Stepping up to help in Nairobi
Dealing with sexual violence and police brutality
"Be the change you wish to see in the world."
If I was to sum up my reasons for applying for and accepting a position with Christian-based human rights organisation International Justice Mission in one sentence, that would be it.
When I first applied for the communications fellowship - a one-year volunteer position, in a place of the organisation's choosing - I had wanted to be involved in their anti-trafficking work, rescuing people who had been trafficked into sexual or labour slavery.
Instead, I was offered a position in Nairobi, Kenya, where they specifically deal with sexual violence against children, and police brutality - authorities using their power to intimidate and imprison innocent people. Both of these are equally as important as trafficking.
An estimated 32 per cent of women in Kenya are sexually violated, but having only one police doctor required to oversee all medical examinations for sexual and non-sexual assault in Nairobi means most perpetrators are never convicted.
An estimated 20 per cent of the 55,000 prisoners are believed to be innocent, but cannot afford to defend themselves in court. Their families are then often left without a husband, father and an income earner.
Justice for those with no money is near unattainable.
This is where International Justice Mission steps in.
Their mission statement - "To rescue thousands, protect millions and prove that justice for the poor is possible" - sums up why I believe this is an organisation I can work for and make a real difference in the lives of those I encounter.
In Kenya, I will be working alongside investigators, lawyers, social workers, hospitals, the community, and authorities to raise the profile of these issues and to record the process as cases make their way through the court systems, to write human interest pieces shedding some light on what it is like for these people living in these circumstances, among other media-related duties.
I will also be working in the community, in an advocacy role, letting them know that free legal help is out there.
Furthermore, I will present the work of IJM to potential donors; without their financial support, IJM wouldn't be able to cover the legal costs of getting justice for the poor.
This role is entirely voluntary, and so I need to raise about $20,000 on top of the estimated $12,000 I believe I can save to cover the cost of living in Nairobi.
Among the expenses are flights to and accommodation in Washington for a week for safety training. I also have to buy a flight from the United States to Kenya and the return flight to New Zealand upfront. I will be spending most of my time working in the slums, so I need to get about six or seven vaccinations. But the bulk of my cost is going to be rent, food, water and transport in Nairobi. The cost of living is expected to be about $1500 a month.
I am willing to put in every cent I have saved to go to Kenya - to be that change, and to show these people that they haven't been forgotten, and that there are people who care about what they have been through, and are willing to do something about it. But that won‘t be enough.
It is scary for me to put everything I have on the line like this, committing myself to doing this volunteer work, and knowing that I am 100 per cent relying on the generosity of others to get me through this takes a lot of faith.
I have faith that everything will fall into place. Perhaps people have the same passion and longing to help those in need, but aren't able to do it themselves and see this as an opportunity to really make a difference.
I have faith in the generosity of people.
In this situation, literally every cent helps.
I might be doing the physical work, but those who are able to donate or sponsor me are making the real difference - without people financially supporting me, I cannot do the work I intend to do.
I encourage you to look at the website ijm.org and read about the things they are doing around the world. It is incredible stuff.
I also encourage you to consider whether you can help me in some way - perhaps with a donation at givealittle.co.nz/cause/Mission2Kenya.
Or maybe you would be interested in sponsoring me at ijm.org/content/support-internship-or-fellowship.
If you click on the "support an intern/fellow" link, you can fill out the details. For the money to go towards my fundraising, you must select my name under T for Tania Butterfield.
Finally, I simply need people to keep this work in their prayers. The work IJM does take a lot of prayer, faith and patience.
The situations often appear hopeless, but when there is no hope, that is when we can see miracles happen.
Tania Butterfield is a former Express reporter who was based in Picton. She is teaching English in Japan.
- The Marlborough Express
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