Pubdate: Tue, 27 Jul 2004
Source: Daily Nation (Kenya)
Copyright: 2004 Nation Newspapers
Author: Bernadette Murgor


Nairobi - Deep within the sprawling Dandora Estate in Nairobi's Eastlands, 
is a small centre that is bringing hope to many of the estate's alcoholics 
and drug addicts.

New Life Hope Centre, sandwiched between buildings and classrooms, is a 
small two-roomed office that consists of the director's office and the 
small room where group therapy takes place.

The centre is also within the Holy Cross Catholic church that has given it 
abode. However, it is not a treatment centre tied to any religious 
grouping, says Michael Shabani, counsellor and director of the centre.

Eastlands is known for being a high-risk security area and a den for 
criminals, says Shabani. This is not only because it is a large and densely 
populated area. From its history Eastlands, jokingly referred to as the 
labour pool, has been a place of consistent poverty, violence, addictions 
and crime, which have become a way of life, Shabani says.

It is because of this poverty that the youth, especially between age 12 to 
25, drop out of school and stay idle at home. "Thus after hanging around 
the house for some time, the youths get bored and start moving around the 
estates with friends and within no time, they get introduced to drugs and 
alcohol. Many become addicts while others go into crime," says Shabani.

He adds: "The youths in these areas have become an endangered species, 
because these addictions may lead to crime, prison and early death in the 
hands of police or mob justice and due to HIV/Aids."

Many youths find themselves caught in the alcohol and drug addiction trap, 
which becomes an unending cycle of fear, pain and hopelessness. And with no 
one to turn to and with treatment in most centres being too expensive, some 
contemplate suicide, others join the criminal rings while others just 
continue in the unending hopelessness.

The New Life Hope treatment centre aims to intervene and provide hope to 
the under-served population in Eastlands and the poor. It aims to educate 
and create awareness that would lead to intervention, treatment and 

The centre intervenes and assesses the addict and depending on the 
situation, the patient may be referred to other centres such as the Asumbi 
Treatment Centre, Homa Bay, Redhill Place Limuru, or continue with 
out-patient treatment at the centre.

It also counsels drug and alcohol addicts who are infected with HIV. The 
centre also counsels parents, wives, husbands and children of the addicted 
to deal with the situation. And for some of those who have been attending 
counselling and treatment sessions at this centre, the light at the end of 
the tunnel, is drawing closer.

Here they tell their own stories:

Mr Jacob Wausi

I grew up knowing that alcohol and drugs were bad and I kept away from 
them. But my younger brother loved sniffing glue and scavenging and would 
escape from school often to do this. I would scold and advice him against 
such a life. But he continued and was even taken to an approved school.

For some strange reason, which I have never understood, I started doing the 
same thing when I joined Standard Eight. It began as we went to school. We 
would pass by garbage composed of biscuits and sweets that had been 
discarded because of their expiry date. We enjoyed these free goodies. But 
I began getting used to this habit, and somehow, I joined the rest in glue 

I passed my Standard Eight and was selected to join secondary school but my 
mother could not afford the fees. The glue had also began taking effect on 
my brain and I became confused.

I decided to take life as it came and drifted along with my friends who 
were now accomplished street boys. We used to scavenge from Dandora to 
Jericho, where we would sell our wares. I used to scavenge for scrap metal, 
which would fetch some good money. With time I realised I had taken the 
same road as my brother and could not advice him any more. In 1994, I 
managed to stop sniffing glue.

I was lucky to get a sponsorship through the church and joined Don Bosco, a 
vocational centre in Karne. I was very bright and competed well against 
colleagues who were Form Four graduates. Here, I was also made a prefect.

In June 1995 things began to get bad. I made friendship with boys who I 
later learnt were drug addicts and joined them in this vice.

On Sunday, we often had a day out of college and it was during this time 
that we bought bhang. It had started with two of them inviting me to join 
them on their outing. They bought some bhang and gave me a smoke. I felt 
good. It made me feel strong and important. I even tried twanging (speaking 
with an accent) in my broken English.

I realised that with it, I had the strength to read harder and the strength 
to excel in football and boxing. When I was high on the drug, I did my best 
and people praised me and I appreciated the drug more and more. It really 
did open up my mind and I wondered, so what have I been missing all this 
time? I even dreamt of starting my own drug business. But little did I know 
it would be my doom.

