On Day 4, I was able to visit a few of the homes of my students. I wanted to see how the lived and meet their families. The first girl I met has had a lot of unfortunate things happen to her throughout her life. As an orphan, she was raised by her aunt who abused her horribly. She was never given the opportunity to attend school, but rather forced to work at a young age. Because of the way she was treated by her family, the streets became her home. She adapted quickly doing whatever she could to survive. She became pregnant at the age of 15 and the father of her child abandoned her. Now, she was on her own to provide. Washing clothes is a very common job for women who live in the slum. She would go into the city and find people who needed their clothes washed and would receive very little money, about the equivalent of $1 a day. That was just enough to feed her and her new baby. When she was 18, she met a man who would promise to care for her and her child. During the last major election in 2010, she again became pregnant. Shortly after the election there was rioting and rebellion due to the outcome of the vote. The man was killed during the post-election violence. Now, she has another mouth to feed and little money to do so.
In going into the city to find work, she was able to secure a job as a permanent washer for a wealthy Somali family. She was able to afford a home and food for her children. Her oldest child is now being sponsored, is in Kindergarten, and is doing very well academically. Her child’s social worker has been to her home and saw her talent for braiding her. The social worker told her about the beauty school program that would be happening and encouraged her to join. She was so thankful for the chance to improve her skills and one day, earn a better living.
About a week before I met her, she was brutally attacked by men in her neighborhood. She told her social worker that she didn’t know if she wanted to take the course because of this. The social worker went to her house everyday to give her counsel and support. She told her if she remained in her home and scared of those men she would never recover from the damage they caused. She needed to find the strength to push forward and not let them control her fears. She has begun beauty school and has been so focused. It is clear that she desires a better life for her family.
About a week ago, Al-Qaida terrorists attacked two churches in East Kenya near the Somali Border. Many were killed and even more were injured. This caused a lot of panic for the Somali family who employed her as a washer. Without a moments notice, the family moved back to Somalia, leaving her with no means of income to provide for her children. She has resorted to going to a place, a dangerous place, where women go and wait for people to hire day laborers. The things these people make women do are unspeakable and the very reason I am here. Over the past week she has been forced to do the most inhumane things.
This week, she has missed two days of school with no notice and it worried us. She showed so much interest in what has been taught so far and we knew she didn’t want to quit. Thursday, she came to class and told Teacher Ann and me all that had been going on. She looked tired and desperate. She lost her home because she had no money and was trying to find somewhere to stay. A friend had agreed to let her stay with her, however, her husband is an alcoholic and she had been warned that he could kick them out whenever he wanted. We asked her if it was ok if we shared with the class what had been going on and she agreed. One of the girls from the class immediately gave her what little food she had with her and told she would let her know if she heard of any jobs. Another girl took her aside and prayed with her. Each girl in the class had something encouraging to say to her. She was moved to tears at the support she was given from girls she had just met. I don’t think she has ever had so many people be so loving to her at one time. It was very overwhelming for her.
She didn’t show up to school on Friday. I thought about her all day. I am still thinking about her now. I pray she is able to find shelter and food for her and her children. I pray she does not have to resort to going back to that terrible place to find work. I pray she is able to finish school. I pray she is able to be strong for her children. I pray she will one day be able to move out of this dark place.
I wish there was a better end to this story. But, her story is not over yet.