RCNC Community Service – A Visit to Kamae Borstal Institution
My visit to Kamae Girls Borstal Institution was one which I could not foresee or foretell what to expect. Prisons traditionally have high walls and tight security which will naturally keep one curious on what transpires inside. Kamae Girls is a unique borstal institution given that it is the first and only girls’ borstal institution in Kenya as we later came to learn. We had planned to visit the Kamae Girls Borstal on the 26th of August for a community service event as part of our A Girl A K A Year project, the club’s Signature project.
My morning started with the usual chill but the thought of meeting up with friends quickly got me out of bed and ready for the day ahead. We met up at our usual joint, Cafe Deli on Moi Avenue, and later boarded a matatu heading the 44 Route, along the busy Thika Super Highway. Upon alighting from the matatu our conversations continued with lots of catching up and hearty laughs but slowly fell mum as soon as we approached the main prison gate. The armed guards were quite curious of the group of people who now wanted to gain access to the prison grounds. The huge gate painted in dark colors that represent the Kenya Prisons institution cast a cold shadow as we waited to be signaled to go in.
As we walked past the gates, we noticed that the Kamiti compound is quiet and peaceful, save for a little buzz of activity from the local community going about their business. The girls’ borstal is past the Medium and Maximum prisons with prison wardens just outside the gates. Upon arrival outside the institution’s gate we congregated with other members from the Rotaract Club of Westlands and Rotaract Club of Mashariki who had already arrived before us and took selfies before keeping our phones away (phones aren’t permitted in correctional facilities) and requesting for access past the Kamae Girls gate.
The wardens in charge ushered us to a huge hall after recording our identification details. The hall borders the kitchen and doubles as a dining hall and social hall. We found the girls seated and listening to music, all dressed in blue uniform. Most of them were shy and avoided making eye contact – that could be attributed to the fact that they don’t get many visitors. We sat in their midst and after formal introductions we broke into smaller groups. We got a chance to interact with the girls and got them to share with us more about their education backgrounds, aspirations and interests. Though most girls said they would love to become doctors in future a few wished to join the army while others wished to venture into business.
Rosemary was the star MC for the day and kept us all engaged in the day’s program. The girls slowly grew accustomed to our presence and moments later, they started throwing numerous questions our way; human nature has it that once te ice is broken, you interact as if you’ve known each other for decades! To prove this, they hit the floor….
Their moves showcased good choreography, skill, and fitness. The Officer in Charge, Superintendent Fairbain Ombeva arrived soon and after handing over the Hpads (sanitary towels, undergarments and sanitation and hygiene pamphlet), she took us round the institution that then housed 26 inmates and a new born baby.
The compound, in addition to the hall and kitchen, had a dispensary, garden and dormitories. Beyond the gate were two blocks of classrooms and a separate classroom that was then being used as a library. One of the classrooms had sewing machines where students pursuing the ‘industrial’ education system practiced their art. Madam Fairbain proposed to us a possibility of the club equipping their empty dispensary, furnishing the library, equipping the salon, donating more books to the library, starting green house projects and donating furniture for their classrooms. She commended the club for the books donated from Oxford through the Rotary Club of Karen.
We later joined the girls and shared a light snack and juice before saying our goodbyes; leaving while hoping to make another visit to the institution soon and make the prison a better rehabilitation institution.
~I don’t know what changes your perspectives but for me, it has been the little moments of selflessness, the hours spent in service on Saturday and seeing the faces of kids light up regardless of how small our acts are.