Peter Nduati’s childhood dream was to become a journalist. He even pursued communications in college but when no work was forthcoming, he fell back on volunteering with non-governmental organisations. Little did he know that it is here he would find his life’s calling. Peter narrates to HENRY KAHARA about his mission to rehabilitate street boys and being an ambassador of the boy child.
I met Peter Nduati at Kikuyu Police Station where he had been called by a police officer who had arrested some street boys for stealing.
Peter reveals this is not the first time he is being beckoned for such a case; his strong ties with street children makes him the go-to person whenever they are caught on the wrong side of the law.
Peter, better known as Opi among his peers, is the founder and executive director of I Afrika, a non-governmental organisation that works to keep street children safe, offer them a loving home and bring them hope and healing. He says that the organisation was established to offer street boys a place they can call home.
He explains there are many boys compared to girls in the streets; a phenomenon he attributes to frustrations in life and the society seems to have turned a blind eye to the plight of the boy child.
Peter asserts that it’s men who perpetuate most evils in the society such as cattle rustling, terrorism, muggings and violent crimes among others. He says that such issues can only be resolved if the society deliberately addresses issues affecting the boy child.
“The boy child is an endangered species and the society needs to pay close attention to him. The society has put more emphasis on the girl child at the expense of the boy child. We need to address issues affecting the boy child if we are to address, and significantly reduce, the vices in society,” points out the father of two.
Peter has thus taken upon himself to ensure that the boy child understands his role and place in the society. Although he cannot reach each and every boy in the country, he is confident that his actions will create a ripple effect that will reverberate across the nation.
“In days gone, we used to have mentors who would spend time with our young people but that’s not the case today. Young people are left on their own at an early age as parents and elders are immersed in the elusive search for money. This explains the moral decay in our generation,” he notes.
Peter adds that it will be impossible to have a responsible society if parents abandon the boy child. “We have to look at the needs of both genders and not only in education, but also help them in overcoming the challenges they are facing,” he says.
I Afrika is a boys’ only rehabilitation centre based at Karai in Kiambu County, where Peter does mentorship and rehabilitation of street boys before reconnecting them with their families. The rehabilitation centre plays home to more than 70 boys.
“After the 2007/2008 post-election violence, many families from areas in the Rift Valley got displaced and they flooded the streets. At that time, I was working with a non- governmental organisation but I felt it was not doing enough. It’s then that I started I Afrika. Our first offices were located in Dagoretti, Nairobi, in a rental house,” Peter explains how he started.
“I have a weekly feeding programme in town where we feed, preach and advise street children. It’s here that I find out about their history and I get to know who are interested in changing from street to normal life,” he says.
He notes that they have pleaded with some boys to go back to their families to no avail majorly due to the freedom they get to enjoy in the streets.
“The only responsibility one has in the streets is to look for food for survival. Some children have become accustomed to such a life and therefore abhor any kind of regulation,” he reiterates.
Peter reveals that those interested in rehabilitation and being reconnected with their families are those who have been orphaned or those who ran away from home due to the harsh economic conditions afflicting their families.
It is this group of boys that Peter’s organisation focuses on, even as they try to net in a few of the adamant ones.
“Each child has a family and my goal is to reconnect street children with their families. However, there are those whose families can’t be traced or those that are above 18 years. In such cases, we enroll them for short courses of their choice and also give them capital to start a small business after the training,” he shares.
He adds that some of the boys he has rehabilitated have gone back to the streets but he is still not done with them. Peter explains he draws inspiration from the way Jesus never gives up on his flock no matter how many times they stray.
He is thus patient with the street children he rehabilitates and is always willing to accept them back whenever they return to the streets and want to come back.
“The grace of God is unlimited as at no time does he open the record of wrongs we have committed. When these children ask for forgiveness, they need to be given a second chance no matter the mistakes they have committed,” he says.
He notes that it’s unfair for Christians to fail to give street children a second chance, as they understand the meaning of mercy more than other people in the secular world.
“Some of the street children are very young and they are yet to mature and make responsible decisions. They need to be talked to and given time to figure out what they want in life,” he notes.
“It’s hard to change some of the boys’ character as they still engage in crime even after they have gone through the rehabilitation programme. Some steal from the home and then flee, while others steal from their employers when they get jobs. However, all is not lost as there are still those who change completely,” he says.
Peter says that working for street children can be frustrating and it needs a big heart to pull through and hold on.
“It’s a journey and one can only make it if he is very understanding. If you don’t have a heart to accommodate the street boys, you can close shop and abandon the cause. At the same time, it’s refreshing to see how God can use me to change lives. Some of our rehabilitated boys are doing well in life and I feel blessed in my heart when I see them,” says Peter.
He avers that Kenya can eradicate the issue of street children if only the government can work with the existing children’s homes and rehabilitation centres.
“We need the government’s input in this matter as it is overwhelming for non-governmental organisations,” says Peter.
Peter draws inspiration from the late Mother Teresa, a humanitarian who believed that it’s the small things we do for others that make a difference in the world. He further singles out Bishop Grace Muthoni Dalizu of Jesus Lives Church Ministries in Hurligham, as
his role model for the love she has for children.
“I think her church has more children than adults and her love for children is amazing,” he says noting that the church can be instrumental in solving many of society’s problems.
Peter, who believes in the mantra that it takes a village to raise a child, urges the society to take care of children since they are the people our nation will rely on in future.
“Children are not supposed to live in the streets. It’s our responsibility to give them a home and a good foundation in life. We need to take care of them by giving them education and molding them to be responsible people who can serve our nation,” he sums up the interview.