Zuena’s mother died when she was very small. Passed between her extended family and separated from her siblings she longed to feel the belonging and security that being in a loving family brings. Neglected and feeling forgotten, at just 13 she felt her life would be better on the streets than her unpredictable home life, so she ran away.
Childhood is not easy for many children our partner Glad’s House Kenya encounter. And it most certainly has not been easy for 19-year-old Zuena.
When she first came to Glad’s House Kenya for help in 2015, she was a very different child from the brave and confident young adult she is now. Every day of the year, Glad’s House Kenya works tirelessly to find solutions for children dependent on the streets of Mombasa. One of the most important things children need is someone to listen and understand them and quite often Glad’s House Kenya is the only constant in that child’s life. By finding Zuena a foster family to stay with, Social Workers at Glad’s House Kenya were able to coordinate meetings with Zuena and her family, slowly building trust and a relationship. In 2019, Zuena had built a strong enough relationship with her half-sister to go and live with her.
At first, she was so excited to live with her sister. But things quickly changed when the first lockdown came, and she was forced to be the family’s servant. Zuena was made to look after the children, cooking, cleaning and forbidden to contact other family members. To make matters worse, her brother-in-law was selling drugs from the family home and Zuena felt in danger.
She felt so angry that her hopes for the safety of a family had ended so cruelly.
“I had to come to Glad’s House for help, it was becoming too much for me”
Thankfully, Glad’s House Kenya were there for Zuena again when she needed them most. They traced her paternal aunts and other sisters and started to build trust between her and her family in counselling sessions. It wasn’t easy for Zuena. Unsurprisingly she has trust issues and sometimes it was too difficult to face the emotions she held inside. She would run away from the sessions: “When I ran away, I thought Glad’s House would not take me back. I can’t believe you are still with me. Thank you so much”
Glad’s House Kenya’s approach is always child-centred and child-led. And by taking the lead from Zuena they could listen to what she really needed and work with her aunts to ensure she had a safe and loving environment to live in.
Without Glad’s House Kenya’s interventions Zuena was at risk of returning back to the streets where she could be at risk of sexual abuse and disease.
“Glad’s House Kenya understands me better than my family does”. Thanks to the dedication of Glad’s House Kenya, children can have a safe space to share their feelings and learn how to deal with their emotions. In turn, this helps bridge gaps and heal divides in families. Free of judgement and full of understanding, Glad’s House Kenya’s policy is to never give up on a child, even if the journey, like Zuena’s, takes years.
Find out more about our work in Kenya here.