Theory of Change: A Memoir of Prison.

Inmates are people like us who have emotions, families, and needs. However, they have been neglected in many ways by society because of their anti-social behavior. Prisons are very important institutions for a country in that they not only harbor offenders but also help them reform. Nafisika is an organization that looks into the needs of prisoners to help them easily reform and re-integrate back to society.

I was looking for organizations to do my internship when a friend mentioned Nafisika Trust to me. After hearing about them I decided to visit their website to fully understand the work they do and how they do it. It was fascinating to me that there was an NGO that was dedicated to change the lives of inmates, something I had never heard about since most organizations focus on the society and not necessarily people behind bars. I then decided to give it a shot by applying to be an intern there. My goal was to learn more about what they do, get professional skills from their work which is in line with my field of study and be unlearned on the perception I had of prisons since I had never been inside a prison gate before.

Thika Women’s Prison

At first, when I was told I will be training in prisons I had mixed reactions about it; I was scared, nervous, curious and all those things people feel when they hear the word “prison”. To my surprise, everything I imagined was not the encounter I got when I first went for training. The workmates I had were very friendly and easy to communicate to and this even made it easier for me to unlearn my perceptions quicker than I thought it would take. My first prison visit was at Thika women’s prison, my colleague and I were not able to start our training that particular day but we were warmly welcomed by the officers and deputy officer in charge who allowed us to start the registration for the cohort we were going to be training that particular season. She also gave us a venue to carry out the pieces of training and thereafter my colleague took me round to show me the place I had to take note when in prison. I was surprised to see a baby daycare with toys, nursery beds, and an officer and inmate playing games with little kids. I was then told that these were kids of mothers who had been in prisoned and the kids were too young to be left with family members. I learned that there were Civil Societies that donate and help to make sure these kids have a conducible environment to play, learn and grow. This changed my perception even more.

Training in prison is double-edged as I left Prison uplifted and motivated. I felt that I had sown a seed in the lives of inmates and officers I trained.

We also partook in physical exercises to relieve stress, sensitize them on body hygiene, the importance of taking care of themselves, loving themselves. I remember we did simple body massages to teach them to treat their bodies. 

Nafisika runs a baking project in prison that combines the nitty-gritty of baking and business. The first lessons were exciting as my colleague taught the theoretical part of baking. I also got the chance to acquire a few skills in baking.

Imarika Entrepreneurship program that is meant to teach the women in prison ways of making an honest living intrigued me. The topics were interesting and we Kenyanized them to fit the needs of the women.

 I remember with fondness the Dream Board session. This is a board stuck with illustrations and pictures of what the women wanted to accomplish in life. I learned the importance of having goals and having a dream board to always remind you of the place you want to be. I even went ahead and made my board after the session.

On impact, we compared stories the women shared before the program and after. There was a huge discrepancy that alerted us of the change that was happening quietly within the hearts of the ladies. For example, when I facilitated a session on resilience, one of the ladies opened up and told us her story, of how she had been bitter after being taken in prison and losing her three-year-old daughter who was staying with her aunt while she served her sentence. She thought all hope was lost but after attending our sessions continuously she has been enlightened that despite the challenges we may face there is always hope at the end of the tunnel. It was so pleasing to hear how her life had slowly transformed and the positivity as she sees life differently.

Other ladies also shared their stories on forgiveness and how hard it has been for them to forgive certain people in their lives but slowly they have learned to let go of the grudge and walk through the path of healing. All this brought fulfillment to me because I had always thought inmates were dangerous people, without empathy or feelings for others, but then I have come to realize they are people who have made mistakes in life and have the potential to change and live better lives if given the chance to.

Kamae Borstal

This is a borstal institution for juvenile girl offenders located within Kamiti Command, Kahawa West. I still remember the first time when I entered the gates of Kamae and was amazed at how clean and inviting the environment was. I even asked my colleague whether that was a private institution or it was government-owned. There was no business between my high school compound in Malawi and the Kamae Borstal Institution. We did energizers with the girls and I instantly liked the energy I got from them, they were so interactive, young and bold. Unlike Thika women’s prison, the girls in this borstal were more energetic, friendly and very eager to chat. It was easy to blend in and adjust to their level of understanding so that they can understand our lessons better.

