Why boys in juvenile prison are worth saving

Why boys in juvenile prison are worth saving
Patty Liston introducing the Standing With Boys program during a recent workshop in Nairobi /Photo: Cynthia Wendo

“Do you ever dream Forrest, about who you’re gonna be?” Jane asked.

“Who am gonna be?” Forrest asked, without answering Jane’s question.

“Yeah,” Jane replied.

“Aren’t I going to be me?”

“Well, you’ll always be you,” said Jane, “just another kind of you. You know? I want to be famous singer like Joan Baez ,” she continued. “I just want to be on an empty stage with my guitar, my voice. Just me.”

That is a scene from Forrest Gump, one of my all-time favourite movies. In fact, it is my go-to source of inspiration after I have prayed, consulted and want to reflect on the answers I have received. Thanks to the movie, I have decided that when I finally go to the US – for a triathlon, Chicago Marathon or to visit President Donald Trump and tell him about my wonderful boys – I am going to eat shrimp, at every meal.

This is what Private Benjamin Buford ‘Bubba’ Blue has to say about shrimps

“Anyway, like I was sayin’, shrimp is the fruit of the sea. You can barbecue it, boil it, broil it, bake it, saute it. Dey’s uh, shrimp-kabobs, shrimp creole, shrimp gumbo. Pan fried, deep fried, stir-fried. There’s pineapple shrimp, lemon shrimp, coconut shrimp, pepper shrimp, shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad, shrimp and potatoes, shrimp burger, shrimp sandwich. That- that’s about it.”

“Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedoms — to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.”

– Viktor Frankl (March 26, 1905–September 2, 1997)

Why boys in juvenile prison are worth saving

By the end of the war, Forrest Gump decides to pursue a business idea that arose from his ‘shrimp conversation’ with Bubba. Thinking about having a shrimp company gave Gump hope and the will to survive the war and the odds against him.

Just like Gump, every single boy in juvenile prison wants to live a meaningful life. Take Promise for instance. Promise is a 13-year-old boy who has been in prison for the past 10 months. He was in Form One by the time he arrived in prison. His family has never visited him. Last Friday, he drew us a map indicating where we can find his mom and siblings.

I remember the first time I met the whole group for the first time. I was with Tracy Hanson who had come to introduce The Matrix of a Learner. All the time we spoke, Promise looked at us with lots of interest. He was quick to answer every question, even when he didn’t have a clue.

With time, I discovered how brilliant he is. In fact, though he is the youngest and smallest, his wisdom defies his size and age.

The magnitude of what lies ahead reminds me not to rely on my ability and self-belief. This happens every single minute. It does not matter what I could be doing at that time. I could be sleeping at night, running, biking, driving or writing for a client. The feeling and conviction is usually the same. For this to work and transform the lives of the boys in a meaningful way, I need God and His divine provision.

1, 000, 000%.

A recap of last Friday’s session

 

And so it happens that last Friday I asked what else the boys would like to do with their time. They are already involved in cleaning, exercise, playing soccer, and beadwork. Most of the time they sit in the sun and think about their coming court cases.

Promise, like many of the other boys isn’t involved in anything apart from attending the Lifesong Kenya weekly mentoring sessions. He wakes up every day to sit in the sun, think about his court case and how he is going to defend himself. That is what he has been doing for the last 10 months.

Meanwhile, boys his age and especially his former classmates have advanced to a new class and will finish high school in two years’ time. All this may happen while Promise is locked up in prison.

“Teacher Jim Buttons,” Promise said, “Why don’t you teach us a skill?”

“Why would you want to learn a skill?” I asked.

“Because I am tired of receiving things from well-wishers,” he said. “I want to do something and be able to buy bread, milk and my own underwear.”

“Okay, how will that make you feel?” I asked.

“It will bring meaning to the time I’ve spent here,” Treasure, a quiet 17 year old boy said. Because he usually doesn’t speak that much, the whole group clapped for him.

“Well, I want us to do much more with this idea,” I said. “Let’s gather and pray about it. Think way before you exit the prison and think about what this could do to the time you’ll be spending here, from now going forward. Think about these things even as we pray,” I added as the circle completed on to my right and left.

Final thoughts

And so tomorrow, the Team Lifesong Kenya and Standing With Boys will take part in the Parklands Baptist Church 2017 triathlon. Our team is made up of Kelvin Hondo who will run, while Elisha and I will bike to raise seed capital. This money will enable us to buy beads and the other things we need for our bead making project. We also need volunteers to come teach the boys basic book keeping and business management skills. Feel free to donate and contribute any amount of your choice.

Every contribution matters and counts. Please get involved!

“James, this is why boys in juvenile prison are worth saving, I can see it in their hopeful eyes,”

– Patty Liston, when she recently visited and spent time with our boys.

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