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Archive for October 22nd, 2011

A Kenyan Street Boy’s Quest for Survival

Posted by Administrator on October 22, 2011

In Dagoretti, a small town on the outskirts of Nairobi, poverty lures many children into homelessness. They are known as chokoraa, an epithet that translates to “garbage-eaters” because the children — most of them being boys — survive by scavenging through people’s trash trying to find pieces of food.

They are used to do the most menial jobs available in Dagoretti’s open-air market, including collecting trash, cleaning filthy public toilets and transporting heavy loads around the marketplace. The wages they receive for this are barely enough to afford them a decent meal.

At night, covered in sacks and plastic bags while clustering together to keep warm, the boys take turns to stay awake in order to keep watch for any forthcoming danger.  They sleep outside on verandas or pavements, fully exposed to the elements.

In the middle of the night, it is not uncommon for local security guards, older bullying street boys, criminals, even the local police, to ambush their sleeping location, beating them with clubs and whips. They also go through their pockets, taking any coins that might have been saved during the day.

In order to cope with this and other daily terror on the street, as well as to suppress hunger pangs, and deal with traumatic memories, most of the street children succumb to substance abuse like sniffing toxic glue. As they say, this glue offers temporary escape from daily brutality and social rejection. To afford a meal, they run chores for small businesses in the area, like sweeping and fetching water or collecting pieces of scrap metal, which they sell to recyclers.

Their unsanitary environment is a breeding place for lice, ticks and jiggers. Jiggers — also known as chigoe fleas — are bugs that burrow into the skin of their hosts. Since they have no access to medical services, the boys perform surgical operations with thorns or rusty needles and pins to remove the jiggers.

Life in the streets is based mainly on simple subsistence, without any aspiration in life. It lacks meaning and purpose because of its alienation from the mainstream society. Street children are denied an identity by the way other people treat them. But it’s not entirely a hopeless situation with these children.  The following narrative proves that with small, persistent efforts, they can be helped to realize their own utmost potential.

In 2006, I met Daniel, a 12-year-old street boy, while my American friend Mark and I were working on a documentary film about street children in Dagoretti. Daniel had dropped out of school after his mother, a widow, became unable to feed him. After enduring many nights of going to bed without food, he decided to try his luck in the streets.

While working with him in the streets, Daniel could barely read or write, yet he was always scribbling on cardboard pieces collected from the pile of trash next to where he slept. These cardboard pieces were his phone-book, as he saved people’s phone numbers beneath the old rags he used as bedding. Using a borrowed phone, he would call us every morning to remind us to go filming. He and Mark became close friends, and it was fascinating how much they communicated even without speaking, as neither could understand the other’s language.

Daniel wanted to go back to school, but he wasn’t ready to leave the streets yet. He was addicted to sniffing glue. For him, staying at our organization (a center for rehabilitating street boys) meant he couldn’t sniff any more. Eventually, we persuaded Daniel to join our organization. His cheerful personality added a lot of value to the center. We traveled with him to his mother’s house to tell her that Daniel would be living with us.

Daniel went back to school soon thereafter and has been living with us ever since. Almost every week, he visits his mother as well as his friends who are still struggling in the streets. He now has a Facebook account and I’ve noticed on my News Feed that he writes on Mark’s wall in English. Mark also took Swahili lessons and, during his latest Kenyan visit in August, he remarked on the improvement of communication between them.

By Michael Mungai

In November, Daniel will be sitting for his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education examinations to mark his completion of primary school education (equivalent of eighth grade in the U.S.). He hopes to join high school next year, and I suspect he is studying hard because I haven’t noticed any recent Facebook activities from him.

Having prevailed over tougher circumstances, Daniel is bound to succeed in his exams and in life. As I wish him the best, my heart also goes out to the children still living in the streets, and whose success stories are waiting to be written.

Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-mungai/kenyan-homeless-children_b_1018006.html

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Posted in Diaspora News, Kenya | 1 Comment »

Unintentional Abandonment of Lawful Permanent Resident Status: Causes, Consequences and Prevention

Posted by Administrator on October 22, 2011

Becoming a Lawful Permanent Resident (LPR) of the United States is often a long and difficult process for foreign nationals. Obtaining LPR status leads to a multitude of benefits, including the freedom to live and work anywhere in the U.S., as well as qualify for social welfare programs and government financial aid for higher education. It is also one step closer to becoming eligible for U.S. citizenship. Permanent residence may be obtained through a U.S. citizen or LPR family member, employment, investment, asylum or refugee status, and the diversity lottery. Regardless of how the person became an LPR, he must have the intent to reside permanently in the United States and take precautionary steps to prevent the unintentional abandonment of his LPR status.

