United World Project


The power of kindness amongst the youth of the “Kamiti” juvenile prison

21 November 2023   |   Kenya, Networking - Solidarity, Y4UW

Stephen, representing the Gen and Youth for a United World of Kenya’s Focolares, narrates the amazing adventure of solidarity and kindness, born at the Kamiti Youth Correctional Center of Nairobi.

Nairobi, Kenya. It is a Saturday in the month of July when Stephen and his friends from the Focolare Movement decide to visit the youth accommodated at the Kamiti Youth Correctional Center, the biggest juvenile detention center in Kenya, that welcomes minors coming from all over the country. The visiting youth are around 40, and they also come from different parts of the country. What they find once they arrive there leaves them heartbroken, with a strong sense of urgency and injustice. In that moment, the structure accommodated 163 youth, ranging in age from 13 to 21 years, some awaiting trial and others serving sentences.

“They lived in conditions that were nothing short of harrowing and poor – narrated Stephen – imagine: seven people sharing one mattress, without the necessary blankets, to provide a minimum of comfort. When the mattress are over, for some there was no other choice but to sleep on the cold and ruthless floor.” Seeing their daily struggle for the fundamental human dignity with our own eyes grieves the entire group. The young visitors realize that the detained do not have a television either. What does not having access to information or to the least amount of entertainment mean.

“I have to say – Stephen adds – that visit opened our eyes to a world we had never seen before. It wasn’t just about simple youth, but about young souls who desired hope, dignity and a possibility of redemption. When we crossed those doors, we entered a world filled with difficulties, where young hearts fought for a chance to reconquer their place in society!”.

Driven by empathy and the desire to make a difference, the Focolare youth study a plan of action to alleviate the sufferings of their peers. “We believe that a little bit of kindness can do a lot. Thus, we reunited and wrote a heartfelt letter to all the inhabitants of Piero Mariapolis, the Focolare citadel about 30kms from Nairobi” Stephen explains. They ask for donations of mattresses, blankets, magazines, novels and clothes. But they do not stop there: “We shared our plan with everyone we knew, put up posters, sent messages and… you know what? The people are desirous of helping! It was like a wave of kindness that overwhelmed us, and it was an incredible sensation. Apart from the blankets, mattress, and clothes, we also received a television and a decoder!”.

Then the big day arrives: delivery day. “Some of us returned to the youth of Kamiti with a fibrillating heart. We wanted to bring comfort and happiness to these youth to remind them that they are not alone and that people worry about them,” Stephen emotionally remembers. And more: “When those youth saw us with all those gifts for them, their faces lit up like the sun. That moment was pure joy! We shared stories, we laughed, and for a while, we forgot all about the challenges we were facing. Do you know what I understood? It wasn’t only about the gifts but also about the bond we created. We showed them we care, that they are not forgotten. And you know what else? This journey brought us all closer. It showed us the power of uniting us for a cause and making a difference as a team”.

Now, looking back, Stephen remembers that kindness is not complicated. It’s about doing what you can: just by reaching out your hand and showing someone that he is important to us. Big actions are not needed. “And by doing so, together, – specifies Stephen – we can brighten someone’s day, just like what happened with the youth of the Kamiti Youth Correctional Center. Our journey with them touched our hearts, united our group, and reminded us that our world can be a better place when we choose to be gentle”.