By Iregi Mwenja March 14th 2018
For those of you expressing anger, shock and disbelief from the #ifikiewazazi exposé on Twitter, I would like to warmly welcome you back to Kenya. It appears to me you have be away for too long.
I hope when you left you never denounced your citizenship; otherwise, it will be useless for me to welcome you back!
First, let me start for saying an obviously ugly fact: if you thought #ifikiewazazi exposes the rot in our children, you are wrong. It is only be a small tip of the iceberg!
Our psychosocial support work with teens in high schools have taught us many things about the challenges of growing up in our present day society. As we rush to demonize those kids, yes, I call them ‘kids’, let us also do some reflecting as parents.
Majority of the children in high schools are telling us that the biggest challenge of growing up is not schools fees, shoes, or fancy clothes. It is unfortunately, absentee parents!
As parents, we are absent physically, emotionally and spiritually. This is the root cause of all the problems with our children today.
Most parents think that paying school fees, buying smartphones, and ‘handkerchief’ and trouser torn on all the wrong places in the names of clothes is what the kids prioritize. They are wrong.
What they want is your attention. They want parenting, just as our parents did with us. They want parental love and parental guidance.
Please do not jump into blaming me for supporting the kids. I have spent enough time listening to their psychological and emotional problems and it has been heartbreaking to say the least!
They have told me, and our team of psychologists what they have always wanted to tell you as their parent but you are never present in their lives.
When you started ‘M-parenting’ with Mpesa, SMS and emails from you mobile phone, your child also found himself/herself an ‘I-parent’ in the internet from the smartphone you bought them.
Today, the kids go online to learn how to navigate life ‘without’ parents. In the process, they go to all the wrong places online and that is how #ifikiewazazi was born, a few years back not this week!
Have you asked yourself why these kids have come out fighting and don’t give a damn about the expose’? They are just wondering, you want the image ifikie mzazi gani?! The M-parent of I-parent? Both of them do not give a f****, if I can borrow from their vocabulary!
Now you know why I will not be sharing those images on twitter because it is futile to do so. Secondly, these are minors who have no idea what negative impact those images will have on their future.
Paying school fee is not equivalent to raising children. Parents, including myself need to do more. We need to take all our parental responsibilities more seriously, and we know them. We learnt from our parents.
PDO is running psychosocial support projects in prison and schools in Nakuru County.
Mental Health Advocacy in Schools
The psychological and emotional problems our teenagers are going through is shocking going by the overwhelming number of students coming forward to seek help from our therapist during a marathon mental health advocacy campaign we are carrying out in schools and universities in Nakuru County.
A big cause of their psychological problems is unstable families and poor parenting. Parents, create time to talk to your children, and when you do so, use appropriate language without a demeaning or authoritative tone. A stitch in time saves nine! Paying school fees is not enough.
Our professional therapists are always willing and ready to offer professional help to you and your child whenever the need arise.
Students, please be your brother's keeper. Watch out for changes in your friends’ moods or behavior and be nice to them when they are going through difficult moments. Watch out for signs of sadness, irritability, worry, sleeping problems, isolation, hyperactivity, crying etc.
Do not make fun of, label, discriminate or stigmatize anyone who seems to have any of those symptoms. Show them compassion and assist them to get help.
AT PDO, we offer free therapy to students who are in need. Do not suffer in silence. Reach out to us on 0723713642
Beauty with Creativity
Do you see Njoroge or a 'Vampire'
Nakuru January 10 2018
Njoroge Matheri is your average guy who have endured a lot from his childhood days. He lost his only parent early in life and was violently abused by his foster parent. To find some peace and escape the beatings, he run away and became a 'street boy' in Naivasha town.
He had a rough time adjusting to street life but finally acclimatized and become a loader. But as fate would have it, this was not the end of an unfortunate start of his life. He gradually developed a mental illness that made him delusional and sometimes aggressive.
How finally found himself in the hands of a pastor who saw him as an easy target to increase his church following and make money. His severe mental illness make him delusional and what a great opportunity to talk about stuff that never happened. And the rest is history!
I have spent the last five months offering psychosocial support to him at Nakuru main prison. We developed a strong bond and a friendship that only people who are segregated and discriminated by the society will understand.
Through my organization Psychiatric Disability Organization, we have provided him with therapy and social support that has raised his self-esteem and enhanced his recovery.
Upon his release by the a Nakuru Court for lack of evidence on 22nd December 2017, we bumped into each other at the prison gate.
As a trusted old friend, he confided with me his fears, the challenges that come with his release and the cloud of uncertainty that hang over his head due to the society's misunderstanding of his mental health condition.
