During my time with Hakijamii, I was lucky to meet Beatrice. She quickly became a friend to me, as well as a surprising source of information and support.
Beatrice taught me about life in the slums, made the best cup of tea in Kenya, introduced me to the women at Kibera Paper, and routinely confused me by switching between Kiswahili and Luo. She has not led the easiest life, but not once did she seem to resent her lot.
I was able to talk to Beatrice a lot throughout my time at Hakijamii, and once she allowed me to interview her. With the help of Marcy, the Community Outreach Officer, I was able to talk to Beatrice about living in Kibera, what stable work has meant to her, raising a disabled child, and the post-election violence.
Beatrice cleans the offices at Hakijamii two days a week. Before Hakijamii, she worked at Kibera Paper making cards. And before that she did odd jobs around Kibera, selling chapati and porridge. This income is the solitary income for her family. She says that most women in Kibera are single mothers not by choice, but by circumstance. Either the fathers die or leave the women to start other families. It is common for the same man to start many families, and leave the women the work of supporting them. At 49, Beatrice has been a widow for many years.
Beatrice’s youngest son, Eric, has a disability. Beatrice spoke to Hakijamii about the difficulties raising a disabled son and the lack of education support in Kenya for these children (hyperlink: ). Beatrice plays the roles of mother, father, and caregiver for Eric, when she can. She could not afford the cost of transport to take Eric to and from school, so she had to send him to a boarding school called Nakuru Hill. His medication costs are Ksh 200 a day, and the balance she owes the school nears Ksh 13,000. These costs are well beyond her daily intake.
When Eric is home, he shares her living space, a one-room 10×10 in Kibera. It is difficult living in the slums with a disability. There are people who walk on their hands through the sewage, but there are no special amenities, like toilets. Disabled children regularly get sick from what they touch and eat. The children will wander off in the slums because they don’t know any better; Beatrice said she just had to hope someone would recognize Eric and bring him back when it happened to her. It takes a lot of work to raise a disabled child, and she has seen some parents let the children starve, rather than deal with them.
But Beatrice feels that God had a reason for bringing her Eric. And that is how she dealt with her life, acceptance without anger or resentment. Beatrice just raises her head high and works.
I put together a video of Beatrice talking about these topics, with Marcy’s help translating. [So the disclaimer is that if you speak Kiswahili, you will probably notice inaccuracies, so please be patient with the rough translation! And if you do not speak Kiswahili, just know that you are getting a solid summary of what Beatrice said, even though it might not line up perfectly with her words.]
Beatrice did say a lot of valuable and insightful things, and unfortunately I had to limit what I put in the video. But here is some more of what she had to say:
Posted By Kristen Maryn
Posted Aug 24th, 2011