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Sophie´s restored childhood and renewed hope

May 22nd, 2023

Sophie and her siblings lived happily until their parents separated and their father’s health deteriorated. She dropped out of school to work and supplement the family’s income, care for her siblings as well as her sick father. She ended up being sexually exploited for months. She was rescued and received psychosocial support, counselling, essential amenities and school levies, and was able to reignite her educational aspirations and recover from the psychological distress she experienced.

Sophie going to school

Life at home

Sophie, 15 years old, lives with her father and two brothers aged 13 and 10 years old. Their father is the sole breadwinner and worked as a casual labourer within Nairobi at construction sites where he would earn upto 3 Euros per day, depending on the availability of work. The children went to a public school within Korogocho which is 1Km away from home but would miss classes on most days due to arrears in school levies. 

The entire family lives in a single-roomed house made of iron sheet in a highly dense and stuffed neighbourhood of Ngomongo. There is no definitive kitchen or a bedroom, and all their belongings are placed in this single roomed house. There is a shared community toilet and bathroom costing 0.07 Euro per visit. The water supply is also scarce, thus the family fetch water from a nearby water kiosk at 0.034 Euro per 20 litres jerry can. Bordering their home is the Dandora dumpsite which creates a hazardous environment for the growth and development of children. The village lacks a playground and children can be seen playing by the roadside which puts them at risk of being knocked down by the boda-bodas or moving cars.

Trauma of being left by their mother

Sophie´s parents separated in 2021 after they both realised they were infected with HIV. Her mother left her and her whereabouts are unknown despite numerous efforts to locate her. Following this, her father’s health deteriorated and he was unable to fend for the family. Her extended family lived in distant rural areas and were not supportive of them. Sophie and her siblings had no choice but to work at the nearby dumpsite to supplement their family income. The boys collected scrap metals and other plastic items which they sold in markets available within Korogocho. Sophie on the other hand, did domestic work for neighbours earning about 0.34 Euros.

Exploited at a young age

Sophie had no one to support her and she ended up leaving school to fend for her family. Looking after her sick father was emotionally stressful for her.  Sadly, her older neighbours took advantage of her situation and sexually exploited her. They would give her money ranging from 0.68 to 1.35 Euros. The exploitation went on for 5 months in 2022, which deeply affected her emotionally. She even contemplated committing suicide. Her father was unaware of the exploitation and was unable to supervise and support her due to his health status.

“I felt bitter and angered with the condition of my father. I wish my mother would be here to play her role and I also pray for my father to recover so that I can stop sinning to feed my father and siblings,” she said. "I would wish to continue with schooling once my father has recovered,” she added.

Identified and rescued

Sophie was identified by a neighbour in July 2022, who had noticed her frequenting a mid-30 year old male house adjacent to their home. The neighbour took the initiative to inquire from the girl why she kept going to the man´s house mostly during the day when she was expected to be in school. Sophie became emotional and did not answer the neighbour. Upon noticing that the girl was distressed, the neighbour comforted her and referred her to the TdH community mentor who took up her case. 

Much needed assistance

A home visit was scheduled and conducted by the TdH case worker upon seeking consent from her father. She received medical assistance which included sexual reproductive health and counselling. TdH facilitated purchase of food and payment of school levies of 30.41 Euros in order to reintegrate Sophie back in school in August 2022. Her father was also offered medical support on HIV/AIDs treatment since he had defaulted on taking his ARVs. After the successful medical report, the perpetrator was arrested, however, he was later released on bond. The case was closed in February 2023 since the perpetrator passed on in a road accident. Sophie and her family were linked to a community support group that will provide food for them until her father fully recovers and is able to work. Home visits are done on a weekly basis for Sophie and her family to ensure that she attends school and is no longer at risk of exploitation. Her father’s health has also improved and he continues to recover day by day.

Hopeful future

Sophie is now happy, and is able to interact well and play with her siblings and friends both at school and at home. She has recovered from psychological distress, and harbours no more anger and bitterness. Her father has also recovered and resumed his roles of taking care and providing for the family. The relationship between Sophie, her father, her siblings and her friends has improved. Her father is now aware of his children’s rights, and is able to prevent them from physical, sexual and humiliating harm. He can go to work at the construction site and from the wages he earns, he is able to manage and provide for his family.

Sophie’s life has been restored and she is back and physically active, unlike earlier where she would remain behind closed doors crying. She has become enthusiastic about going to school and enjoys her classes. She loves to dance and model with her friends at school and at home. 

“This support has been very helpful to me and my family because I would have contracted diseases such as HIV/AIDs, STIs or even early pregnancy. I am happy I can at least go to school and learn well without anything distracting my mind, and I am also happy to be playing and relate well with my siblings and friends again,” she says happily.

Speaking about her future, Sophie dreams of becoming an international dancer, a model and a professional fashion designer.

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