The minute that the Nancy Ellen Crooks Foundation program team walked through the gates of Kericho Women’s Prison, our fatigue from the long journey dissipated. We were warmly greeted by the Officer in Charge for Kericho Women’s Prison, Madam Mary Muhoro, who had already called us several times to tell us about the excitement the inmates and the community were feeling. “They’re so happy with the playgrounds… they didn’t even wait for the paint to dry before climbing all over it!” she laughed.
One look at Madam Mary and you immediately see the compassion she has for her clients. She is constantly advocating for the female inmates in her care and constantly speaks of them as fellow mothers. Madam Mary articulated her gratitude with tears in her eyes, “May God continue blessing you so that more children are able to live better within the prison walls.
You know when it comes to aid and support, the prisons in remote areas like ours are mostly forgotten.” Although measures have been taken to ensure the children live comfortably, there is still room for more. Baby cots for instance would give them more restful nights, but the prison does not have them.
We were all smiles as the playground came into view. The mothers had been asked to assemble there, and they too had smiles from ear to ear.
The older children were running up and down the slide and a couple of younger children were cradled within the tyre swings.
As we approached the playground, Madam Mary explained to us that the concept of a playground is very new to the children, “The kids are still wrapping their minds around the idea of a playground. None of them have playgrounds at their homes, not even mentioning those born within these walls. But the officers are extremely encouraging of the children, guiding them to instill their confidence in the playground. The mothers are also very happy… they find this playground as something for the children to be doing during the day - a distraction from their usual circumstance.”
There are currently 27 children at Kericho Women’s Prison. Of the mothers, 8 have been tasked to be the yayas (baby care-givers/monitors) and watch over the children during the day. The yayas told us how much of a relief it is to see the children learning new skills thanks to the playground. The mothers unanimously stated that the exposure to free play is going to pay off for the children in the long run. “The children were at first engrossed with the different colours… considering the mundane black and white way they’ve been seeing things, this definitely activated something in their brains. The fact that they are being encouraged to play on this colourful masterpiece excited them even more!” stated Mercy, speaking on behalf of her fellow inmates. She laughed as she spoke of the morning rush, “We end up following them here because this is the first place they run to as soon as we’re let out of the wards.” “Yes! And at least we know that when we’re carrying out our duties in the shamba and elsewhere that they’re engaged and have something to keep them busy.” Jecintar added. Jebet’s 6 month old, albeit not steady enough to use the playground independently, laughs whenever she sees the other children playing on the swing or the slide. She can automatically tell it’s a place of joy and happiness.
The Nancy Ellen Crooks Foundation would like to thank Valar Frontier Solutions for their generous donation to this Nancy’s Playground Prison Project. For more information about the Prison Project or to Donate, please visit our website. To see our latest video of the Kericho handover event, check out our youtube page and please subscribe to our channel!
Thanks once more to Valar Frontier Solutions to their continued support of the Nancy Ellen Crooks Foundations’ mission - Bringing Happiness to Children!