We’re here to nurture exceptional young men by providing the tools that male teens exiting juvenile prison need to develop, grow and thrive beyond the circumstances they found themselves in while serving time.– James Ouma, Lifesong Kenya volunteer
Having just secured casual work for our two beneficiaries close to the prestigious Nairobi Business Park, James Ouma – a regular Lifesong Kenya volunteer – has a unique view of what it takes to nurture exceptional young men. After all, his first view of exceptional young men came from his personal experiences that inform his interaction with young men.
More than seven years ago, James left the workforce to start working with male teens in juvenile prison. This made it difficult for him to have enough income to cover day-to-day living expenses. As a result, James stayed with one friend after another as he continued to develop a program for young men.
That’s when James made the decision to form Lifesong Kenya, an organization whose mission is to empower young men through capacity building and positive masculinity.
“When I first begun working with at-risk youth, I was scared and embarrassed,” he admits. “Since I grew up without a father it was difficult for me to stand in the gap as a father-figure for boys who are growing up without a father!”
However, with the passage of time, James has found his bearing. “Together with Standing With Boys, one of our partners, we’re here to nurture exceptional young men,” James explains. “By providing transitional housing and casual work we are helping exceptional young men who need a helping hand to become a better version of themselves,” he adds.
We’re Here to Nurture Exceptional Young Men
Lifesong Kenya’s volunteers – who James has known from his work with exceptional young men – are in agreement that job placements is key to successful reintegration of young men exiting prison.
A few weeks ago, a friend from Olympic Kibera donated two mabati (iron sheets) houses in her compound. The two beneficiaries staying at the temporary transitional housing have been connected with jobs. This will enable the beneficiaries to take care of their daily meals, electricity bills and other necessities.
By doing this, Lifesong Kenya hopes to teach the boys about budgeting, saving and taking responsibility. The money saved will be used by beneficiaries to cater for their transport back to school, pocket money and school shopping. This will also ease the burden on Lifesong Kenya and its staff who have been using personal resources to help out.
“Lifesong Kenya has been supporting me since 2017,” Waylong Bulimu explains. “When I joined high school this year, they began supporting with bus fare, pocket money and shopping. This sand paper job will help me to provide for myself and start saving money for my future.”
Getting Casual Work and Job Placements
On his first day at work, Waylong arrived at the carpentry shop at 7 in the morning. He was full of confidence, pride and joy. He kept smiling from ear to ear.
“I am so happy I will be working for my money,” he kept saying. “Getting financial help from someone is good. However, earning your own money is better because it gives you freedom to earn and grow!”
That turning point in the lives of our beneficiaries marks the start of a new beginning. Of course, it is provides joy, satisfaction and fulfillment to James as a volunteer. Today, James cycles and visits the carpentry shop along Ngong Road, often stopping to witness Lifesong Kenya’s transformative growth.
“We’re here to nurture exceptional young men,” he says with a smile. “It brings me pride, fulfillment and joy that we are providing a second chance and lifeline to young men in need.”
His personal experience with needing – and receiving – help from supportive friends is one of the many reasons James is glad to be lending a helping hand to young men, week in, week out.
“At one point in life, everyone is going to need help – doesn’t matter who you are or what your needs are. You just never know when you’ll be in a situation where you need a helping hand,” he says knowingly. “Right now, we’re here to take care of young men.”
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