14-year-old Humphrey Otieno is a child whose smile illuminates the world around him as he strikes a confident gait and plays gallantly amongst his friends at the Kitengela Place of Safety. He shares his sad story in rare reflective moments, a journey of an appalling past. He narrates how he parted with his parents and siblings, ending up on the streets and preferring it over home from where he had escaped. Staying in Githurai, Marurui area didn’t seem right. His father was an alcoholic, occasionally subjecting him to physical abuse, while the mother and sister struggled with mental illnesses. This situation didn’t get better, and their ability to meet basic needs continued to dwindle each day, so his hope of ever finding some happiness and certainty. At this point, just at 11 and surrounded by so much hopelessness, he left home for the streets in Githurai of Kiambu County. While on the streets, he joined other children, made friends with them, and tried all street tricks together to survive. With Frank and John, they begged for alms, scavenged through garbage dumps for food crumbs, besides doing odd jobs to survive for three years.
His life course changed when he was spotted and engaged by our project officer, Alloys Oketch. He confesses his doubt about being rescued from the streets, even when Alloys tried to make him believe it is possible to find new life at the Kitengela rescue center. He notes that Alloys was patient and kept talking to him, much as he continued rejecting him. He says, “I told him to go away, but he continued to pursue me and my friends. It took days to convince me that all was well and that I would get the desired help.” The rest is history, as he never looked back.
4th October 2022 is the day he first placed foot at the Kitengela Place of Safety and began a new life. He claims that for the first time, he had managed to find a stable home environment where a sense of love and happiness is felt. Although he noticed the absence of violence, cruelty, and hostility that he had been subjected to by some of his closest relatives and friends, it was still difficult to trust anyone, especially the adults, who essentially formed his rough past. However, he found gratitude among his peers, already residing at the center. He says, “When you’re on the streets, people are kind when they want something from you. When I came to the rescue center, settling took me time. It took me time to realize that not all people are the same.”
He loved schooling and knew that formal education was important, but as it would turn out, his studies were cut short in the seventh grade. He has opted to pursue learning through skill building pathway, enrolling in a motor vehicle mechanics course. With our (Undugu Society of Kenya) help, he has secured a scholarship to pursue his trade choice, which commences in April 2023. He is optimistic about the future and appreciates the comfort, hope, love, and compassion given to him by the Undugu Society of Kenya staff, particularly those at the Kitengela Place of Safety. He hopes their commitment to rescue, rehabilitate, and reintegrate children who live and work on the streets continues to flourish. Long live Kitengela place of safety!