As a mental health advocate, I reassured him that our friendship went beyond prison walls and I will do my best to help. PDO offers a safe support system for people facing similar challenges.
I spent the first week with him offering him food, clothes and accommodation. Watch my conversation with him as we drove to work and tell me whether you see Njoroge or 'Naivasha Vampire'
Iregi Mwenja - PDO CEO
Acumen East Africa Fellow 2018
Restaurant Service Training
Nakuru 30th December 2017
After serving time in prison, women ex-offenders are released with significant and ongoing economic and societal obstacles that often prevent them from thriving, thus indirectly pushing them back to crime, and back into the prison system.
Many employers refuse to hire ex-convicts, and systemic collateral consequences restrict tens of thousands of ex-offenders’ legal rights, which essentially extends their punishment beyond prison and inhibits their ability to function as normal, law abiding citizens.
PDO with support from French Embassy in Kenya has been offering vocational training to inmates a part of their preparation for socio-economic integration.
More Vocation Skills for Inmates
Nakuru 1st December 2017
A huge number of women serving short term sentences in prison mostly are poor single mothers trying to feed their families through selling illicit drinks.
PDO have over the last year learnt that to reduce recidivism, fight drug abuse, eradicate extreme poverty and improve psychological well-being, inmates need a smooth transition from prison back to their community.
One of the ways this can be done is through socio-economic empowerment and psychological support both in prison and after release. PDO has designed simple, practical vocational skills training in different market oriented skills through short intensive practical skills transfer courses to enable the trainees to get formal or informal employment with support from the French Embassy's PISCCA Fund.
Our approach takes care of those who cannot read and write as illiteracy is high among incarcerated women. In addition to practical skills, the trainees are also taught skills about how to start and run a successful business and basic life skills to enable them create an income for themselves and their families and fit-in well back in the society.
“Apart from selling Chang’aa, I didn't have any skills to help me start a legal business but now I am acquiring my first vocational skills courtesy of PDO. I want to clean money instead of selling Chang’aa and risking another arrest and imprisonment” says one of the trainee.
PDO Marks Mental Health Day
Focusing on mental health in schools.
Written by Susan Mutahi, 13th October 2017
A mental health charity in Nakuru on Tuesday conducted mental health awareness campaigns and talk therapy sessions for students at Afraha High School and Rurii Secondary School to celebrate this year’s World Mental Health Day.
Psychiatric Disability Organization (PDO), an organization made up of professional counselors and survivors of mental illness conducted the event simultaneously in the two schools.
World Mental Health Day is observed on October 10th every year with the overall objective of raising awareness on mental health issues and mobilizing efforts in support of better mental health. Mental health in the workplace was the theme for 2017.... Read More
French Embassy Grant
We are happy to have recently received support from the French Embassy in Kenya, through the PISCCA fund. PDO has initiated a socioeconomic integration project for women released from prison.
This project seeks to help these disadvantaged women to overcome systemic social, health and economic disadvantages and to enable them live a normal productive life. the grant also enable PDO to extends psycho-social support to families of the inmates.
KTN NEWS: Life after prison for ex-offenders
Inmates at Nakuru women's prison are benefiting from a socioeconomic integration project spearheaded by Psychiatric Disability Organization. Rita Tinina narrates.
NAKURU DAILY: Older inmates remembered
Against 45 Million People!
Nakuru March 14th 2018
Our CEO Iregi Mwenja is the only person in Kenya who have consistently stood by a patient with schizophrenia called Geoffrey Njoroge Matheri in an extremely hostile environment in which the media paint him as a ‘Vampire’ following delusional utterances he made on TV.
There have been several attempts on his life by the public, the most notorious being in 2016 when he was attacked and almost killed after the court acquitted him of murder charges.
The Police have twice arrested him and the court acquitted him for lack of evidence. He has spent 8 years in remand for ‘being sick’ not because he is any more dangerous than an average Kenyan nor has he ever been arrested committing a crime.
He spent this duration behind bars because what he suffers from is a highly stigmatized condition. His symptoms makes the media and public associate him with occult rituals, devil worship and human sacrifices.
Everyone, except Iregi want to see him dead! To get the courage stand against 45 million people on such a highly sensitive and misunderstood issue, one needs to have balls of steel, the stuff Iregi is made of.
On his second acquittal on trumped charges of a felony (which the police said they were doing so to keep him safe from the public) and despite financial challenges, he went ahead and used his own meagre earning to provide him safe refuge upon acquittal.
