Kioni spends her days with human trafficking survivors. 

As our project manager in Kenya, she serves as both an agent and project leader, so her job brings her face-to-face with the unimaginable cruelty these children have endured. Her team seeks out exploited children, offers them hope in rescue and carefully forms a plan for emotional resilience and financial stability for each child. Drawing on a deep well of empathy, she walks profoundly hurt children through the healing process, wading through the trauma and pain of their exploitation right alongside them.

It’s a path she’s walked before.

Kioni and another Destiny Rescue staff member facilitated training for the team

Kioni and another Destiny Rescue staff member facilitated training for the team

Losing her mother

Kioni was raised by a hard-working single mother who did her best to provide for her child. Tragically, Kioni was left alone when her mother passed away while Kioni was in the eighth grade.

Kioni smiles in her school uniform in a photo taken before the loss of her mother

The pain and sadness of losing her Mom were devastating, but Kioni’s sorrow was only the beginning of her difficulties. In Kenya, the eighth grade is the final free level of education; from here on out, the young orphan would need to cover her own school expenses.

Nearly 4 million children in Kenya are orphans. Image is representational

Nearly 4 million children in Kenya are orphans. Image is representational

It’s a problem we see all too often in Kenya’s impoverished areas: Families already living on a meager income often cannot afford even the most basic medical necessities. A single infection or run-of-the-mill flu can quickly turn fatal in such situations. Add in the prevalence of AIDS in the slums, and the result is a startlingly high number of orphans. On their own, these children have to find some way to provide not only for themselves, but often their siblings as well. 

It’s difficult to get a job without an education… and without a job, kids on their own cannot pay for school. This vicious cycle leaves children trapped, desperately in need of food, with no way to afford the education that could get them work. Alone and vulnerable, they often end up sexually exploited as a means of survival.

“I was on my own.”

That is exactly where Kioni found herself. No nearby relatives were willing to accept another mouth to feed, and no government programs could provide for the child. “I was on my own,” Kioni said. With nowhere else to go, she moved in with some other young friends. These friends taught Kioni the tragic way they’d learned to survive.

Evil men were more than willing to give her just enough money for her next meal… at a terrible cost.

Her first day of exploitation turned into a week of abuse. Then, weeks turned into months. Still, Kioni longed to make progress in her life—to escape those horrible bonds and return to school. 

Beyond the mounting shame and crippling trauma, every day she spent as a trafficked child was another day her life stalled. Kioni was under no illusions: “Without education in Kenya, you are nothing.”

As those months of abuse turned into a year, hopelessness crept into Kioni’s heart. “My dreams of going back to school had been thwarted; my life was not going anywhere,” she said. 

She wasn’t wrong.

School fees are often a reason many children do not attend secondary school in Kenya

School fees are often a reason many children do not attend secondary school in Kenya

There’s a correlation between time suffered in exploitation and the risk of lifelong entrapment; often, the longer the time in exploitation, the increased risk of exploitation for life. All too often, exploited girls who were desperate to survive remain exploited as they become women. 

If a child or young woman becomes pregnant during the exploitation, their margin for living becomes even thinner. With a child to care for, pursuing education or trying to take the time to gain experience in legitimate work is all but out of reach. Many exploited children in the region are barely paid enough to cover their next meal, much less other living expenses. 

Fortunately for Kioni, someone stepped in and broke the cycle.

Breaking the cycle

A friend of her late mother, who we’ll call Martha, asked Kioni why she was no longer attending school. The suffering child finally found a sympathetic ear to her plight. “I poured out to this woman just as many girls pour out (to me),” Kioni said. 

Martha knew Kioni’s mother to be a diligent, hard-working woman and saw the same spirit in Kioni. When Martha told Kioni that she could come live with her, Kioni couldn’t believe what she was hearing. 

At first, she thought that Martha was hiring her to “be a housemaid in her house,” an opportunity that Kioni was beyond grateful for. But Martha was more generous than Kioni could imagine.

“You just come,” Martha said. “I’ll take you to school.”

Kioni was offered something that most exploited kids never experience: a second chance.

Martha and Kioni, the day she returned to school. “I bet she was not sure whether I would complete school,” said Kioni. She went on to prove Martha’s faith was well-placed

Opportunities she thought lost were suddenly possible again. It was as though Martha threw open the gates to a dark, stifling dungeon, letting light and hope flood in again.

She rescued me, literally,” Kioni said.

Kindling hope

Now, Kioni uses her own story to help free kids from the bonds of fear and hopelessness. When the exploited children learn that the kind, poised, successful Kioni used to be just like them, they dare to dream again. 

They are able to realize that this is not the end of the world. They still have a second chance in life.”

Recently, Martha joined with Kioni and a group of survivors to celebrate their graduation from our post-rescue programming in the region. These children have made great strides in their emotional recovery through the EMPOWER program and, thanks to our economic empowerment solutions, no longer have to worry about selling themselves just to survive. Martha, Kioni’s rescuer, spoke at the graduation ceremony.

A recent photo of joyous Martha

“Without her, I wouldn’t be here,” Kioni said frankly. Kioni paints her and so many others’ reality clearly: rescue makes everything she does possible.

Without (rescue), I wouldn’t be here talking about it.”

Kikara (Martha’s son who serves as a volunteer rescue agent) and Kioni prepare to visit and check in on rescued children completing job training
Will you join Kioni in changing the lives of exploited children? Fill out the form below to make rescue possible now.

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Thank you fighting for freedom. You’re now a part of a worldwide team that is helping to rescue and restore the sexually exploited. You’ll receive regular updates on the impact that your generosity is enabling and the lives changed because of you.

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Help fund life-changing empowerment.

Your donation can fund education and economic opportunities to help keep her free.

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