Hello My Friends.

I read a lot of blog posts about cats and it seems that over the years of my life I have not fully appreciated the complexities of nature of these noble beasts. It is no wonder that we have so many idioms relating to these creatures:

  •  It’s raining cats and dogs
  • A cat can look at a king
  •  The cat has got your tongue

If you mention cats to me my mind instantly conjures up an image of the Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland. Grinning like a Cheshire Cat.

012314_0605_Grinninglik1.jpg That famous grin represents, for me, a symbol of smug contentment, a fat cat sat on the proverbial mat, the cat that got the cream, or canary depending on your sense of humour. Picture my image of the Cheshire Cat, think smug contentment and there you have it, a perfect image of myself. Yes I know, the Cheshire Cat and all of Alice’s Wonderland held a hint of madness but the imagery still works for me!

I’m home and settled back into the routine of Life in Moshi. My writer’s nook grows cosier every day (not enough room to swing a cat) and my determination to harness the discipline that is needed to execute my dreams within that hallowed space and finish my novel is strong, I am back at Amani and the kids have not forgotten me. In fact the long seven week absence seems to have diminished dramatically and all is as it was. Well not quite, I now have the added bonus of clear vision!

The Christmas holidays represents an opportunity for the children at Amani to spend time with their families, often this means extended family as in aunts, uncles or cousins but in whatever format it is an opportunity to move forward toward the goal of reunification, where appropriate. Like all aspects of life this can go smoothly or it can be bumpy ride, sometimes things work out and sometimes not. However, whatever the Christmas holidays or life in general may bring for the children of Amani the most important principle, in my view, is that there is always a home with love and care ready and waiting for them within the Amani Centre.

It seems there has been some fallout over the Christmas period and some children have, for whatever reason, returned to the streets. This pains me but is part and parcel of the process it seems. Why would the kids leave three meals a day and the security of the Amani system?

I can only tell of what I experience, I cannot truly imagine what goes on in the mind of a child forced to fend for him or herself on the streets, none of us can. The holiday period away from Amani puts the kids back into an environment where the good and bad of their previous life may become accessible. Drugs or alcohol are obvious factors. If a child falls back under the influence of such substances they may forget the benefits of Amani or they may try to have both and bring their habit back to Amani with them.

I know of one such story relating to one of the boys from my classes. This makes me very sad. What I can offer as my opinion on the WHY question is that I do know that the kids hate to disappoint, they take pride in pleasing and so maybe, shame plays a part for some.

If you have ever given up smoking or lost weight successfully then you know how hard it is to say no to something when all your friends and peers are enjoying that said thing. Think about it for a moment. As adults it is tough, as youngsters?

However, the Social Workers, where possible will still be there for the runaways, keeping an eye on them and encouraging them to reconsider their decision. As I have stated many times, once an Amani kid always an Amani kid, whatever choices the individual child may make.

But it’s not all disappointment.

I finally arrived back at Amani last Thursday and walked in through at the gates just in time for morning break and chai. I headed to the dining hall with fearful anticipation in my heart, would they remember me? Would they resent my long absence?

The cry of Jell gave me a clue! They really struggle with the G – i – ll. Suddenly all the worries lifted as two of my young friends hit me hard vying for hugs and others loitered on the edge hands up for high fives. The sounds of Gill, Jell and Jelly (I answer to all three at Amani) together with the welcomes of Karibu lifted my spirits and banished my guilt. As I disentangled myself from the more exuberant of the kids I noticed one of the boys, we shall call him Amos, hovering in the background. As we made eye contact this “young adult”, as is the modern terminology for a teenager, caught my eye and grinned broadly holding out his hand for a formal handshake and saying simply “Dragons Madam”.

012314_0602_Grinninglik2.jpgDragons are one of the teams from my Library sessions, indeed it was Dragons who won my November competition, I shall tell that tale another time but here is a picture of said prizegiving. Anyway here stood one of my Dragons, lanky and self-conscious, full of teenage reservation over his pleasure to see me, keen to get back to class (maybe because of the prize his team achieved), and offering me a handshake.

My  heart, already soft and sludgy, melted completely, I shook his proffered hand and we grinned at each other, then I yanked him to me for a hug.

A week on and I am settled back into the routine, there are many new faces, new boys and girl have joined the Amani flock and there have been many class changes over the holidays as the teacher’s move children up to the next level in their education process, many of my Starters (the name says it all) have progressed and are now in the main classes of A, B and C, Amos included. This represents a mighty step on the road to phase three of the Amani process:

Transforming Lives


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