Community Update

World Pulse Toolkits Available!

At World Pulse, we recognize the need for ongoing learning—for you and for your community! Our toolkits are all available here.

We are especially excited to share our signature Citizen Journalism and Digital Empowerment Curriculum. Start learning today!

From Grace to Grass: A Family’s Agony after Loss of Breadwinner

violet_atieno_during_the_visit.JPG

Meet a 37-year-old widow and mother of six in her struggle against all odds to put ends together and give hope to her children in the face of harsh economic conditions. Violet Atieno’s dreams of a better life for her family were cut short after her husband, Paul Aluoch, a taxi driver by then, was shot dead in August 2005. And according to her and her family, all their hopes were buried on that sad dark, gloomy Saturday as they said farewell to their breadwinner.
“I did not know where to start from especially after his family came to demand for ‘their son’s’ property, claiming that I was in a bid to short-change them,” she says.

Widowed at 33 and without any professional training in any field because she dropped out of school in form two after getting pregnant at 17, her journey has been a nightmare in her quest to feed six hungry mouths, give them education, shelter and all the basic needs that they require. She recounts how painful it was when her husband’s relatives came knocking, took away everything that they had build together with her husband and left the family without any source of income. “We had to move from a posh two-bed roomed rental house from an up market estate to Kiambiu slum,” she said. Kiambiu is a fast-growing slum in Nairobi’s Eastlands that harbors a population of about 50,000 residents. And it is this temporary-sheltered, poorly-drained, no electricity place that Violet and her children have called home for the past four years.

“Welcome to my home,” she says, ushering me in a dark, one-roomed, tin and sheet-walled shanty that could barely hold two creaky chairs, a bed and some kitchenette, leave alone its seven occupants. As my eyes get accustomed to the dim room, I see several pieces of cloth hanging on the tin wall, just complimenting the dangling soot strands from the low-lying roof. But the house occupants do not seem to mind anything…they are used to everything, she says. I also see someone lying on a mat at a corner, the sheets barely covering the legs. I later learn it was Eugene, her second born son. Eugene’s face and hands had bruises all over; some were big wounds that were just healing. “He developed a strange disease in late 2005 that has now evolved to full-blown epilepsy,” she said, adding that Eugene was just recuperating from the injuries he got from the last incident that occurred last Sunday.

Eugene never went beyond primary eight due to this disease that occurs occasionally and leaves him with physical, emotional and psychological bruises. His mother has no financial capacity to link him to a hospital where he can get special medication. “I have left everything to God,” she says. I try to engage Eugene in a talk, asking him how he felt after he sat on a chair. He only looks at me and shakes his head. I understand and bother him no more.

I get so curious as to how Violet manages to put all her troubles in one basket and carry them around. “I take odd jobs ranging from washing dishes and clothes to selling porridge by the wayside to plaiting and braiding people’s hair,” she tells me. But this, she says does not amount to anything much to cater for her family’s needs. Being in a slum, the chances for such jobs are hard to come by due to competition, and they are usually lowly-paid. “The most that I make per day is Kshs. 300 (about US $ 3.75), which I spent on food,” she says, pain written all over her face. Leaving ‘from hand to mouth’ leaves her with no savings to settle her Kshs. 1,000 monthly rent and any other needs, considering that she has 18-year-old Eugene who requires special attention.

The family has come this far through donations from friends and well-wishers. When her husband died, her first born son, Ferdinand, was in high school and despite completing his O’levels in 2006, getting a job has been a problem because he never furthered his education due to lack of school fees. Don, her third born is in form one at a local school, courtesy of a well-wisher, same to Diana who is now in Primary eight, courtesy of The Church Army Community Scholarship. And if you think her worries are over, you are wrong… “I don’t know how Diana will join high school because the scholarship only caters for her primary education,” she says.

Violet’s wish is to get some training in hair dressing so that she can have a better bargain in a decent job search. “If only we could get an organization that supports widows, or a better infrastructure where we could access micro-loans or Women’s fund, that could raise me out of this,” she says. As I leave her, my heart is heavy, just thinking about this widow who vowed never to be inherited after her husband’s death due to high rates of HIV/AIDS. I am still thinking about her…

violet_and_her_family_before_death_of_her_husband.JPG
violet_and_i_during_the_interview_in_her_home_.JPG
eugene_and_i_during_the_visit.JPG
inside_her_shanty.JPG

Downloads

Comments

Victoria Vorosciuc's picture

Compassion

That is a very touching story...

I was recently in a bus for 19 hours drive, when a woman behind had an epilepsy crisis. That scared me so much that I did not know how to react. Luckily there was somebody studying at medical university who gave her first aid help.

Now I can imagine what Violet is going through as a mother. Or even I don't, considering it is her experience. Oh, having numerous children and being betrayed by her passed away husband's family, who could have thought that one day life can suddenly turn it's back to her.

Really - this story must be heard...

I visited Kenya and Kibera slum there, and I was struck by the situation there... No words to comment...