The girls were so free with me to the point that some of them told me their stories, and I was awed at what these girls had gone through when they were young. 

There were periods I felt overwhelmed by what the girls had gone through and I taught myself to be empathetic rather than being sympathetic. 

I also noticed that most of these girls have underlying issues and there is sure a problem and a gap to be filled. I started training them in personal development and as we went on with the training the more they would open up to me this was a good thing because I felt the trust they had laid on me. By opening up and telling their life stories made my colleague and I realize now how to tackle the issues effectively. 

We also taught them how to bake. It was amazing to see the excitement these girls had when they were doing these practices it was evident they enjoyed baking.

I loved training at Kamae a lot because the girls were engaging and active. From Kamae I realized there is a gap the society needs to fill in the lives of these young people, and if we can all become responsible and selfless people, I believe we would have a fewer number of juvenile delinquents and prisoners in general. 

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What is the impact of volunteering?

People choose to volunteer for different reasons. Volunteering offers someone a chance to give back to the community. It is also a chance to impact lives of people. Many people can attest that volunteering gave them a chance to develop knowledge and skill to grow their personal or career lives.

Today we will look at the impact of volunteering from a different perspective; what the beneficiaries say after receiving support from volunteers. Nafisika gives volunteers a chance to mentor adults and juveniles in conflict with the law.

We interviewed participants from our Imarika Entrepreneurship Course, Maisha Skills and baking course and here are their stories.

Kamae Borstal Girls’ Institute.

Joyce (pseudonym), an 18 year old girl from Nyeri and a mother of a two year old girl is serving her sentence at a Borstal Institution. She was arrested and convicted of child neglect. Since incarceration, Joyce has been very troublesome and is not able to communicate coherently with the officers. She has been caught crying and the officers are not able to understand what the problem is. The personal development classes have helped her develop her confidence and now she is able to communicate with her friends and also the officers. The officers have seen a big difference in how she conducts herself. Joyce has started to be more out spoken and she is now open to guidance and counselling. She is very hard working when it comes to baking and Nafisika hopes that the program will impact her even more.

Agnes, 18 years old, lived with her mother in Kiambu before arrest. She was convicted of truancy and drug abuse. Joyce is a victim of bad peer influence and that is the reason her parents reported her to the police. Agnes, in spite of being in a bad company, is an intellectual girl who has a very bright future. She is proactive in class and is keen to help her friends. The personal development class and baking class has helped her as she is in the process of finding her purpose and value. She has a goal of becoming a well-known makeup artist and stylist.

Nairobi Medium Prison

I am Alex Mukindo aged 25 years old. I have been in prison for two years now. Life in prison has not been easy for me because other areas of my life have paused. I have visions, goals and dreams like every other citizen.

I have come to appreciate liberty because without it life becomes limited. Without liberty, living is degraded to coping. In prison, life can become unbearable. It is difficult to make true friendship to share issues. When such emotional needs are barely met and the inner being dies slowly. There is need to develop strong personalities to enable inmates serve their sentence while rehabilitating successfully.

I would like to appreciate Nafisika Trust for walking with me. Before engaging in Nafisika’s programs I had a really negative perspective of life. I joined the training in a period when I used to see myself as a looser. I can see a lot of change in my life. Nafisika has sharpened my life such that after prison I can continue to live my life in a positive way.

I am very appreciative of the lessons Nafisika Trust representatives have given us. I feel that there are people out there who care about the welfare of inmates. It is amazing that we have educative and fun lessons in prison. I have become smart and knowledgeable especially in matters of drugs and substance abuse and putting together a business plan.

Lastly, I can say that I am glad to have Nafisika during my journey in prison. It has been a good experience working and learning with them; they have made a real change in my life. May God grant us more time together, am yearning to learn more and more skills from them even when I am out of prison.

Thika Women’s Prison

“It was on 10th September 2018 when we quarreled with my husband about family issues and he annoyed me so much. Out of bitterness I became so angry and I injured him. He went to the hospital and after two weeks he was discharged. After one month, he took me to court and I was convicted for three years for grievous harm.”

Here in prison I have met Nafisika people who have taught me about business and how to accept myself. I have learnt a lot about becoming a woman of noble character. In addition, I have learnt baking.

