During our week in Nairobi we even had the phenomenal opportunity to experience a “live rescue” happen with one of the street boys who the charity had built a relationship with and who was ready to return home. We went to find him in the streets. Due to the fact that being a street child is illegal, we had a man who knew where the boys mainly hung out, lead us to where they were. It was a tense environment and exceedingly hard to see these children so run down and desperate for life. Mothers with babies on their front and young children sniffing a glue type drug, simply to survive the pain of living on the streets. It was awful to see. As we approached them, the leader called out the boys name and he stepped forward. It was a powerful and moving moment of seeing a ‘prodigal son’ moment in real life. All his friends seemed interested in what was happening and why there was such a commotion about us taking him home.
I noticed there was a young boy beside me, called John, about 10 years old. I started to ask him where his family was. He mentioned they lived in the city that had just been hit by a flood. I asked if they were ok and whether he was going home to them? He replied saying they were alive but that he considered the people around him on the street as his family. I seemed concerned and kept asking him questions, making him consider his family and their love for him and asking him why he wouldn’t want to go home to his family house. After our conversation and my questions for him, he seemed to start changing his mind and almost seeing again the beauty of his family and his desire to go home. He briefly mentioned he would like to go home. As soon as I heard this a spark of joy bounced into my heart. I connected him with John, the charity worker, and told him to remember this young John the next time he was there, as he too wanted to go home.
Once we were making tracks back to the van, I started telling the other charity worker about little John who I was just chatting to and that he too wanted to return home. Just as I was talking about him I suddenly noticed he was walking beside us. He had followed us back to the van without me realising, which was a little distance as we had parked some way away from where the children were. I was overjoyed that they got to meet one another and the hope in my heart that little John would return home brought a huge smile over my face.
We eventually got back to the van with the young boy we were returning home. No matter the distance, this charity will drive the street boy back to his family. However this time it wasn’t a super long distance to return him home. The family were not aware that we were about to arrive with their son whom had gone missing, so our plan was to capture their reaction on camera. At this point my nerves were rising. However, during the car ride I reached forward to show the young boy some cards I had made, each with a design full of hope, and asked which one he most liked. He amazingly picked the one named “Believe, there is beauty from the ashes“. Before we arrived to his house I wrote out the poem I had written for him, (before meeting him) on the back of the card.
On entry into his house, the mother of the boy began to cry in disbelief that her son had returned. She welcomed us all into her little home and began to tell us how they had been searching for their son every night for the last week and due to his absence it was causing friction in their family. The charity workers began to resolve the issues within the family and attitude of the son, to prevent him running to the streets again.
Part way through the conversation, the younger brother beckoned me to go play outside with him. While being on standby for photography duty in that moment I followed him outside. There we found two other young children ready and excited to play some games with me. They were so precious and one they noticed my camera and realised what it was for, they couldn’t stop posing for me!
Just before leaving, we left the family with a gift box of goods and food. The mother was unbelievably grateful and had not expected another surprise!