Capital FM (Nairobi)

Kenya: A Dance With Poverty

Nairobi — In a tiny six-by-six feet single roomed house in Githurai, Nairobi lives 52-year-old divorcee Teresiah Wairimu, with her five children.

Food, shelter and clothing have become a luxury she can barely afford.

A few dirty dishes lie scattered around the poorly lit room that has been subdivided into a kitchen, a living room and a bedroom.

Wairimu, who has danced with poverty most of her life, knows too well what it means to live from hand to mouth.

"We only eat when there is money because I cannot afford the upkeep. Meals here are not a guarantee and we make do with what we have," she tells Capital FM News.

Her back has become accustomed to the rigid and torturous panels of wood that form the support base of her bed.

Even though she has tried to improvise a thicker mattress by sticking old rugs and sacks to the old one, back pains have become the order of the day.

"When people give you help they tell you not to go back to them; in fact they stop picking up my calls because they think that I am asking for money," she says with a tinge of sadness.

But it does not stop there:

Her son has to trek for about 10 kilometers every morning to join his colleagues at the Kamiti Secondary School. And like every mother, Wairimu wants the best for her children but life seems to have turned its back on her.

"When I was young I dreamed of having my own home and making sure that my children got the best of everything but it has become very difficult and I sometimes feel like my children blame me for this lifestyle," she explains.

"Sometimes when I talk to them I feel like they would have wanted to be born under better circumstances," she says while staring at the ceiling.

For Wairimu, going back to her parents' home in Gatanga, Murang'a County, is out of the question.

She says she prefers living in poverty in Nairobi rather than in her rural home where nine of her siblings share her parents' three acre farm.

"I can't go back to my parents' home because I have nine siblings; five brothers and four sisters who live on a three acre piece of land. I cannot go back because it will only make things worse," she explains.

"Their living space is already small enough as it is and my siblings also have children so how can I go back home? Where will we live?" she asks.

Wairimu, who recently had some fibroids removed from her uterus, has also had to forego the pain killers because she cannot afford them.

Her hospital documents lie under the bed collecting dust because she has given up on treatment.

"Kenyatta National Hospital has become very expensive because I have to part with Sh550 for an X-ray and when you add the bus fare it becomes even more expensive and I cannot afford. I have had to make tough life choices," she says.

"The painkillers are beyond my means," she says regrettably.

Moreover Wairimu, who used to eke out a living carrying from domestic chores before old age caught up with her, hasn't paid Sh1,200 rent for the past five moths.

She knows she could get kicked out at any time and has resorted to playing cat and mouse games with her landlord.

"I think I am just lucky and I have a good landlord because things could be worse. I wake every day not knowing whether I'll still have a roof over my head come evening," she reveals.

Yet with all the hardships that surround her, Wairimu still exhibits a strong sense of faith that her situation will one day look up.

For now however her prayer is that her two school going sons get sponsored to complete their high school education and end the cycle of poverty that has taken its toll on the family.

"If I can get someone to educate them I will be at peace. I just want them to study because they have a desire to learn and I do not want them to lose out any more than they already have," she pleads.

You can reach Teresiah Wairimu on 0721363245

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