Natasha Johnson with robbery with violence when she was just 25. She to 25 years in prison, the equivalent years to her life, but got out on appeal after only four years.
Life had dealt her a tough hand, but Natasha admits that everything she did as a child and later as a teenager led up to a life in prison.
She by a single mother and never met her father. Unfortunately, her mother passed away when Natasha was in Class Five.
“I managed to continue with my schooling until Class Seven but I eventually dropped out.
I found no purpose in school life and moved to stay with my aunt in Nairobi. A few years later, I moved to Mombasa because I wanted to run my life.””
In Mombasa, she started selling second-hand clothes. She started indulging in alcohol and soon formed a tight bond with new friends who also loved the bottle. her drinking buddies introduced her to robbery.
“I had sunk into bad company. My aunt wondered where I got so much money which my business could not raise, but had no guts to question me.”
Natasha vividly recalls the circumstances that led to her arrest.
On that night, they had planned to rob a taxi. The robbery was well planned. A gang member called a taxi and instructed him to pick Natasha and one of her friends.
Natasha was in heels and a long, tight dress. Her partner had on an expensive suit and they waited for the taxi from a night club in Bamburi.
“The taxi picked us from the club and we drove away through the interior part of , ,” she recalls, adding that after driving a kilometre away, they ordered the driver to stop and pick their “friends” who had stopped by the roadside.
He stopped the car, picked the two “friends” and they continued with the journey.
“After reaching our opportune destination, we ordered the driver to stop and hand over the car keys. He . We did not give him quality time to recover from the shock.”
An argument ensued and soon, passers by could hear them shouting at each other and came to find out what the ruckus was about. The passers-by later alerted thesungu sungus , a local vigilante group, who swooped to the scene and took Natasha to the police station. Her accomplices ran away but her tight dress and heels hindered fast movement and the police arrested her.
In November 2011, she in a Mombasa law court, charged with robbery with violence.
“I was arrested and jailed. The other members of the gang who had escaped down one by one while I was serving my jail term.”
While at la maximum prison, she joined the industry sector. She acquired tailoring and knitting skills, which became crucial to her life after the . She also became a Christian while serving time.
“Life in jail is not easy as many may say or think. There is no freedom and above all you miss your family.”
The four years were no joke for the mother of two. She had gone to jail together with her son who was hardly two years old and her daughter stayed behind with Natasha’s aunt.
When her son was three years old, she decided to give him out to a children’s home.
“Living with your child in prison is like torture. The child has multiple needs which you cannot while being held behind the bars. A welfare association that visited the prison pleaded with me to allow my son to live in a children’s home and I saw it as a relief.”
After stepping out, she took a bold step to live a positive life. She went back to the house she lived in. Her neighbours had no idea that they had lived next to a thug.
The next day, she visited a newly opened church called Discovery of Jerusalem in where she now ministers as pastor, to have silent time with God.
“I decided to change my life. I accepted Christ as my personal savior. When I reached the church, I boldly introduced the myself as an ex-prisoner, the church pastor received me and he me to date.”
When she was imprisoned, she had come in contact with a group of ex-prisoners who had formed a self-help group called New Beginning which was started by their colleague.
“I decided to join the group of about 50 members to earn clean money and live a peaceful and happy life. Many ex-prisoners also join the club because of rejection from family and community.”
The 32-year-old said they make shampoos, soaps, conditioners and lotions with the brand.
The self-help organization also sells honey, coconut oil and products. They will start making juice after they purchased a machine to aid them pursue the idea.
“We want to reach all people. I learnt that some people engaged in crime because they lacked the basic needs.” The reformed former gangster says she is taking a single step each time to advance her lifestyle. In her grey and red dress with grey heels as she displayed some of their products during the Mombasa International Show held at last week, she had embraced the freedom and was ready to work hard to earn a living.
“I also sell second-hand sheets to boost my income. Everyone should work hard to earn a living.”
And of lessons she learnt in prison, hard work stood out.
“Keep yourself busy and don’t be lazy because an idle mind is a devil’s workshop. Above all, fear God.”
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.