The question of abandonment depends on the person’s intent rather than the length of time he spent abroad. Nonetheless, the longer one spends outside the U.S., the harder it becomes to show that he intended to return to the U.S. and live here permanently.

Absences of More Than Six Months

Most permanent residents are aware that they could lose their status and be ordered removed from the United States if they commit certain crimes. But many are unaware that they could lose their status by simply being absent from the United States for an extended period, particularly for more than six months or 180 days. They often learn about the abandonment issue only when it is too late to take preventive steps. For example, they might depart for their home country to care for an ill, elderly relative and not think twice about maintaining their residence. Upon their return to the U.S., following a long absence overseas, the U.S. customs officer may refuse to admit them as an LPR because they have being gone for so long and cannot show strong ties to the U.S.

Even though they have never committed a crime and were never placed in removal proceedings, permanent residents have to “apply for admission” at the U.S. port of entry upon their return from overseas. An absence of more than six months raises a presumption that the person abandoned his LPR status. The U.S. customs officer may require the person to prove he has not abandoned his LPR status by showing fixed ties to this country (for example, filing of income tax returns, family members in the U.S., property ownership, bank accounts, and business affiliations.)

Absences of One Year or More

Permanent residents who are absent from the United States for one year or more often find it the hardest to being re-admitted. Besides the issue of abandonment, the green card is not enough to gain re-entry to the U.S because it becomes technically invalid following an absence of one year or more. The returning resident must have a re-entry permit and apply for the permit before he leaves the United States. Otherwise, he may be considered to have abandoned his LPR status when he seeks admission. A re-entry permit helps to show that he did not intend to abandon LPR status, and allows him to apply for admission to the U.S. after traveling abroad for up to two years without having to obtain a returning resident visa.

Consequences of Unintentional Abandonment

If the person does not convince the customs officer that he maintained his status, he may be detained in the custody of U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) or released conditionally, placed in removal proceedings, and referred to the Immigration Court to decide whether he is admissible to the United States and whether he abandoned his status. If the Immigration Court finds that he abandoned his status, and he wants to stay in the U.S., he will need to file an application for defense against removal or re-file an application for permanent residence, assuming he is eligible.

In other cases, the customs officer may simply confiscate the LPR’s green card at the port of entry, deny him entry, and force him to return to his home country or last country of departure. The customs officer may also give the person a Form I-407, Abandonment of Permanent Residence Status, to sign (sometimes in exchange for being admitted to the United States as a temporary visitor).

Steps To Preventing Unintentional Abandonment of LPR Status

Proving that the LPR maintained his status after he lived outside the United States for most of the year is a very challenging task. The person not only runs the risk of losing his LPR status but also of being forced to depart the United States. Abandonment of LPR status will also affect immigrant petitions for beneficiaries that the LPR might have pending before USCIS. For example, if it is decided that an LPR abandoned his status while his immigrant relative petition for a son or daughter is still pending with USCIS, that petition becomes invalid and the son or daughter will not be granted permanent residence.

There are steps that permanent residents should take to maintain their status instead of being deemed to abandon their status. They include the following:

1. Avoid Prolonged Absences from the United States and Taking Residence in Another Country.

LPR status is granted to foreign nationals who intend to make the U.S. their permanent home. Prolonged absences from the U.S. for any reason other than a temporary purpose could result in the loss of this status. The Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) has set legal precedents regarding the abandonment of LPR status. The BIA defined “permanent” to mean “a relationship of continuing or lasting nature, as distinguished from temporary.” The BIA defined “residence” to mean “the place of general abode, the place of general abode of a person means his principle, actual dwelling place in fact, without regard to intent.” Finally, the BIA stated that a person returning to the U.S. as an LPR must be returning “to an unrelinquished lawful permanent residence in the United States after a temporary absence abroad.”

In one BIA case, Matter of Kane, a citizen of Jamaica lived in her native country for 11 months and came back the the U.S. for one month each year in an effort to maintain her LPR status. The BIA found that her actual place of residence was Jamaica, and she was no longer entitled to LPR status in the U.S. As this case illustrates, many LPRs mistakenly believe that they only need to return to the U.S. at least once per year in order to maintain their LPR status.

2. Continue to Maintain Ties to The U.S.

Family connections, business ties, membership in organizations, ownership of property, employment and tax filings in the U.S. help to show that the person intends to live permanently in the U.S. and did not abandon his LPR status despite a prolonged absence. The person must also show that the purpose of the trip abroad was temporary and fixed and that he intended to the return to the U.S. as an actual home or place of employment. Family ties, property ownership and business affiliations in the foreign country, on the other hand, raise red flags. Failing to file tax returns or filing as a nonresident in the U.S. are also negative factors.

