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Staff Insights

Good Work does Good Things in the Kalobeyei Settlement

Published January 5, 2021
A bike leans against a building.

Lucien Mulenga is a community worker, CVT Kalobeyei

As a community worker for CVT in Kalobeyei, I watch for people in the camp who may need help. I know how to recognize the signs that someone has been through a traumatic event – perhaps they are not willing to see people in their home, or they will not leave it or go outside. They may not be willing to speak or share about their lives. Some people are not able to eat. When I saw this, I would go to visit them. I told them “Your problem can be taken somewhere.” Now that the COVID-19 pandemic is here, I don’t visit in person in quite the same way, but we continue to use methods to reach out and let people know help is available at CVT.

Everywhere in the camp, there are signs of trauma. I can recognize this and appreciate it because I, too, have experienced it.

I came to CVT and found it helped me very much. I also knew that I want to help people; I want to help people in my community. So I came to CVT and took the role as a community worker. In this role, my personal experience of trauma is helpful; it has become a beneficial thing. Over time, I want to become an expert in counseling. It’s my dream. I am planning to go to college in Kenya, with a focus on counseling and project management.

Because of the COVID pandemic, we have modified our approaches, and we do more work remotely or using social distance and masks. We can still help clients while also taking steps to be safe.

As part of my work, I meet with people in the community and tell them about the care they can find at CVT. I conduct initial interviews and sessions, and I’ve found that people in the community now call me “Teacher.” They appreciate the information and the care that is behind it. Now when I am in the community and I see a former client, often he will say to me, “You helped me so much when you sent me there.” Clients tell me that after coming to CVT, their health is good. A client said, “I can take food, I can walk.” I am proud of this – it’s as if we have given medicine and now it is working well. This gives me power too. The clients give very positive testimony.

Before I came to Kenya, I lived in the Democratic Republic o f Congo (DRC). My life in my home country was okay, life was good. I finished college and lived at home with my mother and my brothers. My father had died some years earlier. My academic background was in public health, and I started looking for a job. However, members of my extended family had other plans. Several of my uncles wanted the resources and the business that my mother had, so they wished for her to marry someone new so they could take control. My mother refused to do this.

Because I was the first-born, they looked next at me. They took me and beat me. I still have many scars. There was nothing I could do, and this went on for two years. Finally, they used their connections to a militia group, who came to our home and robbed us and beat us. We tried to run away, and as I ran, I was shot in my leg. Still I ran for two days in the forest. I went to the home of friends and stayed there for some months. It helped me get safe, but then I had to keep running.

I went to Uganda and stayed in several locations including a church, and then I came to Kenya. Things were very difficult for me when I got here. I was not able to communicate with people. They didn’t understand what I was experiencing. I lost so much weight – I weighed only 44 kg (97 pounds). I could not eat because of these problems. I had no money.

One day, people from CVT came to my house. They explained about the service of CVT and said to come to the center. So I came and we talked together. I began to do the sessions. Once I started to develop skills, I started to interact with people again: I did an English course and started looking for a job.

Today, I think back on my life in DRC, and I remember how dark things became for me. I thought to end my life before; I thought that if I could go to sleep forever that would be good. And then I came here to Kalobeyei where the climate is so harsh – it is so hot, there is no rain, nothing is green. I felt like I could not move. Now, however, I have hope. I know the value of going to school; I look forward to passing my examination.

I also have hope for others here in the settlement. There must be more services – people have rights and they should have the freedom to have a better life, to go to school, to get a job.

The work we do at CVT helps so many people who need services. I hope that we can reach more people – there are so many who don’t know about our care. There is a high suicide rate here because people don’t see, they don’t have hope. I wish one day CVT can help in Congo. When I speak to clients, they appreciate the work of CVT. They say “This work is good.”

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