In March 1996, I fell sick. I felt like a robot. If I wanted to turn, I had 
to turn my whole body. At the time, I was operating a lathe machine but 
couldn't continue. I just lost focus and balance. By then we had a very 
good director who liked me. He took me to a hospital, which did not 
discover my problem and at another clinic I was thought to be possessed by 

I had to leave school then and my mother took me home. Here, I had to look 
for a way of getting the drugs and my mother's money was not spared. When I 
got drugs, I would be fine. When I didn't have them I became very sick and 
moody. I enjoyed smoking the drug while reading the Bible which I enjoyed 
and I did very strange things. While reading the Bible I would literally do 
what it asked. If it said shout for joy, I would shout out loud and 
joyfully. My mother began to think that I was mentally sick and took me to 
Mathari Hospital. It was here that she learnt the truth - I was a drug addict.

It was difficult to stop taking the drug. My mother would pray for me and 
take me to prayer meetings. I would stop for a while and then continue. But 
she did not tire praying.

After a while, I started feeling as if some nuts were coming loose in the 
head and the stiffness and loss of focus increased. It was at this point I 
was introduced to the New Life Hope rehabilitation centre, from where I was 
sent to Asumbi for Rehabilitation and treatment. I learnt a lot here.

After three months of rehabilitation, I was back home a little stronger 
this time but it did not take long before I was back on the drugs again. I 
started again because I did not follow up with therapy meetings. I went 
back to the centre where I was told I held the key to stopping my problem. 
So I started listening to the counsellor and after two months of 
counselling and therapy, I stopped smoking bhang but did not stop smoking 
cigarettes. It was an uphill task stopping cigarette smoking but now I am 
completely clean: no alcohol, bhang or cigarettes.

Before I stopped my addictions we used to live in a two-roomed 
mudwalled-structure with my four siblings and my mother. Today, I live with 
my younger sister in the house, which is now four roomed and made from iron 

These days I am very responsible. I help my mother buy clothes and food. 
Sometimes I even pay fees for my sister. I am now a newspaper vendor. I 
feel like a new man and I am proud of myself.

Salome Wausi Wambui (Jacob's mother)

My parents died while I was young and left four children. I was the first 
born. This left me with a big responsibility because I had to fend for my 
siblings. I dropped out of school and got a job as a housemaid. My salary 
was five shillings. However, with this little money I struggled to educate 
and feed my siblings.

At some point I got a job with the Nairobi city council, which helped me to 
educate my brother. He later became a teacher. But as fate would have it my 
brother died soon after becoming a teacher. When he died I went berserk. I 
became very sick and was taken to Mathari hospital for one year. It pained 
me so much to think of my dead parents and brother. I wondered why they had 
to die and why I had to struggle so hard to educate my brother only for him 
to die. Life was just not fair, I thought.

Ever since I was young, I have tried taking poison to kill myself because I 
used to be mistreated by the people I lived with. I always wanted to die 
and follow my mother. I even abused God so that he could take me. But he 
never did.

As I grew older I got married and we had five children but after many years 
of life together, my husband decided to leave and married another wife. He 
took away everything we owned together. Then as if to add insult to injury, 
one of my very promising children died early last year. I went back to 
Mathari hospital where I was tied with ropes. In one year I visited the 
mental hospital about four times.

Then my other son (Jacob) started misbehaving, sniffing glue, running away 
from school, then becoming a street boy. People used to call me mad. They 
the jibes at me especially because of my sons.

Then I heard of the centre and I came here and cried my heart out. I cried 
about how my parents had died, how I had suffered bringing up my siblings, 
then my brother and son's deaths and how they hurt me and now my wayward 
son-I cried. And as I cried my heart out, I felt as if my burdens had been 

Today, I am okay, I don't cry any more. My pain has lifted and I am less 
angry and disagreeable. I used to fight a lot and get angry at any little 
thing but now am free. Today I work for the church where I wash dishes and 
prepare tea. My children are also going to school and my wayward son has 
also reformed due to this place.

I now eat and dress well and am waiting for God to take me in his own good 
time. I have even built myself a house.

