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“I am happy to be back home, and thankful for the opportunity to be a child again” - Mayor’s Story

September 14th, 2023

Mayor, 15, experienced hardships after losing his father. He was taken to his uncle since his mother was unemployed and could not provide for him. He had to work when his cousins went to school and endured physical punishment whenever he did not meet set targets. Luckily, he was identified by a child protection volunteer and provided with counselling. With our intervention, family tracing was facilitated and he was reunited with his family. He is now back in school pursuing his education.

Mayor on his way to school

Life at Home

Mayor, the last born of 5 siblings, lives with his widowed mother, together with his older brother and one of his sisters at their family homestead in Emalaya village. His brother is in class 8, and his sister cleared her secondary school but has been unable to further her studies due to financial constraints. The family relies on the earnings from their mother’s makeshift saloon business located at Esirisia in Matayos Sub County. She earns approximately 30 Euros per month.

Their house is a semi-permanent mud walled house with 3 rooms and an outside kitchen built on a shade. They often use their neighbour’s toilet and bathroom for any of their sanitation needs since they cannot afford to build their own toilet. The family does not have an extra piece of land to do subsistence farming so they have to buy food for their daily consumption which is not sustainable owing to their financial state. To avoid staying hungry the children work in other people’s farms to supplement the family income.

Early life

Mayor’s father passed on in 2021, leaving his mother a widow and the sole provider of her family. She was forced to fight for her children’s inheritance which was an extra piece of land that was taken away from her by her in-laws. She resorted to doing menial labour and later worked as a salonist to raise her children. Mayor remembers attending primary school where he studied and played with his friends. He woke up early at 6 a.m, had porridge for breakfast then prepared for school. His mother struggled to pay his school fees, and would often have an arrangement with the school on a payment plan that enabled him to continue with his studies. 

After the Covid 19 period in 2020, Mayor’s mother could not take care of the needs of her family since her business had dwindled. Mayor was taken to stay with his uncle in September 2020 while his other siblings stayed with their mother.

Tough experiences

Life at his uncle’s home was unbearable. Major dropped out of school in May 2021. While his cousins attended school, he was forced to work so that he could eat. He made bricks, worked in people’s farms, and even worked at the market as a courier. He was physically punished by his uncle when he earned less than 4.1 euros. As he worked as a courier in the market, he made friends with teenage children living in the streets who convinced him to run away with them and escape his uncle´s mistreatment. He finally decided to run away to Busia town in July 2021 by hitching a ride behind a moving truck enroute to Busia with his friends. 

Life in the streets

In Busia, Major stayed in the streets for almost two years. In his first year, he endured the harsh conditions of sleeping in the cold and surviving on little amounts of food. He sought and worked for hotel owners in exchange for food. Soon after, he and his street friends moved across the Kenya-Uganda border and rented a single room house in Uganda where they paid 3.50 Euros per month for rent. During the day, they would perform different menial jobs including selling scrap metal, and stealing from people. Unfortunately, this was not sustainable, and he ended up back in the streets. 

Around January 2022, in his second year of living in the streets, Major chose to go back home because of the cold and hunger he experienced in the streets. He admits staying at home after his return was difficult due to his constant fear of being taken back to his uncle where he was mistreated. Additionally, he found it difficult to acclimate back home because of the life he was used to in the streets. Three months later, he ran back to the streets. “I felt bad seeing other children going to school and in the evening going back home and I wished it were me, but my mother could not afford it. I was scared she would send me back to my uncle’s place,” said an emotional Mayor.

Rescued and supported

Mayor was rescued from the streets during a joint mission between the Department of Children’s Services, the County Commissioner’s office and the police, after staying there for two years. He was identified by a mentor and a child protection volunteer from the Sub County Children’s Office in Matayos.  He was part of the 51 (11 Kenyans and 40 Ugandans) children living in the streets who were rescued in November and reintegrated back with their families.

Family tracing was done by the child protection volunteer following an interview with Mayor, where he was able to reveal the location of his home. Later, a home visit was conducted but his mother was not present at home. The case worker followed up with a phone call to invite his mother to a welfare discussion of her son. The welfare discussion with Mayor's mother helped her understand her responsibility and the consequences of not providing for his needs. Together with the help of the children’s officers she was able to be prepared for reintegration with her son in November, 2022. She signed a parental responsibility agreement committing to provide for her family. Mayor was successfully enrolled back in primary school in January 2023. The school worked tirelessly to ensure that the Mayor's return to school was seamless.

The social worker is closely monitoring Mayor and conducts regular home visits every two months during which observations are made on his progress at school and at home. Mayor also reports to the Department of Children Services office every month to give an update on how he is fairing.

Restored Childhood

Now, Mayor's life is filled with newfound happiness. His days start with basic chores, followed by attending school, half a kilometre away from home. He is happy that he gets time to learn and read books again after being out of school for 2 years. Previously, Mayor was always not assured of his next meal. He slept in front of shops and sometimes on top of trees. To survive living in the streets alone, he would do manual labour in order to get some money for food. He now has a bed and a place to sleep. He has time to play football with his friends and gets three meals everyday without having to do hard labour or beg strangers. Mayor can now enjoy the warmth of his home and family. He has realised his dream of a better life and staying with his family. He can now go to school knowing that he will get food back at home, have clothes to put on and does not need to hang on trucks again risking his life. Since November 2022, Mayor has been staying at home. Oftentimes when he sees his street friends hanging on trucks, he is tempted to join them, but he prefers the safety he has at home. 

Mayor is now happy to be back with his family, and living a happy life. He says, “I am happy I’m back home where there is warmth and I am not being rained on. I feel glad that now I can go back to school and stay with my mother who loves me. I like to play football with my friends. I am thankful to the child labour project for giving me an opportunity to be a child again, playing and going to school.”

Speaking with unwavering enthusiasm about his future, Mayor says, “In future, I want to be the best in school and become a teacher so that I can teach other children.”

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