Susan Akinyi is the Finance Manager at Mumi Flora Limited. Here is her Story:
“I am the last born in a family of six children. I lost my mum when I was 3 years old in the year 1990. Two years after my mum passed on my dad became so sick; he stopped working and my elder sister Judith who was in high school in form two dropped out of school to help take care of six of us and our ailing dad. End of 1992 I lost my dad too. My elder sister (16 years old) was left with the responsibility of taking care of us. At that age my sister had no option but to start a business of selling chang’aa (an illegal brew) and cooking, where-by we would prepare food for the construction people. We would collect chicken left over parts from dust bins, like the neck and head and the intestines, cook it and sell to our construction customers. We would wait for hours behind restaurants to get the left-over parts, and sometimes we would get nothing. We did that for two years!
“It was during one of the days when we were waiting for the leftover chicken parts when one of the social workers from Wema Centre approached us and told us that she would like to take us to a school instead of waiting there the whole day for the chicken parts. I thanked God that I was going to be very far away from the men (my sister’s chang’aa customers) who would stay till late quenching their alcohol thirst.
“On arrival at Wema we were taken for a tour around the home, for me what I spotted were the swings and the playing ground that was very important to me at that time. The following year I was to start school, I had never gone to school all my life and all my age mates were in standard two. It wasn’t easy but I had to do it, I remember becoming last position in the class. I was in a public school, mixed with children from their homes and their parents, and still I had to perform well no matter what. In Wema working hard academically was not optional and for you to proceed to the next level you had to show that you were trying not going to disappoint.
“In 2001, I was appointed the school Head Girl for Bamburi Primary School and the same year I sat my KCPE and managed to score 335 out of 500 Marks. With this I was taken to Karura SDA Secondary School in Kiambu.
“Meanwhile, my elder sister who was like my mum fell sick and unfortunately passed on. The loss of my sister was a huge blow to me than those of my parents since I was old enough to understand the loss of losing someone and she was part of the reason for me working so hard. The Wema Centre children and staff really supported me during the grieving moment when I lost my sister.
“The Wema Centre community is the best largest family I ever had. All children were equal no matter your background or your past experiences, we were all equal and we got the attention and care and love that we would not have received anywhere outside Wema.
“Life at Wema was very simple and interesting. Every morning we all woke up and the first thing was for everyone to do their cleaning duties, the chores ranged from cleaning the washrooms, the corridors, the dining hall, the Kitchen, the dormitories, or even cleaning the compound as well as preparing breakfast for everyone with the help of the matron. After cleaning you had to prepare for school, take your breakfast and off to school.
“In the evening, on arrival from school we had a thirty -minute time devotion we could praise and worship God and thank him for everything, our chaplain would then wrap it all up by sharing with us a word of God, these were my most favorite moments because I use to lead in the praise and worship songs and I also played the drum (this was a bucket and a stick). We were then required to get into the classes at the Centre for preps and do our homework as well as study from six to eight in the evening then it was time for supper, by half past ten everyone was supposed to be in their beds having sweet dreams. On the weekend we had drama practice time and choir sessions which were a lot of fun. Here we could sing our hearts out or laugh our ribs off from the way the people were acting.
“After high school in the year 2005 the halfway program was introduced. All big girls who were in college or like me had just cleared high school used to stay together at the half-way house with our own kitchen, laundry, and a TV room.
“The objective of the program was to prepare us for the world outside since it is a requirement that after college one should graduate from Wema since they will also be over eighteen years old. In the half way house we could also be given some money for monthly upkeep, this was KES 700 this was intended for you to buy your sanitary towels, bathing and laundry soap, toothpaste, body lotion, may be perfume depending on how you budget, after your shopping your required to submit your receipt to the halfway house mother.
“We also did our own grocery shopping and everyone had a duty of going to the market to buy kitchen stuff, everyone also had his or her duty of cooking as well as cleaning. I never liked cooking (not any more, today I love cooking so much) and I was also not good at it, I only knew how to make ugali for sixty people but I could not even make beef stew for sixteen people.
“Before coming to half way house, every time one needed to leave the centre may be to visit family one would be accompanied by a house mother or teacher or social worker, but at the half way one was free to go wherever they wanted but by six one should be back at the centre. Being at the half way made me very responsible, I learnt how to budget and plan my finances, I learned how to cook and generally how to depend on myself.
“All my life in Wema I was in charge of the Choir, I played soccer and also I represented the Centre at different youth forums. Wema Centre is the best thing that ever happened to me.!
“In form four I was appointed the school Captain. The same year I sat my KCSE exams and managed to score a B-. Due to my performance I got a sponsor who offered to pay my college school fees. I joined Daystar University in 2007. In Daystar I was a sports person all along. I played basketball for our university ladies team and at one point I was the team captain. I worked very hard in Daystar my target was to graduate with honors. In 2009 I vied for the student council my mum (Lucy Yinda), catered for all my campaign expenses. I was successful and was elected the Secretary General for Daystar University Students Association (DUSA).
“I had an opportunity to have my Internship at the United Nations for six months. On the 30th June 2011, I graduated with honors degree in Bachelor of Commerce (Double Major) in Accounting and, Purchasing and Business Logistics.