3. Refrain from Signing a Form I-407

A signed Form I-407 serves as evidence that the person affirmatively abandoned his residence. A person who no longer wishes to keep his LPR status can always sign a Form I-407 and submit it with his green card to the appropriate U.S. Embassy or U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS). But when the person does not wish to abandon his status, he should refrain from submitting a signed I-407, even if he is pressured to do so at the U.S. port of entry. This would make it much harder to prove that he maintained or intended to maintain his status. When the person can be the beneficiary of an immediate relative petition, however, he may choose to sign the I-407 and be waived in as a visitor rather than a returning resident. Then, when he is more able to reside in the United States, a new immigrant petition can be filed for him.

4. Apply for a Re-Entry Permit

A re-entry permit does not automatically preserve LPR status or guarantee re-entry into the U.S. following a prolonged absence. Nonetheless, a re-entry permit helps to show that the LPR intended to return to the U.S. The re-entry permit also serves as a valid entry document after absences of more than one year.

Conclusion

When the person presents a colorable claim to returning resident status, the U.S. government has the burden to show by clear and convincing evidence that he abandoned his LPR status and is thus removable from the U.S. If the government meets this burden, the person then has to prove otherwise.

While it is important to know the benefits of LPR status, it is more critical to understand how to maintain it. Because each case is unique, all permanent residents should consult with an experienced immigration attorney before leaving the U.S. for an extended period, regardless of the purpose of the trip. Getting sound legal advice and taking precautionary steps could mean the difference between preserving LPR status and losing this coveted status, which many struggle to obtain.

Author: Igbanugo Partners Int’l Law Firm

http://www.igbanugolaw.com/

Originally posted at: http://www.mshale.com/article/Immigration/Immigration/Unintentional_Aban…

Original Author:     Igbanugo Partners

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Video: Kenyans in US celebrate Mashujaa day

Posted by Administrator on October 22, 2011

Posted in Diaspora News | Comments Off on Video: Kenyans in US celebrate Mashujaa day

Do men who cheat on their wives really love them?: On the prowl

Posted by Administrator on October 22, 2011

I woke up early on Saturday. As I lay in bed with my eyes closed, I could hear a bird chirping close to the bedroom window.

I smiled and opened my eyes as I reached for Jenny, who I knew would be fast asleep right next to me. Jenny was there alright, but she was not in bed – and she was not fast asleep.

She was standing right next to the bed with her arms crossed over her ever-expanding pregnant belly.

Her eyes were locked on me and the fire I could clearly see burning in them told me that she was either plotting murder or at least severe injury.

I thought of asking her what was wrong, but my years of experience with women were enough to tell me that I should probably keep my mouth shut lest I stick my foot in it. I couldn’t help but wonder though; how long had she been standing there watching me?

It wasn’t me

Seeing that I was now fully awake, she began her carefully planned attack.

“What’s this?” she shouted at me as she produced a pack of condoms and shook it in my face. “Explain this to me, or help me God, there is going to be hell in this house!”

My eyes went from the box to her eyes and back again. All my self-preservation instincts told me to deny, deny, DENY! But a quick analysis of the facts forced me to rethink that strategy.

She had obviously found the box in my jacket pocket. And it didn’t help my case in any way that two condoms were missing from the three-pack. I sighed, and began reciting the story that I had practiced for this exact scenario.

Two hours later, I was seated at a Nairobi coffee house picking through an overpriced breakfast and reading a newspaper.

The situation at home had forced me to make a quick exit. And I had a strange feeling that Jenny did not entirely believe the fabricated tale I had conjured up.

The story I gave Jenny went something like this: I dropped my friend home the previous evening. He was very drunk and somehow dropped the box of condoms on the passenger seat.

Not wanting to endure an embarrassing moment where someone would enter the car and stumble upon it, I had stuffed the box in my jacket pocket. My intention was to return it to my friend the next time I saw him.

The story seemed believable, until Jenny asked me who my friend was. I hesitated for a millisecond and my story lost all credibility. Then I threw in a name of someone she didn’t know (and to be honest, neither did I).

Before she could poke more holes in my story, I had showered, dressed and hurried out of the house. So there I was at the coffee house, reading some sob stories in the papers and watching my breakfast grow cold.

I was feeling numb to the world and couldn’t believe that my Saturday had gone from chirping birds to suspicious fiancées in the space of 10 seconds.

