Who We Are

Our Founder's Story

Here’s Our Founder’s Story as told by James Ouma.

I was working as an untrained children’s TV Producer when a colleague of mine told me about male juvenile offenders at Nairobi Remand Prison, Industrial Area in July 2012. After my colleague shared contacts of the officer in charge, I visited the prison facility to meet the boys.

Immediately I entered Block B, where the boys were, I saw a reflection of myself in the boys. I recognized the boys were looking for the same thing that I had grown up looking for: a father-figure! 

At first, I did not want to get involved because I felt inadequate and did not have what it takes. What help can a man who grew up without a father provide to boys who need a father-figure, I wondered. 

The Backstory

After my dad died when I was 13 years old, I needed an adult male role model to guide me in life. However, I was not able to find a man who was available to fill this role.

Luckily, I found a stack of books that my dad left behind, the only things he left me as an inheritance. I started reading the books and started dreaming of a better life, far away, from all the chaos that was happening in my life as a boy.

Another thing that helped me was walking on foot with my mom to build houses for widows and their children. Despite not having a better house, helping widows and orphans to have good houses enabled me not to focus on the challenges that our own family had.

Just before I finished high school education, I met a retired teacher. Noticing the need that I had for a father-figure, he begun speaking powerfully into my life. 

He began giving me opportunities to earn from weeding his coffee farm and washing his bicycle. One of my most memorable moments was when I would cycle to Akala Market on his green Raja Bicycle!

He also allowed me to fill crossword puzzles on the newspapers that he used to buy on a daily basis. I eventually started dreaming of writing books that can inspire young people, especially boys, to focus on developing their treasure instead of focusing on the things that they lack

Dropping Out of College and Bouncing Back

In 2003, I joined college in Machakos and dropped out after two attempts! After dropping out of college, I decided to come to Nairobi to focus on developing my skills as a writer. But first, I needed a place to stay and a reason to remain in Nairobi.

I joined the youth group at Our Lady of Visitation Makadara Church where I met friends who offered me a place to stay. That is how I ended up staying in eight different places in Nairobi. 

In January 2005, I was staying with a friend in Mbotela Estate while working as a volunteer at Kumekucha Self-Help Group. Part of my duties included helping school children finish their homework, write and read. One day, the police arrested my friend and took him to Makongeni Police Station.

When I went to visit and inquire about my friend’s welfare at the police station, one of the police officers told me they were going to arrest me as well. While I felt aggrieved, getting arrested turned into a huge blessing.

One of the eldest guys at the police station mentioned that I looked like I had grown up with a father and that I had my future figured out. He wanted me to start leading them every evening in prayers and sharing about goal setting and help with other life issues.

During the eight days that I was at the police station, I used my time to reflect on the thing that I had instead of focusing on what wasn’t working in my life. Little did I know that one day, I would be visiting prisons and helping boys and young men to get out of prison!

Friday Meetings

Overwhelmed by love and compassion for each of the boys, I soon started meeting them every Friday, which was my off day from my work as a TV Producer.

I started learning the circumstances and their journeys to prison. I soon discovered that 60% of them had not been visited by their families or accompanied to court. 

Most families did not know where the boys were or that they had been arrested. Those who got released from prison soon came back as hardened criminals as a result of the vicious cycle they had found themselves in.

Determined to do something about it, I started using my salary to continue going to prison. With time, I also started visiting families and those who had been hurt by the boys. When I didn’t have enough money, I asked for help from friends or walked to prison on foot. 

In January 2013, I quit my job to continue working with boys in prison. I stayed with one friend after the other while going to the furthest corners of Nairobi, working alone, hungry, thirsty and desperate. 

Most of the visits I made to homes started bearing fruits. People started withdrawing cases against the boys resulting in early exits from prison. Despite this success, I felt inadequate due to my lived experience of having grown up without a father or a father-figure.

However, I felt qualified by God and identified with the desperate needs of the boys. I also did not have a strategy or plan and didn’t know how to draft one.

But, I just kept working.

In November 2014, I accompanied a group of friends to a mission in Baragoi in Samburu County. What I had were buttons, sewing thread and needles.

As I a sewed torn clothes and replaced missing buttons, I thought about my future and wondered whether I had lost my mind. A year later, I got married to the love of my life who believes in my dreams and vision for boys, in and outside, prison.

Our Founder's Story
Sewing buttons for children enabled me to create a deeper connection

Finding My Own Lifesong

In 2016, I took a year-long break from going to prison to reflect on my life. In reality, I had decided to give up and I was using my break to clear my mind. The more I thought about reasons to quit, the more I did not find a valid reason. 

Instead, I began having more ideas on how to work with the boys and their families. I started running and cycling and used that to raise funds for Lifesong Kenya.

The following year, I felt compelled to resume working with boys in prison. I went to Kamiti Youth Correctional Training Centre and shared my desire to work at the facility. I also started sharing my desire to learn life coaching skills so I could coach the boys as well as earn from it.

Someone online shared my contacts with Carol McLean, who introduced me to the CTI Coaching Model. After getting a full scholarship, my life completely changed. I was able to discover my Leader Within and realized that my decision to quit my job in 2013 to work with boys in prison wasn’t a mistake but my life purpose.

As I look back, I realize that my life and destiny is tied up with that of the boys. They have become a part of my life purpose and success. Each of these boys is a wonderful young man, person and human being who deserves a shoulder to lean on, a second chance and a new beginning.

When conflict and crime happens, relationships are destroyed while bonds that were once there, get broken. The boys that we meet in prison need healing and restoration back to their families and the community where they belong.

We cannot do this work alone. We need your help and support. I welcome you to this healing and restoration process. Together, we will empower more boys and transform their present and future generations. 

It is a duty that you and I can no longer push forward or postpone. The time to act is NOW! Get in touch and let’s chart the way forward.

Our Founder's Story
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