Recorded December 2015
My name is Tobias Otieno. I am thirteen years old. I was born in Kisumu. My father is a casual laborer. His name is Dan Taabu. My mother, Peris Aketch, sells chips and samosas by the roadside. I have two sisters and two brothers.
My life as a child was good. I went to Ziraguni Primary School up to class six. In 2013, one of my classmates named Rogers fell ill at school and I offered to take him back home. But when I came back to class, my teacher called me up front of class and told me that I had broken a rule. He beat me in front of my classmates and sent me home. I was so embarrassed because my good intentions were mistaken for disobedience.
The class teacher told me to bring my mother to the head teacher’s office. I was afraid of the head teacher because he was very fierce. I decided to hide. For two days I pretended to walk to school only to come back and hide near our home. But the second day, my classmates told my mother I was not in school. The next day, my mother took me to the deputy head teacher. He beat me in front of my mother. Afterward, they said I would go to the headmaster. I knew that meant another beating. So I ran all the way home, changed into home clothes, and I walked to Kisumu town where I could hide.
The people in Kisumu town were very kind; some bought me some food and drink. I spent nights in alleys and no one mistreated me. But I was getting lonely. One day as I was walking around, my brother found me and convinced me to come home. But that evening, they beat me so that I would never leave again.
The next day they were going to take me to school. I put on my uniform, but then I told them I had to go out to the toilet. I ran away again, back to Kisumu but to a different part. There I found some boys who liked me. They took me to an orphanage called Ovic. After a month, some of the boys in the orphanage started talking about running away to Nairobi. I liked that idea. I figured that would take me far away from my family.
We planned how to hide by hanging on the underside of a passenger bus. It was challenge because we could not risk sleeping. We had to hold onto the bars tightly until the trip ended. Lucky for us, the bus had several stops, so we could turn loose of the bars for a short time and rest. When we got to Nakuru, we saw police checking the bus. I was scared that they would arrest us. I ran and hid in a ditch. I heard the policemen talking to my friends, but I stayed hidden with my cousin and a friend.
Unfortunately, it started raining. The rain was heavy and I was very cold. I started shivering. The bus had left, so we started walking toward Nairobi. On the way a kind person gave us some tea and mandazi (like donuts). This made me feel warm. My friend was very good at begging. He would pretend to be mute; it was easy for him to convince people to give him money. We walked for a long time down the highway. We stopped at every town to beg and to rest. For a week, we walked around hills. I did not see any progress and at the back of my mind I thought we were stuck in the same place. I started doubting my friend. Then I saw a big town ahead.
We headed to a shopping Centre. One of the women there came to us and talked to us in Luo, my tribal language. She gave us some food and asked us where we were going. My friend told her that we were going to our uncle in Nairobi because our parents had a fight and left us. She was very worried about us being alone. She volunteered to go with us and paid for our fare. I was so excited when we got to Nairobi, but the lady did not let us explore the city. She asked Marcos where were going. Marcos told her that we were going to Mathare. She got another bus for us. When we got there, Marcos led us through the congested pathways of Mathare. He was walking very fast. Marcos told me that he was lying to the lady and that he did not know anyone in Mathare. Before long, Marcos disappeared. Now it was just the lady and me. She was upset and angry because we had lied. She left me. Now I was alone.
Back Porch Benefit Concert in Malibu, CA | Thoughts from visual artist, J.J. Barrows
Last weekend, some creative and passionate Pepperdine students decided to throw a benefit concert to celebrate some great musicians in the LA music scene and raise awareness and funds for MITS! Following are some thoughts, shared by J.J. Barrows, a visual artist who live painted a canvas as the evening unfolded and musicians shared their sets...
Hi there! I'm a JJ who loves to paint, and while there is much to be said about that, let's get to the point of this evening and what I'm doing here (by the way, I'm stoked to be here!) I was invited to come paint live for this event and curious as to what it was all about and who it was benefiting. I did what any good old fashioned person would do... I googled it.
I believe in painting with purpose because I believe I was created to paint, and not just paint but paint with the power f story in mind. And after my google search, so began the story of Made in the Streets intertwining with the stories I paint and thus bringing me here tonight.
