How trauma counselling is helping street kids to recover their sense of belonging

Beyond the Orphanage

Dr. Bobbie Legg, our amazing trauma therapist and trainer, recently visited Kenya.

Bobbie was there to work with some of the young people who come into the centre we support, run by our in-country partner Alfajiri. She also conducted various training sessions in trauma treatment for local staff members.

“I’ve been working with individual youth on difficult issues related to trauma and attachment. Many of the young people we see at the centre are suffering terribly,” says Bobbie. “I also lead trauma training to our in-country staff members, both through formal training and through modelling. Sessions are designed to help staff understand various aspects of trauma counselling.”

Art as Expression

On this visit Bobbie worked directly with a young man, who we’ll call Leon, the artist of this amazing picture.* Staff were able to observe the model Bobbie employed as she encouraged Leon to talk about what is going on in his drawing.

“Often young people express themselves through art, drawing about their experiences. I talked with Leon about the picture he drew. This picture was quite unique, his characters filling the page with animated faces.”

Working with a local counsellor who interpreted for Leon, Bobbie asked him: “What was the story in your head when you drew this?”

Bobbie says after a few moments of silence Leon spoke in his native tongue. The gracious counsellor translated in a soft voice.

“Leon told of the police helicopter circling above. He told the story of thieves, and described the sniffing of jet fuel (which is rife in the slums of Nairobi) as the devil’s breath. He said he wished that the police knew that the thieves were good people—and that it was the intoxication that drove them to steal.”

“I asked what else he wanted me to know about his art and the story behind it. He described an argument breaking out, the shattering of a glass bottle and then, with deadly force, the thrusting of glass into a man’s torso.”

“A silence connecting to his sorrow hung in air…then he told us his friend had died.” Staff quickly rallied, wrapping him in a blanket and comforting him.

“You are not alone”

Bobbie says that at that moment she wanted nothing more than for him to know that he was not alone. To know there were people right there with him that cared for his wellbeing.

“Through his art, through his narrative, he gave witness to someone’s life and death. It is an experience that is hard to convey in words; what it is like to watch a human take their last breath after the violent actions of another,” says Bobbie. “My deepest hope for all children is to never be abandoned and left alone.”

As Bobbie prepared to return to the US where she is based, she said “I’m comforted by the fact that Leon will continue to attend the centre and receive trauma counselling and guidance from the wonderful staff at Alfajiri.”

This important work is possible thanks to your generosity. Together we can help to make the world a brighter place for children and young people who are living in dire circumstances. Let’s give them hope for a better tomorrow.

Bobbie and Lenore Boyd who runs Alfajiri with some of the young people at the Centre.

*To protect Leon’s privacy, the smudges on the drawing are to conceal his real name and are not part of the original artwork

July 22, 2019

Next Steps

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