As we were led through the newly built church in Mukuru (on the outskirts of Nairobi’s city center), we could see the pride in Pastor Lawrence’s eyes as he welcomed us into his thriving community. Thrilled to be spending the time with our ‘accidental’ fellow, we were happy to simply take in Pastor Lawrence’s vision as he painted a picture of the vibrant community space he hoped to create.
Lawrence Kariuki Njoroge, proud husband and father of three, joined the Tatua family after stepping in to propel the work that had been started by a past fellow. Lawrence is currently stewarding a campaign to end the exploitation of women as commercial sex workers in his Mukuru community, and while the campaign may have been in one sense inherited, there can be no doubt that it is Lawrence’s passion that fuels it today. Lawrence was drawn to this work as he envisions his church as an empowering space for the development of the girl child (one simply needs to take note of the young age at which many women are initiated into sex work to recognize that this campaign is central to Lawrence’s vision).
Pastor Lawrence remains devoted to this work as a part of his larger commitment to the growth and prosperity of his community. “Before I was called to serve in God’s ministry, I worked as a businessman; I owned a small shop, as well as traded scrap metal,” Lawrence shares, “However, I increasingly began to feel unfulfilled in that capacity; I felt distanced from my community and I was not invested in the work I was doing. Above all, I knew that I was capable of making a more meaningful contribution to others’ lives.”
Through this campaign, Lawrence and his team hope to create a safe space for women to come together and lift themselves out of entrapment by relying on each other’s strength and encouragement. As he and his team interviewed sex workers, Lawrence found that many women must bear incredible precarity including the constant threat of violence and immense uncertainty about their income. Tragically, they also often feel as though any alternatives are foreclosed. There is a deep sense of desperation that makes many of the women feel as though they are trapped in their current lives.
While working towards creating this space, Lawrence and his team must constantly struggle against the urge to simply offer a “resource exchange.” Indeed, he mentions that he and his team often feel compelled to offer a better material reality for these women, and often feel defeated when they cannot. It is in these times that Lawrence recalls his initial motivation for partnering with Tatua; a shared investment in the power of ideas and knowledge. “If people are able to build a shared understanding about what types of lives they want to and can lead, it opens up new possibilities – the issue of money will become less important,” he reflects.
Lawrence is hopeful for the campaign’s future. “I am humbled by the support that our community has shown for this work,” says Lawrence, “The receptiveness to the campaign proves the power of building a shared hope and remaining invested in the idea that everyone has the capacity and the right to escape desperation.”
When he is not mobilizing grassroots power within this campaign, Lawrence is works to strengthen his community through his devotion to the members of his church as well as working to establish a local school – Living Hope Academy.
You can support the work that Lawrence and our other fellows are doing by donating to our recently kicked off Global Giving campaign here.