It was the Christmas of 2006 when Vickie Wambura watched a news article that depicted the dilapidated state of Kenyan prisons. She was moved by the story and wondered to herself, ‘Who spends Christmas with prisoners?’ She had never thought of visiting a prison before and so she sought to find a way to get there. In January 2007, Pastor Simon Mbevi of Mavuno church escorted her through the gates of Nairobi West Prison where she had a chance to interact with prison officials and learnt more about the prison. While there she discovered that the prison had started an education program but didn’t have the books or stationary needed for effective classes. The volunteer teacher was an inmate himself! Vickie then purposed to raise the materials needed and on her return with the resources she had the amazing opportunity to teach a class of inmates. After two weeks of volunteering to teach an english and mathematics class, she knew she had found her purpose and life’s mission.
Even so, Vickie’s resolve was cemented at the end of that year when Benjamin a young 21 year old lad joined her class in the middle of the year. ‘His grades were very low but he was determined to turn that around. He worked hard, put in extra hours of learning and assignments, proving he was up to the task. He had a bright future ahead of him and was full of so much potential. Prior to being released, Benjamin sat for the national examinations but when I asked him about his plans when released, he retorted that he would go back to his former ways, which was forging of cheques! He went on to say that this is all he knew how to do and it put food on the table and a roof over his head… As it turned out, there was a vicious cycle of recidivism. Many leave the prisons unreformed, they lapse back into crime for a variety of reasons- including those which brought them into prison in the first place. This encounter, almost 7 years ago helped shape her thoughts about the challenges facing prison rehabilitation in the country. To have safer communities, the cycle of recidivism had to be broken by working to achieve true transformative rehabilitation.
Vickie Wambura Wamonje