We parked across the street, and then walked down a hill, and through a small slum area. Was this really where girls were getting proper care?
It was the last day of working with Wangu Kanja and she was showing me one of the care centers she partners with to help provide victims of sexual violence care and support.
We arrived and it looked like nothing more than a couple of wood and tin slum houses strung together – and well – it was.
There were about 15 girls walking all about doing their hair, laundry, and whatever else they had going on. I was surprised by how humble this “facility” was. How could this place be doing any good? Are these girls really in a better situation?
After a few minutes of exploring, I pulled the camera out and took a few photos of the girls. The girls all lit up and begin doing the most ridiculous poses.
If you’ve been to Africa, you know that pulling a camera out in the slums can be a very dangerous thing to do. Not because it will get stolen, but because you’ll be mobbed by the amount of children coming from miles away screaming “Mzungu!” because they heard the click of your camera.
However, there was something subtly different about the girls at Mary Faith’s Children’s Center. Yes they were ecstatic to have their picture taken, but there was a confidence they had which it seems most don’t. They seemed proud of who they were, proud to be silly and pose in front of a mzungu with a camera.
For the next hour they sang “In the jungle, the mighty jungle”, introduced themselves individually, and danced around their small facility.
Judging a book by it’s cover, I’d say the center was failing.
The houses weren’t up to any standards you would find in America. There probably wasn’t a good ‘staff to child’ ratio. This probably wasn’t the best location and it definitely didn’t have the best bathrooms. But these girls, who were at risk or were victims of sexual violence, were indeed different and changed. And it is beautiful.
The truth is, hope isn’t something defined by external factors. It’s a choice everyone has to make. Hope is on the inside.