Susan Owuor Njuguna
I am a mum to 27 children within the age bracket of 1 – 17 years.
I was born in Kiambu in a Family of 4 girls and 7 boys where helping the underprivileged was the norm. Our home could be loosely referred to as a ‘refugee camp’. Children from the neighbourhood would always come over in the name of watching TV but I later realized that they came for the food. My mum would always feed them whenever they came. Our home was their solace. My dad had a pick up that he used to bring us firewood. It was our responsibility as the children to take some firewood to the elderly in the neighbourhood. Woe unto you if you left the home of the elderly the way you found it. We were expected to do the chores for them and check whether they had food to eat.
I studied Automotive Engineering at Nairobi Technical Institute. During my college days I reached out to the street kids on my way school and would give them food my mum had sent from home or the few shillings I could spare. My friends often joked that I should start a Children’s home but I considered it something either unlearned people or old people did. After college, I struggled to find employment so I worked as a jua kali in Kiambu. This is where I met my husband.
My husband ventured out and started his own business in Kayole where we moved to. I became more involved in helping the vulnerable children in the neighbourhood. Some of the children were orphans while others had parents who were bedridden and couldn’t provide for them. I took some children into my home and we lived in a one bedroomed house with 7 children of which only two were biologically mine. My husband was however, very supportive. To cater for their fees, I offered to teach at some local schools and in place of my salary, I requested the children be enrolled in these schools.
Apart from teaching, I volunteered at a number of homes. I did not like the experiences though. Most of the homes wanted the children to look miserable and distraught so that they would attract donations from ‘wazungus’. I wanted to break the norm and create an environment that would instill hope in rescued children. In 2009, Elroi Hope Centre was born.
My husband passed away in 2011. It was a hard time as I had not had a regular source of income for over four years and a number of children were relying on me. My in- laws, friends and the volunteers I met along the way were very supportive. One particular foreigner who heard about my work from my former students, offered to cater for my rent. This encouraged me to move to a two bedroomed house with my increased number of 17 children.
I took an Urban Farming and Waste Management course at the local hall in Kayole. With the newly acquired skills, I started an urban farm and started making brickettes which got me featured in a number of TV programmes. The publicity helped me get more funds for the kids I had and enabled me to rescue even more children. We also developed a Music project with the kids that gave us a chance to go to statehouse in 2017 which gave us more publicity and attracted more funds.
God has been faithful. We feed on prayers, hope and faith.
The kids inspire me. I want to give them hope, raise their esteem, mentor them and touch their lives. Only when you have hope can you give hope. If I give them hope, they can pass it on.
My goal is to have a home offering hope and opportunities. To have a place we can call our own that is bigger, with space for the children to play and even a shamba. For the children, I would like them to grow in talent and have an internationally recognized band. Long term, I would like to reach out to the youth and start a vocational training centre where they learn waste management, arts and other skills.
My message to Kenyans is we should continue to support each other. We can stand together as the Kenyan people. If you give wholeheartedly, God will bless you. Continue giving. Do not get weary of doing good. Be blessed to bless.