By Caroline Katana
Some 2,000 youths in Kwale County benefited from trauma healing sessions to enhance mental wellbeing through a project dubbed as Kumekucha Quest Swahili for ‘a new dawn’,
Kumekucha Quest is famously described as a new dawn for hope and connections.
The 27 months pilot project is implemented in Kenya through The Green String Network, and Sambasports youths agenda organisation funded by The Grand Challenges of Canada.
The Kenya Airways (KQ) project targets youths, teenagers and children with a view of inspiring self-awareness, self-acceptance, hope, community care and relational well-being.
The project started in 2021 following increased cases of suicide, insecurities and drugs among youth in the region.
Kumekucha Quest project officer Kuwania affirms at least 10 cases of suicide were recorded between 2022 and 2023.
“A total of 18 youths were trained as trainers-of-trainees and facilitators to conduct healing well-being sessions that positively engaged 15 youths each taken through 12 community care and relational wellbeing dialogues,” Ms Kuwania says.
According to the officer the value based education trainings and 12 weeks of healing centred sessions use songs, drama, skits and story telling to bring hope and forgiveness among youths.
“The project’s objectives are to empower children, adolescents and youth with skills, aptitude and attitudes so as to cope with stressors and swim in the warmth of community care, relation-wellbeing and emotional regulation for them to manage in a world full of stress and trauma.”
Through the project, a large number of youth have changed and embraced positive and healthy lifestyles since enrolling in the program.
“We sourced the youth from _maskanis_ (street bases), prisons and several schools in Waa, Tiwi, Ukunda and Diani within the county and few from Likoni in Mombasa county,” she said.
The program has transformed 30 prison officers and 43 inmates from Kwale GOK Prison.
Those targeted have adopted new positive attitudes towards their day-to-day affairs, tinged with hope and forgiveness aimed at making prisons as centres of rehabilitation rather than centres of desperation, hopelessness and vengeance.
The project has also helped many children, adolescents and youth embrace change and renew their hopes for the future through their healing journey.
Kuwania says many youths have now turned into entrepreneurs running various self-income generating activities while school dropouts have gone back to school to continue with their studies.
“We had students and youth who had given up and lost reasons to live due to life challenges, unemployment and high cost of living,” she says.
The Sambasports youth agenda chief executive officer Mohammed Mwachausa says the project changed the misplaced ideas that associated mental health disorder to witchcraft.
“Society has been associating mental health disorder to curse or witchcraft due to lack of knowledge on how to counter it, but through this project such perceptions have completely being erased through the project,” he says adding that youth now are skilled to overcome depression and trauma.
According to him the KQ has reversed the trend and provided safe havens and spaces for youth and community to resolve conflict peacefully.
“Our youth have learned new positive ways of settling their differences unlike before when they believed in violence.”
The youth, he says, have gained self-control and anger management skills apart from improving their reconciliation methods.
Some of the participants’ testimonies recorded after undergoing the program are:
“I used to be a very irritable person, ready to attack anyone or revenge people who attacked me, there and then. However, through the healing centred sessions and lessons from KQ, I have learnt how to manage my anger and it has given me so much tranquility and physiological health,” says one participant after completing the sessions.
“Knowing my moods when I woke up like being mad, sad, glad or afraid have experienced a revolution after the program in managing such outbursts apart from helping my friends too when I noticed them.
These sessions have been a blessing for me,” said another participant.