It is the January 7, 2022 and Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) Party leader Raila Odinga is celebrating his 77th birthday.
Though in absentia, the celebrations in Kisumu are held at Mama Ngina Children’s Home, in Kibuye.
According to Governor Anyang’ Nyong’o, this is a celebration for liberation, and that such celebrations are always meant to celebrate the next generation; children.
Just before the event began, children stood in groups, rehearsing a song.
Standing at about three foot tall with a fragile looking body and a somehow shy personality is ‘Little James’.
He is the youngest of them all, hence this name.
I’m curious to uncover how such a young, harmless and innocent child ended up in a children’s home.
A close look in the faces of the children reveals some form of reprieve. The children have a place to call home after they were rescued.
This is the only government-run children home, providing shelter to children from age zero to 18.
Even though the management would not want to expose the circumstances under which each of the child found themselves here, it is evident that there is some form of comfort in the eyes of the kids.
Where it all began
When it was first established in 1965, the children’s home which currently shelters 40 children was known under the name of ‘The Kak Hostel for Vulnerable Children’.
It was later renamed after the founding first lady, Mama Ngina Kenyatta following her visit to the facility a few years later.
The children’s safe haven is run by the City Department of Social Program and is supported by the county government and well wishers.
As I engage the children donned in their red and yellow t-shirts with ‘Happy Birthday Baba’ printed on them, I can’t help but imagine the sad stories that could be hiding behind those graceful smiles.
Some of the children who are fortunate to have found refuge in this shelter were abandoned by their parents and kin, as I came to find out.
Some were abandoned immediately after birth, while some found their way into the streets after losing their parents. Some have just been going through hell in the hands of their caregivers. But here, they have found love.
“We have many children in this facility and some of them are here because they were abandoned,” Kisumu City Manager Abala Wanga said.
Shortage of food and clothing has been the facility’s main challenge.
Many of the workers who assist with the daily running of the institution are volunteers and ensure the children follow a healthy routine, and also get education.
The children are taught on how to be responsible, as I spotted ‘Little James’ help with clearing the celebration venue at the end of the event.
He single-handedly lifts a wide yellow empty crate above his head with his needle-like hands as he makes tiny strides towards the truck. He is a strong boy.
May be one day he will share his story.