“I was excited to hear that my uncle wanted to cater for my education and help me realise my dreams.” Felix, 12 years old, could not wait to leave his rural home in Kakamega, Kenya and move to the country’s capital Nairobi. His uncle promised to take care of the boy. On top, he pledged to regularly send money for their upkeep to Felix’ family, who had been surviving on less than US $ 100 per month.
The reality was in sharp contrast with what Felix had imagined. “I found myself in a home that was full of other children, not my uncle’s home. Life became hard beyond my expectations. We were not well taken care of. We slept in a dirty environment, in an unkept place. The food issued was not enough, sometimes we would only eat once in a day and we stayed hungry at times. The school was a makeshift kind of school, not a formal school.”
Felix and the other children in the home were being used for fundraising. The uncle and the home’s director were getting children from rural Kenya in the name of helping them. But in fact the children were being exploited for their own gain, to enrich themselves. The children were mistreated instead of helped.
After three months in the children’s home, Felix was rescued by the Department of Children Services (DCS). The DCS acted upon a tip-off by the local chief and community child protection committee, who had been trained in the Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ project to recognise child trafficking. The children’s home was immediately closed for non-compliance with the legal requirements and standards for running child care institutions. The owners were arrested and are awaiting their trial, though Felix’ uncle managed to escape.
Felix was temporarily sheltered in a government institution in Nairobi. Focus was on helping him recover from his ordeal, through medical care and counselling. Meanwhile his family was traced. Fortunately for Felix it took less than two weeks before he was able to return home. With Terre des Hommes Netherlands’ support, he has been able to go back to his old school. The boy’s family is being helped with livelihood support, to improve the household’s income and thus prevent re-trafficking. Felix is still being monitored within Kenya’s justice system through regular follow-up by the Children Officer in his home area.