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ARTFULLY AWARE

Changing Lives: Steven Kyenze

The Transformation of Steven Kyenze

We are proud to highlight Steven as one of the people featured in our Storybook: Perseverance & Possibility in Kenya – Stories Capturing an Image of Intensity, Persistence & Big Dreams

It is not only the children and teens who benefit from Uweza Aid Foundation, as Teacher Steven Kyenze shared his life story in detail. Steven, an orphan, lived a hard life before his transformation a little more than a year ago. He was a cocaine dealer, a criminal and an addict. He was always on the run and in and out of prison for years. One day he decided to stop running. Steven found his transformation through religion and decided to devote the rest of his life to helping others see the error of his ways and prevent them from following the same destructive path as he did for so long. He discovered he had a talent in painting, a talent that had lain dormant for years. He shared his desire to paint with his Pastor and his need for supplies; the Pastor presented paints and paper and Steven was on his way. Today he encourages the children in Kibera to tap into their artistic talent and to express themselves through painting.

He hopes they do not lose their lives to the streets and drugs as so many people he knew. He has found a family in the children. Every Wednesday evening and Saturday afternoon, Steven can be found at Uweza in the well lit room with paint splattered walls. His trunk of treasure filled with paints, paper, brushes, palettes and plastic cups await the eager hands of youth as young as four and up to the age of twenty, ready to express their stories on canvas.

Children paint scenes of Maasai Mara, the National Park of elephants, giraffes and other animals that many of them have never seen but they are aware of due to outsiders’ visions of Kenya. They paint scenes of fishermen, sunsets and serenity.  When encouraged, they paint warriors dancing, skyscrapers of Nairobi – a skyline they see over the rusted roof tops of Kibera. They paint their neighborhoods, vibrant market stalls, mud and tin houses and multitudes of people bustling with business. Steven paints right alongside them; peaceful palms, zebras running across the Savannah.

“They give me reason to live. I ran away all my life. I ran away from the police, I ran away from people I’d harmed. And I asked myself, how long can I keep running? One day I felt it in my heart to go to church and start a new life. The preacher listened as I shared my dream of becoming a painter. He bought me art supplies. I now use my hands in a positive way. I have a purpose in life. I have vowed to give back one year of service to these children for every year I have done wrong. I hope I live a long time,” Steven says with a smile on his face.