interpersonal skills, Stress management skills, culinary skills, baking skills, personal hygiene and grooming skills, skills in good mannerism, Moral values, knowledge in puberty and menstruation, HIV/AIDS and knowledge on growth and development.
Her home tracing was done and she is set to be reintegrated soon. Her grandmother is also receiving family support and will be empowered economically to stabilize her farming activity. Bonita has shown a significant improvement in body and mind.
“I am eagerly waiting to meet my grandmother again. I have really missed her” She told me nostalgically that morning before she presented. She has overcome!
* Bonita is a pseudonym
By Halima Musa