Sunday, January 11, 2009


It's hard to try and share the desperation that I've started to see in the lives of those living on the margins here in Kenya. It drove a good kid with the trust of our house to risk it all for the sake of bringing home something to support his family, it drives one of Megan's part-time Zanna staffers to walk up to six hours a day (oh how I wish this were an exaggeration) to take advantage of a new job opportunity extended by one of my craft contacts here, and it leads to stories like the one I'm about to share. My pockets aren't deep enough to cover all of the daily opportunities I have to take even small amounts and make profound differences in some of the young lives around me, and I know part of my role as a storyteller is to be willing to ask for help when the need is great. I know it's not a convenient time to give - but if you are so moved to join me in providing sustainable support for some of the people that are making my experience here so profoundly insightful, I would be forever grateful.

The following was shared by a Rotarian before a recent speech I gave at the oldest Rotary club in Nairobi. It stands out to me as it came just a week after I received an email from a woman I worked with in Rising International sharing about the loss of her aunt during child birth due to lack of access to a cesarean in her native country. I promised I would share this story in the hopes of raising a bit of support for this family.

From Rotarian Michael Fairhead: "We have worked for many years in rural Kitui and we have people there whom we help to gain a livelihood. That is how we learnt about this case. Once there were 2 childhood sweethearts in Kitui whose love remained intense even as they grew older. They had 3 baby girls, all by caesarean section who were all very well cared for and very intelligent and happy. The parents so wanted a boy that they risked a fourth pregnancy and the advising doctor at Kitui General Hospital agreed to undertake a caesarean section at 8am of the due day. The wife went into the hospital the evening before as arranged, taking her sister. During the night she went into labour and quickly an emergency operation was essential. The doctor refused to turn out until the morning, even though all the surgical facilities were available that night and the sister and the nurses begged him to come. At 4am she started major bleeding and she bled to death in the arms of her sister. The baby boy also died. The poor husband was utterly heartbroken that his beautiful wife and his longed for son had died so tragically and he was unable to cope and sadly took his own life. The 3 girls were left as orphans for the grandmother and family to take care of. Thanks to community the girls were looked after. Two years ago the grandmother became unable to move around and the oldest, Damaris, had to drop out of school at the age of 14 to care for them all. The grandmother has now died and the girls are orphans. They need support for school fees for several years in senior school and we believe they are all capable of going to university. We cannot afford to go on supporting these poor children without other help and sponsorship. It costs at present Kshs.25,000* per child for secondary school. So far only Damaris is in secondary school. We respectfully ask for the help of Rotarians with sponsorship or linking to sponsors and thank you so very much. Below is a statement in Damaris’s own words."

"I am Damaris Mbeleko. I am 16 years old. I was born in Kitui District. Matinyani Division, Mutulu Location, Kavalula Village. I have 2 sisters, Mutindi and Mukai. I am the first born in the family, Mutindi second born and Mukai last born. My dear parents passed away when I was in class two and I couldn’t even believe it. Since that time my poor grandmother started struggling and wondering more about our lives and about our studies. Although she was old she couldn’t do any job to get money so she used to go door to door to our relatives and neighbours asking for some food and some basic needs like clothes, shoes and other things for us to wear and eat and they all very kindly supported us. When I was in class 7 my dear grandmother was now so very old that she couldn’t even walk very far and she couldn’t do some duties at home so I was the only one to take care of my siblings. I used to go to our neighbours after school to ask them for some food for my sisters to eat. This affected my studies because some nights I couldn’t do revision or homework because of no paraffin and the late hours. I explained everything to my teachers and they helped me and advised me a lot. On entering form 8 I just said “First I will look forward towards academics so later on I can help my siblings." By the end of the year I had performed well and was getting worried what to do next. I just thanked God for the chance of passing my final examination. I had been admitted to Mutumo Girls Secondary School but due to lack of School Fees my neighbour decided to take me to St.John’s Kwa-Mulungu Secondary School, where I am still working to achieve my dreams and my goal to be able to help my siblings in the future as well as our community and my Country. My sisters are still in primary school. Mutindi is in class 8 and Mukai in class 6. They are still working very hard at school. In their report books Mutindi was 3rd of 36 pupils and Mukai 10th of 45 pupils. My hope and dream is to find somebody to support us at school so as to fulfill our dreams."

I know what it feels like to have been given the gift of pursuing your dreams. Damaris wants to be a doctor. We need more of those here!

If you would like to contribute to the education of Damaris and her sisters, you can send a donation c/o my address in the US:

1528 Salinas Hwy. D
Monterey, CA 93940

Asante Sana to all.

*25,000 Kenyan shillings is roughly $320 U.S. dollars.

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