When the children’s voices blend together, singing of God’s love, it’s easy to forget that just a year or so ago, some were living on the streets, sniffing glue to keep warm.
As they draw close, their wiry arms clasping tight in an embrace, it’s hard to believe just a short time ago, some were on the losing end of parents’ struggles with drug or alcohol addictions. Read Shiko’s story.
Those realities, however, are never far from the minds of the founders of Uzima Children’s Home. It’s why they are determined to give these children a place to call home – for as long as they need it.
“We want to give these children the best life,” said Fred Ojiambo, director of Uzima Outreach. “We want them to have what other children have.”
Rescuing the children
That mission hasn’t been easy.
Uzima Outreach (“uzima” is the Swahili word for “life”) began as a drug rehabilitation program two years ago. Those involved, including Ojiambo and Washington Mwanza, manager of the home, sought out addicts on the streets of Kawangware slum, walking alongside them and sharing the gospel.
“In the process, we encountered another problem that we never anticipated,” Mwanza said. “The children, the young ones.”
They found children living on the streets, orphaned at very early ages or abandoned. They found children sniffing glue, which can often lead to addictions to hard drugs later in life. They found children whose parents themselves were addicts and unable to take care of them.
In October 2011, they took in five children; now, there are 30, from ages 4 to 19. The goals are simple: teach the children about God’s love and help them get the best education they can. (“Education is key,” Ojiambo said. “Knowledge is power.”)
Then the floods came
Even as the home has grown, it has become harder to find a permanent residence.
One afternoon, laughter echoes throughout a compact house and yard. Located on a rutted dirt road in Matasia, a small town outside of Nairobi, this is now the “permanent” temporary location of the home.
It’s a long way from the teeming streets of Kawangware. It’s also the last in a long line of temporary stops, one that might not have come to be if it weren’t for floods.
You see, the home has had to move nine times in the past 16 months. Twice, it was because of flooding in Kawangware – the second time being the worst.
It’s a cycle Mwanza, manager of the home, experienced firsthand, as one of the guardians. No stranger to a difficult childhood himself, it is the first time he experienced so much transiency in such a short time – something most of the children already know too well.
He is determined to see the cycle broken and some constancy instilled in the lives of the Uzima children.
“Someone never did something to help when I was growing up,” he said. “I cannot sit around and watch another child suffering.”
So, when the November floodwaters rushed in, Mwanza and the other caretakers piled new mattresses three high to allow the children to sleep through the night out of the water’s reach. The next day, they rescued what possessions they could before slogging out through knee-high water.
They needed a solution.
That solution had been on Ojiambo’s heart for some time: his house in Matasia. With his wife’s blessing, they moved the children there at the beginning of December.
“I have never thought of giving up,” Ojiambo said. “The many times we have moved have only taught us how to trust him more.”
Ojiambo and Mwanza hope it’s not the end of the story, however. The home will stay in Matasia as long as necessary. The goal is to build a home on a piece of land where the children will have plenty of room to grow and thrive.
When and where that will come to be is still unknown. Even in the midst of the unknowns though is the knowledge that God has provided.
“God has been faithful,” said Steve Turner, one of Uzima’s founders. “Even through floods.”
For more information on Uzima Outreach, click here.
written by Rebecca Miller | SIM Media | copyright 2013
Please pray for the leaders of Uzima Children’s Home as they seek direction on how to provide stable housing for these children – as well as how to meet their spiritual and emotional needs.