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.
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.