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Queen's University

Department of Global Development Studies

Stories of Hope

Narrated by the girls and young women of the Wema Centre

Introduction - by Michelle Johnston, DEVS MA Candidate

This collection of life experiences of ten former and current Wema beneficiaries will hopefully inspire you as much as they have inspired me.  Each story you read is told in the girls own words and is explained with pictures she has either taken herself or has selected to represent her story.

While each story is vastly different, what I can tell you , and what I hope you may also see when reading through these pages, isStoriesofHopeBookCover.JPG the astounding common character of resiliency in each individual.  I should note here that children and young people in street life in Mombasa have diverse experiences and manage the impact of those experience differently; however, I found each storyteller's level of resiliency remarkable.

In my opinion, the storytellers in this book have used challenges and hardships they have faced to fuel their determination to find success.  In fact, more impressive than the resiliency and ambition I've witnessed, is the remarkable commitment to supporting others who have found themselves also involved with street life.  I can't being to count how many times I've asked young girls at the Wema Centre how they envision their own futures, only for them to respond by describing their dreams of giving back to the community.

It seems that the experience of living at Wema - especially the relationships developed between staff and fellow Wema sisters - means that the children grown up not only with the knowledge and skills to provide a good life for themselves but also with compassion and the drive to "pass it on".  The reach and scope of Wema's impact seems to extend far beyond what could ever possibly be evaluated by numbers and statistics.

If you've been involved at Wema, you already know how incredible these girls and young women are.  If you haven't been involved at Wema, then please take your time getting to know each storyteller by reading her story.  Each one comes from a different background, has diverse life experiences, and has something unique to teach us.

To me, Stories of Hope is about validating the experiences of those normally pushed to the margins of society.  It's about complicating the stereotypes we have been told to associate with street children.  Simply stated, Stories of Hope is about the need to understand and be understood.

To secure your own copy of Stories of Hope, please contact Michelle at

To learn more about the Wema Centre, please go to


Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000