10 July 2013
Today we headed back to the village of Musima to visit a jaja (grandmother) who is raising 40 children by herself. When we arrived at her home, Jaja greeted us so warmly and thanked us for coming to visit her.
The children who live with her range in age from 2 – 20, they are all children from her family who have lost their mom, dad or both. 27 of the 40 children are of school age, and most are going to school but there are 12 that are not because she can not afford the school fees.
About 6 years ago a church came into the village and built her a home, which was wonderful, however there is so much more she needs to be able to provide for her family of 41.
She is an amazingly strong woman, and very industrious. She uses her land to make bricks to sell. Not only is the work hard, the more she digs in her land to make bricks the more she ruins her land for anything else. Many of the older children walk to the nearest quarry and break rocks for money. She was able to raise some goats, which she traded for a cow. So she is always trying to find ways to make ends meet for her family.
Jaja showed us around the house which consists of 4 rooms. One room where the boys sleep, one where the girls sleep, a smaller room where the babies sleep and a common room. The children all sleep on the floor, they do not have beds or even mattresses. The come in each night and take their clothes off and put them inside posho or rice bags and sleep on top of them. They do not have mosquito netting to protect them at night from mosquitos that carry malaria. They do not have electricity, they use kerosene lanterns which are dangerous as she showed us a pile of burned clothes from where one of the lanterns had fallen and caused a fire. They do not have indoor plumbing, they have a pit latrine in the back of the house which is collapsing and leaning so badly that the children are afraid to go inside of it. The police have threatened to arrest Jaja if she doesn’t get the latrine fixed due to the health and sanitation laws.
As I sat listening to this sweet woman, I had tears streaming down my face. She is 75 years old, and raising 40 children who are not biologically her own. She does so much with the very little that she has. She works hard and is not looking for someone to come and just hand her a good life, she is willing to work and work hard.
Over and over again I calculated the numbers in my head…money to fix the latrine, money for mattresses for everyone, money for solar powered lights so she can light inside the house in a safe way, money to buy beans, rice, posho to last them, money to buy them new plastic plates and bowls to eat in, money to buy them new jerry jars for fetching water….with $2000 we could help this amazing woman get a good start. She could take part of her land and not dig bricks there, plant a garden where she can have food for her family and sell the excess.
When it was time to say good bye, Jaja kept hugging Mali and praying over her, asking God to bless her. She asked us to write our names for her so she and the children can pray for us, I just watched her amazed by her humbleness. Who are we to need her prayers when she needs them so much more then we do. When she hugged us good bye she held me tight and I didn’t let go for a few minutes while I just prayed over her, asking God to keep her healthy and strong, for God to bless her family, to protect her family and for us to discern how he wants us to help. I left knowing I had just met a woman who would change my heart forever.
We headed back home, 4 boda rides are making the girls quite the boda experts, especially riding on one through the village.