October 20, 2015
Raised in a big family of nine and a house full of relatives, I learnt respect for all. Not all relatives will behave the way you wish they should, but at the end of the day they are human beings and they deserve respect. A simple word as ‘thank you mum’, ‘thank you dad’, was the order of the day not only for a gift received but also for every meal you have. On the other hand, ‘sorry’ was applied as long as you wrong someone. This instilled the value of cohesion in the family as well as shaping of behaviors.
Because our upbringing was humble and in the spirit of togetherness, our impetus is to check on each other, no matter where you are, a phone call to find out how they are doing is very important. There are many circumstances in life; however what matters is how to handle issues with desire to make a difference.
Being the second last born, I learnt a lot from my siblings and tried as much as possible to avoid making the mistakes they made and ensure that there is no cycle. It was and still is my obligation to learn only positive behavior from those around me. This has strengthened my ability to make decisions without being influenced by my peers.
Educating nine children to higher level of education was the greatest challenge my parents faced. But I commend them for the effort they made to ensure that none of us dropped out of school. Their support and encouragement towards education continues. Although at the moment they are not capable of providing financial support, they always encourage further studies. The anticipation for a better life for their children and the responsibility of children to take care of them is their wish. At the age of 72 and 68 it is our duty to take care of them.
Determined and committed to my job, I wake up early in the morning to ensure that I beat traffic to work. Leaving the house as early as 5.30 AM and getting home late is a bother. You wake up the following day dragging your feet because you’ve not had enough sleep. Most probably you went to bed past midnight and before you can turn to get better sleep the sound of the alarm is what you hear. It is 4.30 AM and it is time to wake up. The earliest time you ever got home was 8.00 PM. Dragging of feet could be that the previous night you got home from work at midnight and if it rained heavily then you are likely to get home past midnight. There is no place to grab something to bite. At this point you can as well decide to ignore the alarm and sleep. But because of self-discipline, you will prepare yourself and leave for work.
The assignment for the day is to visit one of the slums within the city and address women groups struggling to cover household expenses and most importantly putting food on the table. Some old granny guardians of orphans of HIV/ AIDS are also in attendance. Approaching the group and having a common understanding takes a while. The perception at this point is you are a foreigner and you do not understand their way of life. However, with time you gain their trust.
Traversing through narrow alleys to reach a meeting point is a task. One you have to be cautious on mastering direction, beware of raw sewerage and therefore you must make good calculation of your steps, insecurity is high and being robbed in broad day light is common.
When you remember hop skip and jump you experienced last week when you visited the place, you wish the day could not have come. On the other hand, when you remember the lives you touched by basically encouraging someone going through tough times, you become optimistic and feel encouraged.
One thing to change the world is me and you start with a dream and giving it all that we have. Giving hope to hopeless, encouraging someone who is discouraged and empowering someone to develop themselves is the way forward. Despite the fact that life in slums is difficult and full of twists and turns a hopeful mind-set for better future is what matters.
We have different backgrounds depending on where we come from and how we were brought up, however one common thing that everyone wants is happiness. If we render ourselves powerless over our environment, then we are likely to become victims of external circumstances hence loss of hope. Change may be a long way off but with hope and determination it will come to pass.
Doreen is 36 years old and works as a Field Officer for Dodore, a PharmAccess partner, supervising various projects in the slums of Nairobi. She also works as a reporter for Global Health Membership and will be posting a story here every two weeks, sharing her experiences on a range of subjects related to access to good health care. Doreen’s stories are based on her work in the Nairobi slums.