A boy named Wycliff

November 24, 2009 at 7:41 am 4 comments

Like so many others who were never given a chance in life, Wycliff’s  story is just another one of those poverty ridden lives that are overrun by the countless images and stereotypes of glue sniffing, dirt ridden street kids of Kenya. I hate what my country has done to the individual. I hate what poverty has done to all of us. The sound and sight of the child on the other side of the window screen is just as much a part of the decrepit social landscape as is the blaring chaos of insomniac matatu drivers and goats chewing away on plastic trash. And in order to see anything positive in the urban junkyard that our politicians have condemned millions of lives to, one has to look really hard; one has to rip off the layer of thick skin that clouds the eyes of the privileged; we have to shove aside the cliches that act as our protection against the reality of others.

And yes, it was just another regular day downtown Kisumu when we first met Wycliff. I will admit that had it not been for the obliged role of a fixer in search of another shot for the camera and another stereotype to fill a few seconds of film time, I would never have met him, at least not by name. He would have been just another street boy. But, that is what we were there to do. The Dutch filmcrew and myself were out to capture some additional content to put the documentary in context. This is Kenya and Obama is about to be the next President of the US. Of course it made complete sense to find some little street urchin, throw an Obama tshirt on him and ask him what he thinks Obama is going to do for his country.

There is no shortage of subjects when you are looking for a vagabond in Kisumu. Step out of the car and there they are. Carry a camera and there will be at least 20 kids high on glue and ready to share a laugh with you or get out of your way for a small fee. When Wycliff limped around all the bigger guys trying to get our attention, one of the crew spotted him instantly. The fact that this documentary actually had a practical and direct benefit to it through creating new markets for local products made it a lot easier on my conscience. The crew were clearly not here to edit the flies on the faces for a ten second guilt trip amongst the Dutch viewing audience. There was a purpose for this and that made it worthwhile. So grabbing the sensational street kid shot was not as much of  burden as it usually was.

Wycliff had everything the camera was looking for. He was cute and confident and not bombed out of his head on glue. He had a terrible limp. He came straight up to us and immediately said, ‘I don’t want money or food. I need school books. Please.’ Perfect. I said I had a job for him and if he accepted to tell us on camera what he thought about Obama, then we would take him straight to the bookstore and he could choose all the books he needed. Deal? Deal.

When Obama become’s president he will help all of us street children. He will take us away from here and give us food and good schools…

What happened to your leg?” asked one of the film crew

The police were chasing me one evening and I was running across the road and I was hit by a tuktuk…

Ten minutes later we were in the bookstore and Wycliff patiently wondered around and confidently asked the store keeper for a list he knew off by heart and no more. We paid, shook hands and drove away. It was a wrap and we  had evening sundowners to concentrate on.

The following day, we went to visit my folks and told them about our encounter with little Wycliff.  Dad reacted as soon as I described his limp and his approach. “I know him” said my father, “he approached us very politely a while ago and asked us for school books. When I told your Mom about him, she said we should try and get him off the streets but we could not find him after that.”

Could it be true? Could one of these blots in the landscape actually have a character, an identity, be a person?  For my folks, yes but sadly until today, not for me. Years of charity had rekindled my parents sense of being – it comes with a cost though and it had taken its toll on my mother a while ago. For me and I believe for most of us, the most that little boy on the street ever is, is a moment of frustration or pity. Then its over and we get on with our Nakumatt shopping.

That was about two years ago. Life went on for us in the way we know it and like it. For Wycliff, the last two years were the first two years of his life. My folks found him, found out his story, gave him a good wash and he began to live. He had a roof under his head and three meals a day. He went to school and his leg was reset so he could run around and play football like any other 10 year old boy deserves to. He was given what every child deserves: a right to live and a right to have an identity of his own. Wycliff was always special – he had a
look in his eyes of assurity. He knows what he wants and was going to get it. He performs well at school and despite having spent most of his life on the streets of Kisumu, he shed off the hardships and embraced his innate sense of respect and love that still breathed deeply in him. He soon became everyone’s favorite and grabbed Lia’s heart immediately. Lia has been coming back to Kenya regularly to assist the little charity my folks run and when she met him, she insisted on being the one to financially support him. His leg needed a
lot of work resetting as of course he had to live with a broken leg for the god knows how long that had deformed over time.

