Kenyan man giving a second chance to reformed criminals

Not every beggar delights in begging just the same way not every criminal enjoys doing crime. Some just get caught in a bad situation and only do it for survival however, many we have condemned and stoned over the years but we can’t say that such methods actually solved the problem. Why not incorporate a new way of encouraging such persons to reform, for some of them just need to be heard and be given a different alternative way to survival,” says Rashid Fadhil Mohammed (Chinja), Founder of Kibra Youths United Against Crime.

Rashid, born and raised in Kibra, Rashid attributes the difficult economic situation at home and influence from friends to be the main reason he got into crime. For him family obligation prompted him to turn into unlawful means to help support his mother with the expenses at home. When the situation worsened he resulted to living in the streets to make ways for his mother to cater for the needs of his other siblings with at least one less mouth to feed.

“Being young in such an environment we thought to ourselves that crime was an option we could exploit to make things easier,” he laments.

My turning point

However, his turning point came after losing 30 friends to crime as he began envisioning a future where youths could freely live a healthy lifestyle as the crime rate in the community decreases.
“l lost 30 close friends in just three years. We who survived thought luck was on our side, though it was devastating to have those many friends loose their life without fulfilling their life’s purpose. My experience living on the streets as well made me understand the challenges those living there face. The two incidences are what prompted me to start the organization, for if I didn’t try to fix such problems in my community, who would.”

The organization has operated since 2017, having 17 volunteers and 4 full time staffs to help with its activities which include; sanitary pads distribution, guidance on identity cards application, community cleanup, community dialogues and sensitization on matters of peace and urging those involved in crimes to reform.

Hamdi Yusuf, the organization secretary attributes depression and community exclusion to the problems the youths face leading to them to engage in some form of crime.
“We encourage our volunteers to take something they are passionate about within the community. We do so in order to have the community accept them while giving them an opportunity to be of benefit to the society. We want a community where people won’t suffer in silence which may lead them to commit social evil simply because no one was there for them. Our platform is also for them to air out their grievances and involve the community to help them as well,” explains Yusuf.

The mentorship program
“Our mentorship program goes in along way to help out the community in rehabilitating those already in crime as well as the young ones who have started showing signs of the same in terms of being aggressive or withdrawn from their parents and it becomes difficult for the guardian to handle them. We follow up for the parents who come to us for assistance. We call the youngsters and have a one on one conversation with them where we tell them the downside of crime and their behavior as well. We are extending it to the school and street where we take the same message. For the street one, I got to understand their struggles which I would say makes it somehow easy for me to reach out to them and get them to listen as my team members follow behind,” added Rashid.

Mohammed Ali Abdul is part of the beneficiary having reformed from doing crime through the organization’s intervention. He says he started living on the street while still young barely out of primary school. After the death of his mother, his father remarried, he sired another child and the father disappeared one day to an unknown location. They later heard that he had died at their rural home. Young Mohammed was left under the care of his step mother who also deserted him some time on. The only option he was left with was to roam in the streets to try survive.

“I was evicted when very young, it was so long ago I can’t even remember what year or age I was. That is how I found myself on the street and made friends who taught me how to survive their way. We used to snatch and mag peoples belonging and we used drugs. It wasn’t easy for each day we risked coming back one person less unfortunately caught and left to the mercy of the mob. The experience was scary and I used to fear I’ll be next but we were all just victims of different circumstances that led us there.” Says Abdul.

It was only a matter of time before what happened to his friends would happen to him as he feared. At that time Abdul was well acquainted with Rashid but had not yet made up his mind to join him. He recalls that for a whole year, Rashid made a tendency of passing by to where he and his friends hanged around engaging them in a conversation on how well they could transform their lives and get off from the streets. This to Abdul meant freedom which he really wanted to explore but his friends would have seen him as a traitor and thus he continued with his ways until his last snatching went wrong.

“My last crime a friend and I snatched someone’s phone and ran away with it. Unfortunately we didn’t go far as he was caught and lynched on the spot. To save myself I had to make a run avoiding the crowd all the way from Jamhuri to Karanja. I was running to the chiefs office only to be caught too and beaten mercilessly. The mob was well set to lynch me as well and that’s where I started shouting that I worked with Chinja,” added Abdul.

Fortunately for him the name he uttered was well known in the community. Rashid(Chinja) was called and he requested he be taken to the police station instead. Ali had by then fainted but at least escaped death and his release into his care later .Through the organization he was able to get an Identification card and was linked to do other jobs so as to make a living.

These stories are not that different from a lot of the youths who are in crime and maybe are striving to get documentation. Having an identification card is very crucial in the country not only when getting employment but also on matters of national security. Without an identification card there are a lot that can go wrong for one not being able to get access to national services, like healthcare or even the undergo voting process.

That’s why the organization is working close with local administrators to issue identification card to them. They believe that they need to be identified, as it is the first step in reconciling them with the community and even their families for those who they could trace their roots. Most of them are really happy to get those documentation and they are more open to engage in productive activities instead of crime. So far in the 3years they have been in existence they have helped more than 300 persons living on the streets get issued with their identification cards not forgetting the young mothers and ladies in the area as well.

Other projects include community cleanup up where they collect plastic and sell them to be recycle company. The little money they have gotten has gone in along way to help some members open up small businesses. Lastly, they conduct community sensitization on peace. Despite there efforts they still face challenges; one problem is having no constant source of getting in resources. It is also difficult dealing with some of the people who at times they can be aggressive. “We want to reach out to as many people as we can but we are not able to. It is not always easy to get people to buy into the idea and that leaves us to take up all the responsibilities. Even with the sanitary towels we get donations from different individuals and organization which mostly have to reach a lot of the ladies,” added Yusuf.

Rashid still has a greater vision to expand the organization upto international level. His extended project in the near future would involve police offices who he says pass through a lot in the line of duty and need a platform where they can air out their issues and find a solution to them.

“I have always envisioned a day when I will be working closely with the government and authorities to secure employment to those who are already having their ID’s. Such opportunities would go in along way to help them learn more skills and earn a decent living beneficial not only to them but the country itself in reducing the crime rate. Although I haven’t gotten that opportunity yet am still hopeful that such a day will come. My aim is to make one street kid to go oversees,” concludes Rashid.

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