In May I had the most incredible opportunity to go to Kenya to film and photograph for a charity called, “Children of Hope” (Tumaini Kwa Watoto). It is a non-profit organisation rescuing homeless children from the streets of Nairobi, Kenya and placing them in a family environment, where they can be transformed. Street children is a major issue within Kenya as there are over 60,000 living on the streets and therefore the charity are passionate about returning these children to their families and counselling the families along the way in order to create families that can sustain children and bring them up with what they need to survive.
The week was one I will never forget. We had the huge honour of hearing and documenting life changing stories. We heard stories from the founders and saw real life rescues happen during the week.
On day one we travelled to a little hut with two of the charity workers to meet an extraordinary woman called, Wyndera. She was the mother of Kevin, a young boy whom the charity saved from the street a couple of months before. We got to sit with her and hear her heart wrenching story of losing her husband to suicide and then falling ill herself. As a result her son became hopeless for survival so had escaped to live on the streets. However, as a result of Tumaini Kwa Watoto finding Kevin, they managed to return him to his mother, restore her business and help fund him in getting back to school.
I was having to focus through the camera lens, despite tears flooding my eyes as she spoke and her story was translated for us. It was a humbling and moving moment I will not easily forget.
After giving her time to share her story we all drove together to meet Kevin and his sister at their school down the road. The excited welcome and flood of children’s faces peeping out of classroom windows was a heartwarming experience. Little Kevin was frighteningly nervous to speak in front of the cameras, so eventually only Abii and I were the ones left in the room to film him and ensure he felt safe and comfortable.
After we had finished filming and I had the opportunity to experience their bathroom, I was welcomed into Kevin’s sister, Nancy, classroom. She beckoned me to follow her into the room and introduce myself to her class. There was no teacher present at the time so I stood at the front and tried to engage them all in a conversation. At first I wasn’t sure if they spoke english as they all seemed to stare happily yet with such blank faces at everything I said. However I soon realised they were good at english and that in fact they were just all a bit speechless to see someone who looked like me. We had a big team photo, after playing some chaotic “Simon says”. While having our photo they surrounded me and couldn’t stop stroking my skin and hair and asking me “is this real?”.
It was a truly special moment of joy.