Our Story

Here’s our story as narrated by our founder, James Ouma.

Our story starts in 2008 when I began working as a Children’s TV Producer at KBC TV. My work involved interacting with young people who lacked proper parenting. Because I grew up without a father, I identified with their challenges.

I started encouraging the children to appreciate who they were as opposed to focusing on the things they lacked. With time, we started exploring what it would feel and look like when a person discovers and uses the treasure they possess inside. 
 
In July 2012, I met 100 boys at the Nairobi Remand & Allocation Prison, Industrial Area. Overwhelmed by love and compassion for each of the boys, I soon started meeting them every Friday during my odd day from work. 
 
I discovered that 60% of them had not been visited by their families, needed someone to accompany them to court and someone to visit their families and the people they had wronged.
 
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 helping these boys, I started using my salary to continue going to prison and 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. 
our story
Working with boys in juvenile prison has completely altered the way I look at life /Photo: James Odhiambo (Half Way Cycle 2019)

The Making of Jim Buttons

Four months later, one of my supervisors summoned me for a meeting. She mentioned that she had heard about my work in prison. She asked me to choose between my work as a TV Producer and the boys in prison.

I thought about the salary I was earning from a job I had not trained for but was enjoying. I thought about the boys, their families, the people they had wronged and their future lives. 

With a heavy heart, I chose the boys and planned to use my writing as a fall back plan. In January 2013, I quit my job to start a nonprofit organization so I could continue my work with boys in prison.

I continued working alone, mostly staying with one friend after the other. I went to the furthest corners of Nairobi, working alone, hungry, thirsty and desperate.

Because I knew that most of the boys I was meeting in prison needed a father-figure, which I had lacked while growing up, I felt inadequate. In addition, I also did not have any academic qualifications.

But 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. 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.

The Birth of a Magical King

In 2016, I took a long break from going to prison so I could reflect on my life. 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 realize 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. 

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 story
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