Wycliff joined the group of boys that Ladies in Action have been looking after for several years. He became one of the extended family members that my folks have adopted along the way and he thrived in his newly deserved environment. I don’t know much about how he has spent his time on a day to day basis as I have had this terrible ability to close out any emotional entanglement with the gutters of our society. In fact, I will be honest enough to confess that despite his new life starting through a coincidental meeting with myself and five others, I rarely asked about his well being. I knew he was in good hands and that was enough for me. I am no different to most of us. Hard skinned and wired to have a short enough memory that will allow myself to enjoy a cappuccino without an inch of remorse while looking at the fleabags sliding their dirty bums and glue plastered lips across the 4wd drive cars parked across from me. Life goes on…

Until Su called a week ago: “Wycliff is very ill and we have had to admit him in hospital…” Like Lia and my folks, Su is one of those exceptional characters that has chosen to devote a part of her life to doing something for the less fortunate of Kisumu. These are characters that are not paid do-gooders. They just do. A few days later, I received an email from Su, copied to my folks who are on holiday in Turkey:

On 11/21/09 8:36 PM, “Susan Deans” wrote:

“Dear Friends,

Sorry to give you such a poor start to the day, but things were bad. My hope this morning was you may get back in time to see Wycliff. However to quote”what a difference a day brings”, he has had one unit of blood, which he should have been given five days ago. He immediately has perked up and the new blood cells are kicking in against the infection, his temperature is down and Grandma Salome with Frederick have been brought by Father Martin’s diver Lucas and they chatted all afternoon.

Father Martin was concerned the family may have wanted him at home, but as he had perked up dramatically, he did not appear like a dying child and in the end this was not an issue. However he is a sick lad, Dr Shiroya is his, taking over from Dr Amolo who we could never pin down. The prognosis is not good, but with regular transfusions and steroids he may carry on for some time. The ultimate cure would be a bone marrow transplant. Not available here I understand.

The diagnosis is leukopenia hypoplasia He also has gardia which has caused the diarrhea. He will be given two more units of blood and all being well will return to Our Lady of Grace when that is completed. Talking to Daktari Tina, our compound pediatrician, l she tells me that cases she has known have the transfusions and do well for a while then they become more frequent to maintain the blood picture. His hemoglobin must be up today as he is a changed boy.

Love Sue”

Does the story end there? It were if it were just a story but I would like to think this flow of disjointed ramble as having a bit more of a purpose, much like the documentary that brought Wycliff to my parents lives.

He needs helps. He needs a bone marrow transplant and Kenya does not do bone marrow transplants yet. He is surviving on blood transfusions but we don’t know how long for. We are willing to do what we can financially do get him out of the country and give him a chance at life but we can’t do it on our own. So yes, I am writing for help. Can you help Wycliff? 

If you would like to help in any way, please email: pabari@vicweb.net


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4 Comments Add your own

  • […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by dpinkenya, AndreaBohnstedt. AndreaBohnstedt said: A boy named Wycliff: https://ladiesinaction.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/a-boy-named-wycliff/ RT @dpinkenya […]

  • 2. ladiesinaction  |  November 25, 2009 at 7:15 am

    The following note was sent by Jacob Ouma:

    thanks alot for your strong message towards all Kenyan around the world,,I know what it mean to be a sreet kid, i grew up in the slums of Mathare valley,but who know one day i will go to europe and the next thing i will be in South Africa,,people who live in street are ‘overcomers’….tumetoka mbali…

  • 3. Ayla Selçuk  |  December 1, 2009 at 12:09 pm

    Dear Frends,
    ı have learned Wygilff ‘s sad story. I congratulate you for your kind help.
    I am a member of Soroptimist Intenational of Turkey. I was President of Europe of this organisation between 199-2001. during my presidency ı tried to help AIDS HIV Projects of Soroptmist Clubs İn Kenya.
    I will give you 2 Club Presidents Names and e-addresees in KisumuPresident of SI Club Kisumu

    Susan Manana@ahoo.com

  • 4. Wycliff’s last days « Ladies In Action  |  August 8, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    […] 8, 2010 Our life with Wycliff began about one and half  years ago when we found Wycliff on the streets of K… He approached me while my wife was shopping in the main street of Kisumu. He came and said to me, […]


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