I feel so happy for the first time as a student is an account about one of our high school students. Learn more.

Every day 19-year-old *Lion Heart (not his real name) used to wonder, “Will I ever go back to high school? Will I ever have my school fees paid in full? Should I forget my dream of joining the Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts?” With nowhere else to turn to for help, Lion Heart saw his chances of going back to school shrink.

That now is a long gone history.

Driving up a rocky road beyond the Nairobi Chapel Ngong Hills Church gate, we headed to Lifesong Transitional House. I was accompanied by Valerie Nyamwaya, founder of Afrivazi Limited to drop Lion Heart back to our halfway house. 

After arriving at the halfway house, Lion Heart removed a sheet of paper from his school bag. A bright smile split his face as he straightened the piece of paper and begun reading from it.

I have the most fulfilling job. As Lifesong Kenya’s Executive Director, I have the opportunity to meet some of Kenya’s exceptional young men. 

While the stories vary from one young man to the other, one thing remains the same. Each exceptional young man desires to make something of themselves. This remains true of the young men I meet in juvenile prison, primary school or in the community.

I feel so happy for the first time as a student
Lion Heart's drawing has been mounted on the staff room wall

I feel so happy for the first time as a student

As I sat across Lion Heart, his joy was so infectious I felt a glowing warmth in my heart. Just two months before, Lion Heart sat on the same spot, his shoulders drooping and his head hanging in defeat. This was to be expected. He had an overwhelming school fee arrears that had kept him out of school for over four months.

On top of that, he also did not have a place to sleep and food to eat. Once in awhile, he would find refuge at his friend’s house. But it wasn’t a guarantee. 

One night, Lion Heart came to our house. From the dusty crocs on his feet and dirty pair of tracksuit, it was evident that he had not taken a bath and eaten a meal for a long time.

“Why are you not at home and preparing for tomorrow’s school?” I asked him.

“I dropped out of school and haven’t been going for the past four months,” he replied. “Also, our house has been locked up due to rent arrears.”

“What is the one thing that I can do that will truly transform your life?” I asked.

“Help me go back to school,” he said.

Because my wife wasn’t at home at that time, I told him to wait for my response after consulting her. “But, we’ll do all we can to make sure you go back to school!” I vowed.

When my wife came back home, I shared with her what Lion Heart needed help with.

Light at the end of a dark tunnel

The next day, I accompanied Lion Heart to school where I learned about the school fees arrears. A few emails, phone calls and with help from neighbours, we were able to get enough money to settle the pending school fees arrears. 

We also managed to buy new school uniform and pay for boarding. And for the first time in his life as a student, Lion Heart had no school fees arrears!

I will never forget what happened next. As we arrived at the school, his classmates swarmed around us, smiling and congratulating him for coming to school. One of them screamed, “Lion Heart, I am glad you are back to school!”

As I left the school, my head felt light and my heart filled with joy and gratitude. Four months later, I arrived in school to pick up Lion Heart. “Mr James, I have been recognized as the Best Improved Student!”

“How would you like us to celebrate this great achievement?” I asked.

“I’ll tell you when we reach the halfway house,” he replied.

On our way to the halfway house, we stopped at Makina Market to pick up Valerie Nyamwaya.

Lion Heart shares his joy and gratitude

Lion Heart’s voice cracked with emotion, joy and gratitude as he began reading.

“Before I read my recognition award, I would like to say something,” he started off. “I feel so happy for the first time as a student. Four months ago, I had lost all hope of ever going back to school. Since I didn’t manage to sit for Form Three Final Exams, I was forced to repeat Form Three.

“Then I dropped out of school due to lack of fees and I was afraid I was going to lose my chance of progressing to Form Four. I felt depressed as I watched other students continue with their education,” he continued. “Then Lifesong came to my rescue and like I said, I feel so happy for the first time as a student! Now, allow me to read what is on my award.

‘I hereby write this note to confirm and recognize that Lion Heart has made a positive step. Teachers have noted this effort on improvement in various subjects and besides academic, the student has a talent of arts in drawing amazing pictures, some of these drawing are mounted on the staff room wall. Academically, the student has improved from a D-Minus to a D-Plus.’

Lion Heart shared how becoming a boarder had helped improve his confidence.

“I am happy now,” he continued. “I have a place to sleep, food to eat and an opportunity to stay in school. I also have the opportunity to help other boys that Lifesong Kenya supports! Thank you so much for supporting me!”

“And now, you can focus on your dream of joining Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts,” I said.

He chuckled, before replying, “Yes, I can!”

That really made me feel fulfilled.

Sky is becoming the limit for Lion Heart

My job is to do all I can to ensure that male youth like Lion Heart get access to restorative justice, education and transitional housing. By seeing exceptional young men like Lion Heart thrive, I feel a sense of fulfilment. 

Before Lion Heart recent his second chance, he would spend the day facing doom and gloom. His only option was to watch, helplessly, as his age-mates and peers continued going to school. 

I saw the painful shame in his eyes as he recalled how it felt staying away from school. I saw why he was grateful to have a second chance, have a place to call home and food to eat.

With the help he was getting to stay in school, Lion Heart now had an opportunity to make something of his life. Time to learn and do homework. Earning a high school certificate. Time to practice his drawing.  For the time in his life, Lion Heart has his basic needs well take care of, thanks to your generous support.

You can help provide access to quality education, transitional housing and second chances to male youth like Lion Heart. Visit lifesongkenya.org now to donate. Your giving will help fund second chances for male youth in need in Kenya.

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