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An Eraser

Every day we are confronted with information about the pandemic in the media. Today, after a long break, we have received a report from our project manager in Nairobi, in which Covid19 actually plays the main role.

Baroness Karen von Blixen-Finecke once remarked forcefully: I had a farm in Africa at the foot of the Ngong Hills. Her home, now the Karen Blixen Museum, is very close to Langata Women Prison in Karen, a suburb of Nairobi on the way to the Ngong Hills had to give up the farm and return to Denmark.

For over a year I have not been able to get close to the prisoners due to the pandemic. During the whole time I tried to arrange telephone calls with family members abroad or to bring small sums of money from relatives and acquaintances to the inmates, as well as stationery and small items such as soap. I always had to deposit everything at the entrance.

Today I also had a television set for a cell block in the detention center and was allowed to enter. A warden ushered me through, and lost hope exploded on my way to the library. I heard my name, screamed, whooped, wept, Alice stood lost by the wayside, frozen with her mouth open. Before the pandemic, she wrote some engaging lyrics and was already pretty good at plucking her guitar.

Karen Blixen wrote in her book:

When you have a big and difficult task, something that may be almost impossible, just handle it a little at a time, a little every day, and suddenly the work ends by itself.

A folk wisdom - known to everyone. But Karen Blixen was also a prisoner, a prisoner of herself, slowly moving piece by piece from hope to failure.

I experienced something similar today. I would have liked to have spoken to them, hugged them, explained to them that failure should never be an option.

This brings me to the question again:

Why advise criminals?

Last week I met Jane-Lucy, a layoff. Over cake and tea I was able to learn the following - early in the morning she cooks porridge from five different types of grain and sells it together with snacks. Always a good deal, especially now during the cold season. She saves to send her sons to university.

The majority in prison are not criminals, the hard life led them to the ominous point of truth, so did Jane-Lucy, she stumbled into the temptation to have more and atoned for ten long years. I asked her how music lessons or creative writing helped to understand the connection between right and wrong. She said: It

wasn't the making music or writing in jail that was decisive, it's the small things that happen when doing this that makes the difference. I don't like it when I have to cross something out on a piece of paper. You brought me an eraser and pencils at the very beginning. Every time I wrote a word wrong and was able to erase it, I felt good, I felt how interpersonal relationships should be.

An eraser only.

For more than a year now there has been a lack of interpersonal relationships in prison. The pandemic isolates women from the outside world.


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