Andrew Myendo

I could say my parents introduced me to drugs. When we were young my 
parents used to take us on outings where my father used to drink a lot. He 
used to give me some of this alcohol and with time I got used to it. My 
parents did not give me the parental love that I so dearly craved. I was 
torn between them because they used to fight a lot. I used to wonder who or 
where to go to.

My life in school was hectic because I didn't know whom to turn to 
especially when I had a problem. I started taking bhang in Standard Five 
and later added changaa. When I took these, I would feel like I was in a 
world of my own and nothing could stop me from doing anything.

I joined a bad group in school and within the estate, which saw me getting 
deeper and deeper into the world of alcohol and drugs. With them I added 
miraa and other drugs like a yellow tablet we called taptap to the list.

In Standard Six, I realised I needed money to buy drugs, which I was now 
addicted to. At home I had no peace with my family. I started selling 
things like spoons, plates and anything I came across.

At the time, we lived at Buru Buru and my father worked for an 
international company. My mother worked at a four-star hotel. My father 
would come home drunk every night and my mother never spoke to me. My home 
was a chaotic place.

One day when I was high on bhang I stole money from my sister, which was 
meant to buy food for the evening meal. Somehow my sister realised that I 
had stolen this money and demanded for it. But I denied it. She insisted to 
the point that we started fighting. I took a knife and stabbed her on the 
arm. She screamed. Just as I was about to stab her in the stomach, 
neighbours arrived and held me. When my father arrived from work that 
evening he beat me mercilessly, while my mother chased me away saying, 'let 
him go and sleep in the streets.'

Then my parents divorced. We moved with my mother from Buru Buru to 
Dandora, a totally different world.

In secondary school in Meru, things turned from bad to worse. The craving 
for drugs grew so strong, I could not do without them. In Forms One and 
Two, I sold all my things including bedding. By second term, I already knew 
all the hidden routes that I could use to sneak out of school to go and buy 
drugs. I even graduated to being a supplier of drugs. In class I became a 
dimwit sleeping at every chance and my grades were pathetic.

My mother discovered my problem and transferred me to a school in Machakos. 
She thought that because her cousin was a teacher there, I would change 
because he would keep an eye on me. Sure, I tried to change, but there was 
this group that dealt with drugs and I was back at it again.

I sold my belongings one by one until I had nothing and became like a 
hermit with no abode. I failed my 'O' Levels. I realised I had a problem 
but did not want to admit it. I used to smoke and drink all sorts of 
things. I struggled to stop smoking cigarettes. It took me a long time, but 
I finally managed. However, I still smoked bhang and swallowed tablets.

I stopped drinking changaa' but continued with other types of alcohol. I 
continued stealing money from my mother and others at home.

One year after my Form Four examinations, I started thinking seriously 
about my life. Was this all there was to it? Alcohol, drugs and more drugs 
and alcohol? Was there nothing else for me in this world? It was during 
this time of depression that I heard of the rehabilitation centre in 
Dandora. And it took me a lot of courage to take the first step to this 
place. It was from here that I realised that things could be different in 
my life.

My mother still drinks a lot. She even wakes up at 5am to look for alcohol. 
Though I have quit I am still very vulnerable because of my neighbourhood. 
All these drugs are available everywhere you turn in Dandora.

I look at my mother and wonder what to do to help her.

Here at the centre I get advice on how to handle life. Idleness pushes 
people into drugs. I started an acting group with friends to keep ourselves 
busy. My former friends think that I am proud now that am not doing drugs 
or drinking any more but my age-group is dying from HIV/Aids, mob justice 
and being shot by police for crimes they commit under the influence of such 

I am now one year clean. I stopped taking marijuana on my birthday on April 
20, 1998. Stopping all these addictions was an uphill task, but it took a 
lot of counselling, group therapy and a lot of willpower. Something else 
that gave me the impetus to stop completely was what I found my best friend 
about to do. I found him trying to hang himself after smoking bhang. When I 
saw this, I asked myself, is this it? If it is, then I give up on it.

Rich or poor, parents must give their children love. Majority of the time I 
was left alone to make all the decisions for myself. Parents should 
sacrifice time to be with their children and should have dialogue with them.
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MAP posted-by: Jo-D