Magazine article The Spectator

Wild Life

Magazine article The Spectator

Wild Life

Article excerpt

Gilgil, Kenya Pembroke House, our children's school, is a little slice of England set in Kenya's Rift Valley. In the shadow of extinct volcanoes they play cricket on extensive grounds. They learn Latin within miles of soda lakes swarming with pink flamingos. The pioneering, resourceful spirit of Pembroke is symbolised in the school's Christina chapel, with owls in the bell tower, built entirely by a former generation of under-13s. Our son Rider and daughter Eve are enjoying a privileged, magical upbringing.

This week children from a rather different, impoverished background joined them for carol singing and mince pies out under the tropical night sky. These are the kids from the Restart Centre, located only a mile or so from Pembroke. When they play each other at football, the Restart teams always win. They recently joined forces to clean up rubbish around Gilgil town. They make friends and they like each other. Last week they put on competing acts in a talent show.

The Restart stood up to perform an a capella gospel song. One of the group was a little girl with glittering eyes who smiled as she sang:

Joshua fit the battle of Jericho, Jericho, Jericho. . .

And the walls came tumbling down!

To see her so happy was truly a miracle - because only months ago she was in hospital after her father tried to kill her with poison.

He had already murdered her four sisters.

Another little Restart girl did not have the strength to sing because she has full-blown Aids after 30 men gang-raped her. She says she's 13 years old, but the Restart staff believe she's 11.

Down at the Restart, we met a small boy who turned up one day pleading for sanctuary after he had to rescue his toddler brother from drowning in a pit latrine down which their mother had thrown him. And then there are three siblings, aged about three, five and seven, who were put on a matatu bus by a mother who told them to stay on until the vehicle came to the end of its journey. They were found crying in a Gilgil street, with no idea where they were.

Mary Coulson, a long-term resident of Gilgil, established the Restart Centre after the violence of Kenya's last elections during which hundreds were butchered and thousands made into refugees. 'Suddenly there were children washed up on Gilgil's streets, sifting through garbage. I felt their hopelessness.' At first, the children were mainly boys - since girls could be used as prostitutes.

But then widowed mothers began turning both boys and girls into the street. …

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