I have also gained more business skills through the Imarika Entrepreneurship course.  I was a business lady and after my imprisonment, I will run my business without any problems. I have also learnt to choose friends who will never fail me in my life.

Importantly, I am learning to control my anger. I have known that when someone annoys me, I STOP, THINK AND CHOOSE and instead of REACTING, I RESPOND. I will also be going to meet and teach people. I will also be doing baking for my family and selling extras.

Beneficiaries’ feedback is the fuel that drives a volunteer. We are glad to have collected some for you.

How Baking is Causing Cross-pollination Impact in Prison.

I somewhat envisioned it, but I never really grasped it. The beauty of cross-pollination impact between prisons. In 2017, we set up a MAC Bakery (Make a Change) in Thika Women Prison together with our Swedish partner Invisible Friend. The vision of Mac Bakery was conceptualized a year earlier when we first visited the women’s prison and discovered an unfinished and dilapidated building used as a storehouse. We saw potential in the building despite the desperate state it stood in; incomplete, full of dust, dirt and unwanted items. In September 2017, we started renovative work on the building, and in six weeks, beauty and life shone from it. The building would serve multi-purposes that include a child daycare, a learning centre, and the Kitchen would then become the MAC Bakery. We commissioned the building in November after a 10-day baking course run by Auður Bolladóttirrom Invisible Friend. The day was beautiful and refreshing. The once nondescript building now represented hope. It symbolized restoration and transformation not only of itself but of the women living behind bars.

Baking Session with Women in Thika Prison.

Since then, we have trained over 70 women in baking and entrepreneurship skills. They have also undertaken personal development courses which have seen them develop strong identities, grow in strength, confidence and ability to make good choices in life.

In October 2018 we launched the second MAC Bakery at Kamae Girls Borstal. Our lead baker Auður Bolladóttir of Invisible Friend took on the inaugural class of 12 girls on a 10-day intense baking course which culminated with a pompous launch of the Bakery and a showcasing of what the girls had learned. Since then, we have trained another 15 girls in baking skills and personal development courses.

Cookies baked by Kamae BI MAC Bakery on sale during the 2019 YCTC Community Day

MAC Bakeries was established to equip incarcerated women with skills that promote their rehabilitation and reintegration. We also envisioned that the MAC Bakeries would set a standard on the types and quality of training programs set up in prisons that are relevant to society’s needs. The baking project has impacted the women in various ways; we have seen some go on to start catering businesses and utilizing their newly earned skills. Others venture into new business using skills learned in the entrepreneurship course. More than that, the project has helped break stereotypes and stigma in society. Ever so often, MAC Bakeries hold bake sales and events that engage community members who are usually amazed at the talent, skills and potential incarcerated persons have. Mindsets shift and embrace and empathy rise.

This past week, we observed something special happen, a cross-pollination impact in prisons. The MAC Bakeries in Thika Prison and Kamae Girls supported the birth of a new project in Kamiti YCTC (Youth Correctional and Training Centre). The women and girls in the MAC project baked cakes and cookies that would be sold, and the proceeds go towards the setting up of a beauty training centre and expand a barber training station in Kamiti YCTC. We believe this is a beautiful and powerful form of scaling impact and creating sustainability when beneficiaries of one program become transforming agents and extend impact to their counterparts in different prisons. Kamiti YCTC will now have a more equipped barber training station and a new beauty training centre that will train boys in barber and beauty skills when at the centre. This project serves to equip young boys with skill sets which they can utilize wherever they go as majority of the boys come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and several them are homeless.

Kamiti YCTC Boys during a Business Planning Training.

It has always been my hope that the MAC Bakery would have an indelible mark of impact in prisons, I envisioned a scaling of impact in the traditional sense, but I have been wonderfully surprised by the cross-pollination impact it is currently having and will have in the future.

Kamiti YCTC Boys entertain guests with a skit during the 2019 Community Day

* Thika Women Prison – An adult institution that holds an average of 100 convicted women

* Kamae Girls Borstal – A juvenile institution holding an average of 50 girls aged between 15 – 21 years old.

* Kamiti YCTC – A training centre for young boys aged 15 to 21 years sentenced to 4 months of training.

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