Powerless or Powerful

I love Michael* but I wrestle with guilt every time I see him at his aunt’s kibanda (hut) where he faithfully stands every day selling fruit and mahindi choma (roasted corn).

His mom left him.
No one seems to know who his dad is.
His story is not unique.

The guilt I feel is driven by a concern about his schooling.  The government school he goes to is poor quality compared to the private Christian boarding school many of his cousins attend through BEAM.

A few months ago, I was driving home from work, excited for my roasted corn routine.  I was in a great mood and feeling more peace than usual.

I got out of my car and Michael’s smile was the first thing I saw.  It was so big.

Habari Colleen? (How are you?)

Poa sana (very good)!

As I began to walk closer to him, I noticed a huge “egg” on his head.

I knew right away what happened but I tried to talk myself out of it.  There is no way someone beat him.  Please God, please.  I just want to enjoy my roasted corn.

Michael, what happened to your head?

He looked down.  Shame overwhelmed his face.

Then his aunt, his caregiver, a woman I respect, who I have known for years and I consider a friend, began to speak. . .

Tell, Colleen, tell her.  Tell her why you have a bump on your head.

She said this with no shame.

I felt confused.  The shame seemed to be placed on the wrong person.

Head down, barely audible, Michael finally spoke.

I, I, I stole sugar from the house to eat.

I tried to lock eyes with him.  To tell him through my stare that there is no place for shame.  That the punishment did not fit the crime.  That no child deserves to be beat with a cane on the head.  That he is loved.  That he is forgiven.  That he is worthy.

I wanted to go into a speech about child abuse and how much physical and psychological damage it can cause.  But it didn’t feel like the right time or place.  It’s a strange feeling. . .when you see something you know in your gut is wrong but you feel powerless to do anything about it.

God has been exposing BEAM to various forms of child abuse over the last few years.  We are continuing to discern our role in decreasing abuse and neglect of vulnerable children.  Yesterday we had a training for teachers led by counselors about types of abuse and barriers to reporting.  We are so grateful for the willingness of our teachers to engage in discussion about this difficult and sensitive topic. . .

Thank you to those of you who continue to support BEAM and help make trainings like this possible.

With love and gratitude,

Colleen

*Name changed to protect privacy

*Please consider a monthly or one time donation to support the BEAM Kenya mission to advocate for the emotional, spiritual, and education needs of impoverished children in Kenya*

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