Hope against Hope, a life story!
It was another normal family before, trying to make ends meet until the unexpected happened when crime knocked on the door. This family of four children lives in a rural area where they earn life through subsistence farming. It takes the efforts of the father and the mother to provide for the family and send the children to school; and if the climate has been favorable and the garden yielded some crops, they would sell a bit to cover the basic needs and earn a bit extra. Most men in rural settings may take on another job, digging other people’s gardens to increase a living income while the mother, after a long day of work on the farm returns back home to take care of the children and other household chores.
Sy,13,is the oldest in his family. He wakes up early in the morning before his sisters to ensure everything is in order before they head to school while his father leaves in the dawn to walk to his farm. Sy and his father are close, when he is not in school or reading his books, he goes to the field with his father. He knows everything about lands and the weather. It does not take him long to cite the names of plants that can harm a cow or a goat, and he knows the right quantity each livestock should consume daily! He has been taking care of the goats and a cow at home.
It is surprising to see how much Sy works alongside his father. Recently he started raising rabbits. He asked his father a small capital and started with 2 rabbits. He has been clothing his siblings with the money he gets from the rabbits’ business.
Three years ago, Sy and his siblings lived their worst nightmare when their mother was incarcerated, that day was the end of a long term family violence they endured the entire time when no one else knew, because they almost looked like other kids, went to school like other kids, fetched water like normal kids. Sometimes they faked a smile to feel better and accepted.
Ayir, Sys ‘father, is a calm hard working man who does not think twice about his family. His life is fragile; he cannot expose himself to the sun for a long time because of his head injury. His life took a wrong turn 3 years ago when he and his wife got into a fight. The worst happened when his wife attempted to kill him, hitting his head with a club. Good enough he survived. Since then his life was never the same again. His entire family sank into the worst form of psychological distress and deep poverty as Sy and his siblings unknowingly began to pay the emotional price of being the victims of the crime they did not commit.
Sy with program staff during home visit.
This is where we found them, broken, poor, disgraced, and living the life they did not choose. The children of prisoners’ program was launched in 2015 with the mandate to improve safety, health, education, and spiritual resilience of vulnerable children of prisoners. Sy, his father, and siblings were welcome in the CPP family. Through this program their life started to pick up, little by little, one step at a time just like a flower grows as a little plant, making its way up with time until it beautifully opens up. However, the broken pieces needed to be glued together, by ensuring that Ay and, his family received psychological counseling to help them be emotionally strong to move on. Ayir was introduced to the caregivers’ group in the area. These are support groups comprised of children of prisoners’ caregivers who in most cases are their mothers or close family members. Ayir was the only man in the group. At his pace, with the support of program staff and volunteers, he became comfortable with the rest of the members.
On the other side Sy and his siblings connected with other children on the program through different activities designed to help them build psychological resilience. The program caters for education, school materials, and regular home and school visits by caseworkers and volunteers to ensure they are doing fine.
The program has a livelihood improvement component which ensures that families of children of prisoners are supported through suitable income-generating activities given the area’s contexts. In this particular area, the caregivers’ group, where Ayir belongs, they decided they wanted to continue farming activities. At the program level, it was important for us to explore many ways of how this can be sustainable so that caregivers can continue supporting their families for a long time even if the children graduate from the program. Additionally, it would be a good avenue to endorse pro-activity instead of depending on supplementary food packs provided by the program quarterly. Ayir benefited from farming technical support program services, he meticulously followed all the instructions, and as a result, his agricultural productivity tripled. Recently, the local seed provider ranked him as one of the model farmers in the area who set a good example. The life of Ayir and Sy have changed in a dramatic way, it is a story of hope and resilience.
The other day during a home visit, we passed by Sy’s home, he was standing on the hill towards his house, with his hands in the pocket of his jeans, he looked at me as I was climbing and said ‘A lot is going on with lands here, I can take you down the valley if you are interested!
The names have been altered for privacy purpose