He continued offering him psycho-social support beyond prison walls and offered him safe passage to some secure location where he could earn a living under his close supervision, albeit sometimes with communication difficulties since he does not have a phone.
Where is the Vampire?
Testimonies of our beneficiary
HIV/AIDS Psycho-education Workshop
Nakuru December 31st 2017
New Year’s Eve was a day like no other at Nakuru women prison. It was a day when inmates held their first fully-fledged workshop similar to workshops carried out in hotels.
Iregi Mwenja, PDO Founder/CEO facilitated the workshop dubbed “Psychosocial issues related to HIV/AIDS in prison” assisted by Jesse Maingi. The participants were inmates and prison staff.
The workshop was organized in collaboration with Mwangaza, a support group for inmates living positively with HIV. The support group had earlier invited PDO to provide training and awareness raising on psychosocial issues relating to HIV/AIDS.
In his presentation, Iregi Mwenja made a passionate plea to inmates to stop stigmatizing and discriminating those living with the virus but instead support them by showing them love since HIV is an illness like any other.
Women in Kenya are more vulnerable to HIV infections compared to Kenyan men, with the national HIV prevalence at 7.0 per cent for women and 4.7 per cent for men.
Sadly, women in prison bear the blunt of HIV burden with estimates thought to be up to 32%. This is because women who are most vulnerable to HIV are those at increased risk for incarceration.
The same social and economic conditions and human rights violations that increase vulnerability to HIV also increase susceptibility to imprisonment.
Nakuru 24th November 2017
It was song and dance at Nakuru Women Prison when 14 inmates and four warders graduated after an intensive basic training in baking and pastry.
The vocational course taught by London Bakers proprietor was offered as part of capacity building for inmates in order to equip them with vocational skills that will enable them earn a lawful living upon release.
This is part of our wider strategy by PDO to reduce recidivism, fight drug abuse, eradicate extreme poverty and improve psychological well-being of inmates, through socio-economic empowerment.
To achieve this, PDO designed simple, practical vocational training in different market oriented skills through short intensive practical skills transfer courses to enable the ex-offenders get formal or informal employment, with support from the French Embassy's PISCCA Fund.
Inmates could not hide their excitement after receiving their certificates from the Officer in Charge Mrs Emily Momanyi who encouraged them to make good use of the skills they learnt to avoid getting on the wrong side of the Law again. Simon Githua of London Bakers was also present.
Our CEO Iregi Mwenja promised to provide more vocational training to inmates who have reformed and are willing to start their life afresh upon release.
How the Prison Project was Conceived
Mental disorders affect one in four of us over a lifetime. It represents a huge cost to our health care systems and affects some of the world’s most vulnerable people, among them prisoners. Mental illness rate in prisoners is three times higher than in the general population and it is more common in females rather than males.
At Nakuru Women Prison, we work with prison authorities to provide psychosocial support to inmates and prison staff. PDO employs a three-pronged approach;
1. Social support to enhance quality of life,
2. Psychological support to improve mental health, and
3. Emotional well-being and material support for personal items that are inadequate. Read More
NAKURU DAILY: Inmates get legal aid clinic
Written by Susan Mutahi, 23rd September 2017
Kabarak University Law Students teamed up with Psychiatric Disability Organization (PDO), a Nakuru based charity to provide free legal advice to remandees at Nakuru Women Prison.
PDO, a charity that works with the most marginalized and the most vulnerable in Nakuru has a formal working relationship with Nakuru GK Prisons aimed at providing inmates with the much-needed psychological support within prison.
“Inmates and remandees (most of them semi-illiterate) have repeatedly told us how stressful and intimidating court processes are. Lack of representation and more so lack of basic knowledge on how to represent themselves is psychological draining” said Iregi Mwenja the Founder/CEO of PDO. Read more
Why expressive therapy for inmates
Some people have reservation with regards to expressive therapy in prison. We are asked, “Why should we make life easier for these convicts?” “They’ve broken laws and now we’re going to let them play?” “Shouldn’t they be getting punishment for the crime they did?”
I remind them that main reason we have prisons is rehabilitation and usually rehabilitation start in the mind. The first major step towards rehabilitation is psychological and that is why we provide expressive therapy and other forms of therapies to help prisoners accept their status and start reforming.
Secondly, studies have found that about three quarters of female inmates in jails meet the criteria for a mental health diagnosis and co-occurring substance abuse diagnosis. In addition, the majority of incarcerated women have a history of trauma including sexual, emotional and physical abuse as children and adults and have a co-occurring mental health diagnoses at the time of incarceration. Read More