11-year-old Vicky lives with her extended family in Busia County, western Kenya. When Vicky was 3 years old, her mother fell ill and she was not able to get adequate treatment due to financial constraints. In 2016, she separated from her husband, a situation that changed Vicky´s life for the worst.
Vicky and her siblings were brought up in an extended family. Her other siblings have different mothers and are not living with her father. Vicky's father, the sole provider of the family, is a proprietor and a businessman. On a normal day, Vicky and her siblings could wake up at 6:30 am, take breakfast, go to school, and come back home at 1:00 pm to have lunch. In the evening, they would go to the playgrounds to mingle with other children.
When Vicky was 3 years old, the situation changed for the worse. Her mother fell ill and she was taken to a nearby hospital. She was treated and later discharged. Days later, the illness persisted forcing her to be readmitted to Matayos Sub-county hospital. Unfortunately for Vicky, her mother’s condition did not improve and due to financial constraints, she could not seek further medication attention.
As a result, Vicky’s mother left her matrimonial home to go and stay with her mother as she recovered from the illness. In 2015, the condition exacerbated and her husband presumed she had been ‘bewitched.’
A year later, Vicky´s mother divorced her husband and tried to get custody of her children through the Department of Children Services (DCS). Sadly, her request was not granted as she was found unfit to live with them.
With their parents separated, Vicky and her elder sibling (who is deaf ) had to walk for more than 15 kilometres from their fatherś home to where their mother lived. They would sneak out to go see their mother without their father's knowledge. One day, he noticed their disappearance, became bitter and took the situation into his own hands.
Physical abuse coupled with canes and slaps for six years became a norm to them. They missed school, lived in fear and had no one to report the incidences to.¨Sometimes they would come to school with bruises on their bodies,¨ said Madam´Jude (not her real name), a teacher at Lung´a primary school. ¨They tell stories about how they were denied food.¨ she added.
Even with these challenges, Vicky and her sister's quest did not stop. Their growing desire for motherly love pushed them to move from one place to another looking for her. Regrettably, Vicky's mother's mental state made it impossible for them to locate her.
On several occasions, the two young girls could be found in markets looking for their mother even during late hours. Their father did not really bother to know about their whereabouts all the time.
In January 2021, Vickyś mother made a second attempt to have custody of the children. Her wishes were, however, denied again with the Department of Children Services (DCS) citing her previous medical report. Their father, on the other hand, stopped providing basic needs and also stopped paying school fees when the schools reopened in August 2021.
In December 2021, a Locational Area Advisory Council (LAAC) member met Vicky and her sister stranded at a nearby market late in the evening. After listening to their story, he escorted them home. The following day, guided by the knowledge acquired during the Case Management and Referral training organised by JOFA, the Locational Area Advisory Council approached Vicky's father to find out more about the situation. Unfortunately, he was physically assaulted and had no choice but to report the case to the assistant chief for further action.
Vicky's father was arrested and held for 24 hours in police custody and was later transferred to Busia police station. He was charged with neglect and omission of his duties and pleaded guilty to the charges. The magistrate released him on cash bail amounting to 384 Euros or a surety of equal amount and compelled him to discharge his duties to fully support his children.
On 4th January 2022, Vicky was placed back to her former school- Lung´a primary school in standard two. Her elder sister was readmitted to Lwanya Special School in standard. The court also ordered that the children should have access to their mother, when schools close, an agreement that was actualised by the father. A home visit is also conducted monthly by the assistant chief, chief and the local administrators to monitor the father and ensure he is on his best behaviour at all times. The DCS office continuously monitors the progress of the children and their relationship with the father. A report of progress shall be made to Busia law courts on a monthly basis for the next six months.
Vicky and her sister now have a sense of relief since they can visit their mother freely at their grandparents home. Currently, Vicky's health has improved, she has adopted her daily routines and is staying together with her father and stepmother. Additionally, both children were linked with guiding and counselling teachers in their respective schools. According to Vickyś teacher, she is performing well in school; she is as happy and as talkative as she used to be.
Speaking after the intervention, Vicky happily said “ I want to work hard so that one day, I might be able to help those who are in need and those with special diseases just like my mother so that I can relieve them of their burdens.¨