GSN launched its first impact report “Growing Connection, Resiliency and Agency: The impact of community-led trauma-informed peacebuilding in response to violent extremism in Kenya” at the second annual Paris Peace Forum (12 November 2019).

Strong Families, Strong Community

Do you know that we could heal our society if we parented better? That has been my message and that of other mothers in our group. We’ve been traversing our community preaching the need for parents to provide warm and loving homes for their children, be present and active in their children’s lives and provide a listening ear and shoulder to lean on all in an effort to dissuade them from joining criminal gangs or getting radicalized. From where we stand, stable families are the antidote to many, if not all, of the social ills that affect our community. 

My son had a bright future, he’d secured a job with a Chinese company and all seemed to be going well for him until he met a certain Imam. At first, his change was positive – he shaved his dreadlocks and dressed neatly, he attended prayers and befriended other devout youth, he listened to preaching and got close to the Imam, he generally seemed to be on the right path, or so I thought.

Suddenly his behaviour changed, he became secretive and started lashing out at the slightest provocation. I would later find out that he’d resigned from his job, something he kept from me. When I confronted him about it, he got angry with me for meddling in his life.

Young men were disappearing from the community. Word was that they were being facilitated by the Imam of our local mosque to travel to Somali to join the al-shabaab. Thus, when my son disappeared for over a week, I knew exactly who to blame.

I confronted the Imam over my son’s disappearance and vowed to visit all the government offices until he produced my son – that is how I got my son back; the Imam took my threats seriously. Unfortunately, my son became ostracized for being a ‘mama’s boy’ but I was least concerned, I was simply relieved to have my son back in one piece.

It’s probably out of a search for belonging that he joined a criminal gang – mungiki. However, after many of his friends in the gang were gunned down by the police, he quit the gang. He appeared to be lost in his own world for some time, withdrawing from the society and chewing khat. Then one day, he decided to start over – he moved away from our home in Majengo and started his life afresh; it felt like a new dawn.

My son’s life journey deeply affected me. While he was involved with the gangs, I was under a lot of stress and anxiety. I was deeply fearful that I would lose my son the same way so many parents in our community had lost their sons. Even after he came back, I lived with the constant fear that he would be targeted for being a deserter.

I found my healing through Kumekucha. Learning about trauma was eye opening for me. Identifying the source of my personal trauma as well as that of the community was the first step in my journey towards healing. Now I work with other parents to help them deal with their own trauma and build strong families for a strong community. I’m eternally grateful to Kumekucha.

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