Restaurant romance

And it was at this exact moment that she walked by. She passed right next to my seat as she made her way to a booth in the far corner.

Her back was turned to me, so all I had to work with was the heavenly perfume that followed her like an unrelenting stalker.

I had to physically fight the urge to stare at her by putting up my newspaper as a wall between my eyes and her.

I hid behind the paper for a few seconds as I gave her time to take her seat. I must have looked very suspicious at this point, but I didn’t care.

I then slowly put the paper down, and there she was; a divine goddess of grace and beauty. Even the way she frowned at the ridiculously priced menu was enticing.

I had already decided to go over to her table and talk to her, but like any self-respecting man, I made sure that she was not expecting company. No rings on her fingers was a good indicator.

With my goals set, I slowly folded my newspaper and headed towards her booth. I already knew how this story would end, but the thrill of the chase drove me.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again; I love Jenny, and I will always take care of her. What I was about to do had nothing to do with her. And before you judge me, I’ll ask you to read my whole story first.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/saturday/On+the+prowl+/-/1216/1259364/-/8x9gkqz/-/index.html

Posted in Features | 2 Comments »

Living with the tragedy of your baby’s death

Posted by Administrator on October 22, 2011

Midway through her evening examinations, Ann Murugi Muchiri received an ominous call from her house help.

“The baby is asleep but she is not breathing,” the girl said.

Ann quickly called a neighbour and asked her to check on the baby then hurriedly finished the exams.

When she got home, the baby was weak and they rushed to hospital. Sadly, 16 days later, baby Jeanette Wambui was no more, having spent her last days in the Intensive Care Unit. She was only four months old.

“I often feel guilty; had I been at home, maybe the baby would still be alive,” Ann says.  The loss of her first born hit her hard: “People kept encouraging me that God would give me another child, but none can be like Jeanette.”

Losing a baby is a traumatising experience, more so if you are newly married, or if you had stayed for many years trying to conceive.

Grieving in silence

October is the Baby Loss Awareness Month, with October 15 being the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day in the USA.

The day isn’t yet a key entry on local calendars but the rate of infant mortality in Kenya could change this.

A website dedicated to the day, October15.com, emphasises that the month is dedicated to helping families live with the loss, not to “getting over” the loss.

“Too many families grieve in silence, sometimes never coming to terms with their loss. We help others relate to the loss…” the site says.

Although infant mortality in Kenya has recorded a slight decline over the years, it is not yet something to celebrate.

Statistics from government agencies and Unicef show that the year 2009 recorded 55 child deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 54 last year. This year, the projection is about 52 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Causes of these early deaths range from management of pregnancy and delivery to the way children are handled in the early stages of life. Natural tragedies also count.

A painful life

Take the case of Joan Kavata. Born in 2006, she died of hydrocephalus, also referred to as “water in the brain”, in 2008.

Although her medical treatment really strained her family’s resources, her father, Gedion Onyancha, says it was painful to lose a child “who after all was going to have a very difficult life”.

Hydrocephalus  is caused by an accumulation of cerebrospinal fluid in the ventricles of the brain, thus enlarging the head.

“There is something that makes you want the sick person to live even if his/her life will be painful,” says Onyancha. Little Kavata underwent two surgeries but did not survive the third, according to medical records.

“We spent close to Sh1 million, even though it was unlikely that the girl would get better,” says Onyancha, a security officer. Unlike Murugi, Rebecca Ndeta was there when her first born daughter, Marion Midega, died.

Two months ago, she helplessly watched tongues of fire consume her daughter during the Sinai fire. She is still too traumatised to speak about what happened.

Her husband, Aggrey Lumbasyo, recollects: “She was breastfeeding the baby but went out briefly. Behind the house were containers of fuel the villagers were hiding after siphoning from a Kenya Pipeline Company leak.”

The fire broke out before Rebecca returned to the house. Although she survived, she suffered serious injuries.

Lumbasyo 27, and Ndeta, 23, hope God will give them more children. “We have undergone counseling but this tragedy has completely changed our lives.

We are slowly trying to cope with the loss,” says Lumbasyo who no longer goes to work to be able to take care of his wife.

All these parents have felt the pain of losing a young one. The all agree that there can never be a child like the one that was lost.

It is such pain that made former American president Ronald Reagan designated October the Pregnancy and Infant Loss Awareness Month.

It has been marked since 1988.

Source: http://www.nation.co.ke/Features/saturday/Living+with+the+tragedy+of+your+babys+death++/-/1216/1259374/-/f9ku3j/-/index.html

Posted in Features | 1 Comment »

 
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