I know all about stigma. It is what happens when you are judged over and over for circumstances you do not control. I know all about being ostracized, my family suffered stigmatization and ostracization all over my father’s wrongful arrest and it changed the course of our lives for good.
We will never know what made them suspect my father of being a member of Al-shabaab. All I know was that we belonged to a normal family and the next moment, we were the Al-shabaab family. My father’s arrest plunged us all into despair, hopelessness and desperation. My Mother found it impossible to function not knowing whether or not my father was still alive and if so, where he was held – life for her stood still the day of his arrest. I turned to crime to make ends meet.
It is hard growing up without a father and it is even harder growing up without onehim because he was arrested for being a member of a terrorist group. The friends all disappeared, the relatives turned their backs on us. Nobody wanted anything to do with us lest they too got suspected for having any dealings with terrorists. I don’t know what was worse, the betrayal by people I had thought we could trust or the mistaken identity.
My father was released after eight years, we had long given up hope of ever seeing him alive. But the man they released was not the same man they arrested – all those years in jail being tortured and interrogated had changed him.. He was haunted by the ghosts of fear he could not adequately describe, pain he had no words to express, bitterness that his heart could nothold and anger he had no energy to let out.
You can imagine the trauma that my family has suffered, the emotions that I have had to deal with – the pain, anger, fear, hatred and anxiety that have been my constant companions. You can imagine the desperation that led me to crime and the constant fear of arrests or rival gangs. Life has been tough.
My turning point was attending Kumekucha sessions. Finally, here were the answers I had been searching for my whole life. Learning how to deal with stress and trauma, wellbeing and resilience was a new dawn for me. I found a safe space where I could relive what I had gone through and find healing.
The best part of going through the training as a group, has been the community outreach that we have been carrying out after going through Kumekucha. We are now committed to impacting our community positively. We regularly organize community clean up exercises and we even have a football team; our plan is to open a car wash in the future.
Thanks to Kumekucha, our community has grown from a place where police raided frequently, a place that was overrun by rubbish, a place where youth engaged in crime to a clean place where youth gather to play football, where youth cart water to far flung areas and where youth collect garbage. Thanks to Kumekucha, our community has a new face and a new lease on life!
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