It just seems like yesterday I came home broken, pieces of my life floating in the air in all directions. It has been a year and some days since I got in touch with my friend with whom we shared fate. Who knew friendships on Facebook can become a lifesaver?
I landed in Kenya, my home lost and numb, I was hanging by a thread. I believe in being alive but admit I was walking dead but knew I had to get out of the predicament. I got in touch with my friend whom I had met on Facebook. I had hinted to her my story when I was abroad and when I asked for help, she did not hesitate. She told me about Azadi Kenya, “it’s a new organization but it will be of great help to you” she continued to explain a little bit more about the organization of how she was rescued by some of the individuals who were now in Azadi Kenya, her words were deep with the trust she had for the growth of the organization and she later sent me the link to join the membership and I joined.
A few days later, a lady got in touch with me, I came to know her name was Claire, and she was kind to me through a Zoom meeting. Claire assured me of confidentiality and I gained the trust to tell her my story. That was the beginning of my journey. I thought by the next day she would have a solution for me, I waited eagerly for her feedback, I am not sure what I expected but it was a quick solution in my view. I had been in an organization that gives direct services abroad and now these new organizations worked on long-term empowerment. I couldn’t understand what long-term empowerment was. “How could long-term work for me and do I need basic needs and college fees? Couldn’t they just give me money for school fees and basic needs and I would be okay?” I was depressed, worn out and darkness hung all over me.
I had a meeting with Claire for a business proposal. I am good with coming up with ideas, which was not hard but I came up with business proposals that had loopholes. At first, I came up with a lifetime plan, a cybercafé that would have needed one million Kenyan shillings for capital, I was not about to go small scale. “You can’t hit the ground running,” Claire said, “you can hold up on that business proposal for your plans but for now we come up with a business plan with a smaller budget to start with”. I came up with a Mpesa/equity agent business proposal, around one hundred thousand Kenyan shillings, it had many loopholes. I was not in the right mind to write a business proposal, let alone run a business. I was depressed, and I used alcohol as my escape, probably I would have drunk the business to the ground and asked for more money. I was asking for help, and help was offered but I was not ready to do the hard work; I had forgotten I held the keys to my own life. I was too lazy to even shower, how could I run a business?
One day Claire called me for an Azadi workshop in Karen, it was very far from where I was staying. I had to leave the house by 5.30 am to be there on time but I was ready to pick up the pieces. I had a reason to shower, dress up, and a place to go. I did not know what to expect, but I trusted the process. It was my first-time meeting survivors of human trafficking openly sharing their stories and I got a lot of support. I made new friends. One of the survivors told me, “Stop sleeping in the house, you should make a point to come to join us, join the training, get connections and your stress will start to fade away if you stay in the house, you will not get help”. Up to today, I carry those words in my heart.
I cried throughout the sharing of different experiences in human trafficking, some survivors were outspoken and others said few words. When it was my turn, tears were still flowing but I managed to mumble a few words about my experience. When I sat down, I realized that was the first time I had told people who understood my story, and a sense of belonging crept in. I have told my story to lawyers, case workers, and journalists but no one related. The five days experience gave me hope by just meeting other survivors with whom we could share stories, laugh, and learn something new. I became eager for the next meeting, I had hope.
I dedicated myself to myself, I found a reason to leave the house for therapy, joined one on one therapy sessions and later I joined group therapy sessions. I meet a community of human trafficking survivors, with different experiences dedicated to the growth of each individual to their best capabilities. I started to rediscover myself, learning and unlearning, listening to other people’s experiences and I stopped feeling misunderstood, alone and isolated.
Since I was taking care of my mental health, my self-esteem and confidence started rising again. I was able to do my research work, advocacy, and activism in the anti-human trafficking movement with a clear head. I was able to apply for contract jobs that Azadi offered and training, and do interviews with confidence. As I am writing these blogs, I can withstand pressure when I have not met what is expected at the workplace and correct my mistakes. I have a lot to learn, I am not where I would love to be but I am getting there.
The road has not been easy and it’s not easy but I don’t accept defeat. My mom has told me many times, “accept your situation so you can know where to begin”. I finally accepted that I needed help and I began by accepting help. My biggest achievement is that I am 70 days sober and counting.
I still attend therapy sessions which is my biggest support. “Mental wellness is the key to moving forward as you can see the road ahead clearly.”
A wise woman once said “Just show up for yourself, because no one will, but you”.