I watched a short film about five students of MITS in Nairobi, Kenya. MITS is a school dedicated to not just getting kids off the streets, but offering them a fulfilling life in place of the emptiness and short-lived highs that the world has to offer. MITS is dedicated to nurturing the individual to be their true self, to not be defined by their circumstances, surroundings, or what they've been told about who they should be. Being our true self is something all of us need, no matter what part of the world we live in, whether we know it or not.
I love the power of story and how it can so beautifully be visualized in a movie or short film. Different people will always pick up or be drawn to different messages throughout a story. These are the three things that stuck out to me as I watched this short film by David Hutchinson:
And so the title of the short film came about... How Far I Want to Go.
Tonight as I paint I will be carrying these three things in my thoughts and prayers as I translate the music into colors. These three things will be the driving force behind the painting.
Why do these three things stick out to me?
We are all wired and created so uniquely for a reason, and the more freedom we have to be ourselves, the more we can set others free to be themselves, the more we can set others free to be themselves, encouraging them to not check out of this life but to embrace it in it's fullness. I think what the world struggles with is people who don't know they matter and are valuable.
Each life matters. Each life.
But most people either forget or they don't know and so they either check out or they fend for themselves and before we know it, we've turned against each other.
But the truth is, we are loved. All of us.
We all matter and so we don't have to fight each other to see who matters more or who matters at all. We all matter, each person matters, each story matters. I believe this is true because I believe there is a God who is made of love and so He created us out of love and His intention for us is love and He wants us to give and receive love. Some information got clouded along the way, as with any story told over a long period of time, but the basics are still there, that there is a God, who I often times don't understand. but who I know loves us and sees us, even when (if not especially when) we are in those dark and hurting places.
I believe that this God wants us to go far, and I believe that those who choose to go far in life will. Moses, you will go far. Amina, you will go far. The other three people featured in the film: Francis, Dennis, Eddie, you will go far. David, who made the film, you will go far. And all of the other students, teachers, interns and volunteers at Made in the Streets, you will go far. Those of you performing tonight, cooking tonight, speaking tonight, cleaning tonight, serving tonight, you will go far. Those of you listening and watching tonight, you will go far. So long as you make up your mind that far is where you want to go, you will go far. Moses, this American has heard you and knows this to be true about you: you will go far.
And so, it is with the names of the students from Made in the Streets, along with words that I believe were spoken over them or to them as I prepared for this evening, I began the canvas. I wrote the names and words on a blank canvas and this is what I will be painting over tonight, leaving the deeper message hidden behind the colors of life's mess made beautiful. It is a composition of color and truth, hope and redemption, life and value, all held together with pieces of scripture, a little glue and a lot of love.
This message is just as true for all of us here tonight as it is for these students when they voiced their desire for it... you will go far!
JJ Barrows is an artist, writer and storyteller based in San Diego, CA, with a die hard love for peanut butter, the ocean, and all things colorful. With a passion for telling stories and creating something out of nothing, JJ combines words and color to share stories in a visual way.
She believes in the power of the written and spoken word and can be found sharing her stories and thoughts at www.jenniejoybarrows.wordpress.com or in a little spot called YouTube where her stories come to life and offer words of hope and encouragement in a day and age that isn't always the kindest.
To see more of her work, visit JJ Barrow Art on Facebook/jjbarrows or Instagram/jjbarrowsart, or check out her upcoming art show at www.rawartists.org/jjbarrows.
While JJ prefers to sell her art, donations for gas money and peanut butter are gladly accepted.
New month, new students!
Our boys program at our Eastleigh Centre is our most popular program, with over fifty boys that come throughout the week! All the boys who attend are hopeful that they will one day move out to Kamulu to join us at our boarding program. This month, we had ten beds open up in our boys' dorm at Kamulu.
You may wonder how we can only choose ten out of the fifty that so diligently come. Truthfully, it's very difficult but with God's guidance we are able to see which ones truly want to abandon street life altogether.
Our ten new boys have been with us in Kamulu for three weeks, eyes clear and stomachs full. Their personalities showing through. Working with former street kids, sometimes you catch yourself in disbelief, "I can't believe THEY were a street kid." Seeds are being sown and it's evident! They already are speaking more English and when asked what they think about school, you'll often hear, " It's so fun!" or "I like learning!". Hearing those words reminds us why we do what we do.
When you do this for 27 years, you're bound to pick up a few stories and lessons along the way. Thoughts, impressions, news, and highlights from our staff, visitors, donors, students and alumni.