Powerful Words from Kenyans who Grew Up in Institutions

A recent paper created by young adults in Kenyan who grew up in orphanages gives moving windows into the heartache that often defines life after care…and also points to ways to better help those transitioning out of institutions.

The report was issued by the Kenya Society of Careleavers as part of a conference for former residents of institutional care.  Stephen Ucembe, who grew up in an orphanage and spoke at the CAFO2013 Summit, shared the report with me.  It offers advice on improving care for children and supports in the aging out process, and also provides many personal memories and reflections.

Some of the individuals quoted grew up in nurturing environments with devoted caregivers in residential care.  For others, even imperfect residential care represented a far preferable situation than life on the streets.

But for many, both memories of childhood and the experience since leaving care are heavy with sorrow.  Consider the weight of these reflections on what it meant—and still means – to these young adults to have grown up without a family:

Kenyan Quote

“I did not know how to make friends with people outside the care institution. I was only used to friends in the care institution.”

“I was not born by an institution; I was born in a family.” 

“I do not belong to an institution because my third name is a family name and not that of the institution that I grew up in”.

“A family gives you the roots.”

“One can always go back to his family after exit but not in an institution where after exit you are not allowed back.” The report explained, “He mentioned this because after exit he was not allowed back in the institution albeit for a simple visit.”

“My aunt had 4 children and she felt I added to the number of children she was taking care of when I joined them, to them I was a burden, most of the time I would hear my uncle say, now this one has come to add more problems to the family”

“Institutions can be closed but a family can never be closed.”

Read the Kenya Careleavers Conference Report, “Kenya Careleavers conference December 7 2013 REPORT.”