Kaunda*, a 10-year-old Kenyan boy, faced poverty and sexual exploitation while selling groundnuts. Luckily, he was identified by a mentor who received training from the Time to Play project. Through counselling and engaging in leisure activities, Kaunda found the support he needed to rebuild his self-esteem, overcome his traumatic experiences, and embark on a journey of personal well-being.
Kaunda lived with his mother, father and his brother in a slum in Kiambu County, Kenya. They struggled due to poverty since his father was an alcoholic and unable to adequately take care of his family. His mother, a housewife, tried to contribute by selling groundnuts occasionally to put food on the table, but it wasn't enough. Kaunda´s education was funded by well-wishers since his parents could not afford to pay for his school fees.
At the age of 9 years, Kaunda´s father abandoned them, and life became even harder for him. Kaunda had to assist his mother to sell groundnuts in the evening when he returned from school. Unfortunately, this added responsibility caused him to lose his focus in education as he was unable to finish homework and he often missed school.
Kaunda's mother was the only breadwinner after her husband abandoned her. Earning €1.27 a day was not enough for the family thus she had to involve Kaunda in her hawking business at the tender age of 9 years old. Together, they sold groundnuts, often targeting Miraa consumers who were either drunk or unable to make sound decisions. While this provided some income to the family, it also exposed young Kaunda to an exploitative situation.
One fateful Saturday, Kaunda was left alone to sell groundnuts. After he managed to sell everything, he met a classmate and they decided to play around the slum before proceeding to swim in a nearby swamp at 4 pm. While they were swimming, two young men who were under the influence of drugs, and armed with knives approached them and harassed them. They threatened to kill them and dump their bodies in the swamp. Kaunda and his friend attempted to yell for help but no one came to their rescue. The men forced them to have sexual intercourse in order to spare their lives.
Frightened and scared, Kaunda and his friend reluctantly obeyed the command from their attackers. The two men eventually left them stranded in the swamp. With no one to help them, Kaunda rushed home, took a bath, and went to bed. He was unable to share the harrowing experience with his mother for fear of being beaten. He had no other adult to turn to for comfort and support. Life was never the same again. The incident took a toll on Kaunda´s emotional health, he was unable to concentrate in class and his academic performance drastically dropped.”I was stressed, felt ashamed, and unloved,” he explained.
In February 2023, Kaunda was identified by a mentor who is a member of Jamii Initiative, a Community-Based Organization which deals with Gender Based Violence (GBV) in the slum. The mentor was among the individuals who were trained to advocate for children to play and was aware of the sessions and activities undertaken by the Time to Play project in the schools. She approached one of the AFCiC staff implementing the Time to Play Project and narrated Kaunda´s situation. The two teams decided to partner and approach Kaunda´s case with the sensitivity it required, with the best interest of Kaunda, a primary consideration. By engaging the local community leader in the area Kaunda lived, the AFCiC team visited Kaunda´s parents and explained the incident and how it affected Kaunda. They recognized the severity of the sexual exploitation incident and the devastating impact it had on their innocent child. The AfCiC team requested the parents to further take Kaunda and his friend to the Health Centre for a checkup which they obliged but it was too late.
Additionally, the team conducted weekly activities at Kaunda´s school where they involved their resident counsellor to offer psychosocial support to Kaunda and his friend. Kaunda´s parents were made aware of the effect of exposing Kaunda to the hawking business, especially on his safety, school performance, and personal growth. They were also sensitised on the importance of giving him time for play and time to engage in leisure activities with his peers for his overall well-being and personal development.
Kaunda's life has undergone a remarkable transformation since the Time to Play project intervened. Through the weekly Time to Play activities and the counselling sessions, Kaunda´s social life has improved significantly. He is more open, participates in group activities and can speak confidently. His parents show genuine concern for their son's well-being and are now offering more emotional support, and providing a safe space for him to express his feelings and concerns. They stopped sending him to the streets to sell groundnuts after understanding the potential risks involved in the hawking business.
His daily routine currently includes going to school for studies in the morning and in the afternoon. He is an active member of the leisure reading club and sports. At home, he helps his parents in fetching water, washes his uniforms and helps in the cleaning of the house and the compound, then he works on any assignment given at school. Over the weekend, he plays football with other children after helping with household chores. His confidence has improved on the pitch and he hopes to one day join Murang’a Seals, the newly promoted team to Kenya Premier League.
During the weekly monitoring sessions, the project team has maintained close contact and monitoring of his progress in school and out of school during the weekend.
Kaunda is now a happy child who feels loved and supported by his parents. He is grateful to the Time to Play project team for giving him a chance to mend his relationship with his mother and also perfect his skills in football. Kaunda is now confident his future is bright. “I would like to be a professional footballer, although I will focus on my studies to become a football journalist, earn my money and improve the life of my family”, he concluded.