“As I was awaiting graduation I got a job to work with PharmAccess Foundation, a Dutch NGO which Deals with Health Care, as the Administrator /Office Manager. After my Graduation, Mr. Wachira of Liaison Insurance (Mrs. Yinda brother) sponsored my Masters Studies; again this was an answered prayer, since I wanted to start my Master’s Studies immediately but I did not know how this was going to happen. In 2012 January I started my Master of Science in Finance – Investment Option at the University of Nairobi.
“At the same time I got an opportunity to be the General Manager at Jambo Fish Limited (A fish firm which produces Tilapia and the African Catfish in Large Scale), where I worked for four years and was able to develop my career and managerial skills. I am currently the Finance Manager of Mumi Flora Ltd, a 36 -hectare Flower farm with 600 employees, a position I took late last year (2016) which was a big leap in my career.
“Recently I was invited to join the Board of Directors of The Wema Centre, a position I humbly accepted, which is giving me an opportunity to serve the Wema children and participate in the development of the program.
“I always lack better words of describing Mrs. Lucy Yinda. She is a God send. She is a mother who understands the pain, suffering, rejection, the feeling of being neglected and not having anyone or anywhere to run to, she understands the language of tears, she understands the feeling of being hopeless and vulnerable, of wishing you were never born. She is very loving, with her warm embrace every time she hugs me at least for that moment nothing seems to matter. Wema Children are her nuclear family. Since I joined Wema there is no single Christmas day (25 December) that we never spent without her and her family. They throw the party of the year, food in plenty drinks, entertainment, one would eat dance feel hungry eat again and again and again…until one gets sick.”
JANET MIDDAH is now a wife, mother, and an Assistant HR Manager at Safaricom Limited. Here is her story:
” I lost both my parents when I was very young and found myself all alone with my small sister in the village. After several months of struggling to get food through begging, I decided to run away to any big city where I thought we could get food. I was nine and my sister was six years old. We walked a whole day. When we reached Yala town, I confidently boarded the train. After reaching Kisumu, all I could afford was a drink called Supper Dip – it was only five shillings a packet. We drank it as we waited to board the train heading to Nairobi that evening. When it was announced that the train was leaving in ten minutes, we dashed to secure a place to sit. Once the train was moving, the policemen asked everyone to hold their ticket in the air. I was so frightened and told my sister the best thing to do was for us to rush to the toilet before we were caught without a ticket. We sat there for almost two hours and then eventually went to look for somewhere to sit; however, there was nowhere left so we ended up sitting, and even sleeping a little, on sacks of maize, fish and potatoes.
“When we reached Nairobi in the morning, we just sat and waited and slept at the railway station. The train going to Mombasa was then announced and people started boarding. Fortunately, there were not as many people on this train as the last one so we had somewhere to sit. We saw a friendly-looking woman on the train with two children, so we sat next to her.
“When the police came to check tickets we pretended to be asleep and luckily they just passed us by. Once we got off the train in Mombasa early in the morning, we stayed at the station for the next three days. The people we met there were very friendly, they gave us food, but we didn’t tell them what had happened to us.
“My sister cried continuously wanting to go back home because she was so tired. As we walked looking for food, my sister threw herself on the ground and people started to gather around us. Someone then suggested that we should be taken to the children’s department and two people volunteered to take us there. The children’s department then took us to Wema Centre where were so well received, loved, clothed and above all we met very many other girls and aunties.
“Wema took me to Bamburi Primary School where I studied from 1998 to 2000. I managed to pass well getting 401/700. I then joined St. Josephs Girls secondary in Kibwezi. I was there from 2001-2004 where I sat my secondary examination and passed. I then went on to Daystar University, which is situated in Athi River near Nairobi. I was there from August 2005 – December 2008. While at Daystar, I promised Wema Centre that I would work hard to do my best and I always scored above average in exams.
“The Wema Centre encouraged me to go far in education and I am happy to say that I was the first Wema university graduate. I graduated in June 2009 with a Bachelors degree in Accounting and Business Administration. I also later studied Strategic Management and qualified with a Masters Degree from the University of Nairobi.
“After university, I was fortunate to get a job with Safaricom Limited and was recently promoted to Assistant HR Manager in charge of Wellness, and I am enjoying the job very much. It is a job that offers me plenty of opportunity to be of service to the hurting, giving back and supporting others just as I was supported.
“Wema was my home for the 15 years. It’s a home that I am very proud of. It is my mother and my father and has shaped my life beautifully through continuous love and encouragement. I have a wonderful mentor in my life, my very own mother, Mama Lucy, who has a great passion for her girls to be both educated and empowered. For me she’s the best in the world; and through her hands, she has changed my life in many ways and helped me to have a positive outlook in life.
“In the beginning of 2012, I decided to get married. In our tradition, parents must grant permission by giving their blessings. In this world I only know Lucy Mahihu Yinda as my mother, because she raised me up as her own daughter. It was such a good feeling to break the news to her and she was so happy for me. From introducing my fiancé, to the family visits on both sides – everything went Perfectly. I have been married now for four years and have a wonderful loving husband, two boys and a daughter. I thank God, for He has helped me to be where I am today.”