Poverty, Street Children, and more of that...

Now, as a mother she wants definitely yo give education and better living to her children, as well as release Eugene's pain. She tries talking to him, that all she can do... What else? She cannot solve all the problems, because she is the main one to bring food to home.

I wish I could come around with a friend of mine who is a hair dresser and who could teach her and some women for free the hair dressing techniques. But the road is long and costly...

I would like to hear more updates on Violet and her family as for now, I will make positive wishes for her and can I get her mail address, thinking of writting a letter of encouragement... Does she speak English?

Good job - Joannes!

This Article touched me...

I am wordless now...

With compassion and deep respect for Violet,

Victoria Vorosciuc
from Moldova

P.S. Please send me more updates.

Victoria Vorosciuc
Project Coordinator
"Empowering women to participate
in community life"
WorldPulse Media Corresspondent

Joannes's picture

Poverty

Vic,

It is indeed sad how things can turn out unexpectedly. Epilepsy is real and it is sad that most victims in my country and Africa as a whole are stigmatized. Thanks for your kind words and wishes to Violet. Unfortunately, she doesn't have an email address but she speaks basic English. I will probably update you more through your email address. Thanks a lot.

God's blessings,

Joannes.

We Can Do It!
Joannes

Victoria Vorosciuc's picture

:) H O P E

I am looking forward to hear from u!

What about postal address? She has one?

Victoria Vorosciuc
Project Coordinator
"Empowering women to participate
in community life"
WorldPulse Media Corresspondent

JaniceW's picture

Powerful

Joanne, this is at once heartbreaking but also uplifting for all the lengths Violet goes to to keep her family together, cared for and provided for. I am inspired by her courage, her love for her children and her dedication to them. She is the voice of so many families destroyed or living under extremely difficult circumstances after the death of a father and husband. The first photo says it all. This wonderfully happy family who now have an uncertain future but are bound by their love for each other.

Are you still in touch with her? Kiva.org is an organization that connects people around the world through lending for the sake of alleviating poverty. Kiva enables field partners, microfinance institutions (MFIs), to raise debt capital directly from social investors via the Internet. There is one field partner in Kenya that might be able to help Violet receive training in hairdressing so that she could run her own business. If you go to the link, you will see the contact information at the bottom of the page.

http://www.kiva.org/about/aboutPartner?id=92
The Opportunity International Network is a global coalition of microfinance organizations which provide transformational microfinance services to over 1 million poor entrepreneurs in 28 countries. For over 35 years, Opportunity International has provided its clients with access to financial services, training and capital to expand their businesses and their lives.

If you speak with her, please let her know that there are many sisters around the world who are holding her in their light and sending her their best wishes. Thank you for bringing us Violet's story and the story of so many widows in Kenya.
Salamu za upendo!

Joannes's picture

MFIs

Janice,

Thanks for the insights. Thanks again for feeling for Violet too. I am still looking through the kiva website to see whether i can connect her there because we are still in touch. It is a pity that she doesnt have an email adress, neither does she have access to internet due to her financial situation. Please, do not heatate to post any more websites on organizations that can be of help, or arent we creating a world of possibilities?

Salamu nyingi na ubarikiwe dada!

Joanne.

We Can Do It!
Joannes

Victoria Vorosciuc's picture

I n s p i r a t i o n!

I am happy you did such a great job providing some useful info as to where Violet could address for help.

Wish I could raise a thumb up for you... But I don't have the proper symbols, and besides, who knows what that could mean in another culter...

Bravo anyway!!!

Space is opportuniy!

Victoria Vorosciuc
Project Coordinator
"Empowering women to participate
in community life"
WorldPulse Media Corresspondent

Victoria Vorosciuc's picture

Space is opportuniy!

I am happy you did such a great job providing some useful info as to where Violet could address for help.

Wish I could raise a thumb up for you... But I don't have the proper symbols, and besides, who knows what that could mean in another culter...

Bravo anyway!!!

Space is opportuniy!

Victoria Vorosciuc
Project Coordinator
"Empowering women to participate
in community life"
WorldPulse Media Corresspondent

giftypearl.abenaab's picture

Joannes, This story

Joannes,
This story tell me another angle of poverty-an issue that is dear to my heart. i am working on helping women to assertive and economic independent so that in times like this they can still live a live free of poverty.
The story is so touching.

Gifty Pearl Abenaab
Founder
Greight Foundation
www.greightfoundation.org

Dando's picture

Hi sweetie!

This story brings out the reality of the marginized in society. I feel for Violet, at such an age she is already a widow and burden with children to care for. I just pray that God will answer her prayers. please link her to the organisation that JaniceW talked about.

thanks for sharing, and God bless you!

with Love

Nusrat Ara's picture

This story nicely brings out

This story nicely brings out how things can be different for women. Meaning the relatives took everything away, had the woman of the house died nothing would have gone even if it was her property. The society and circumstances keep women without education or other job related skills and when she is in distress like the lady in ur story they take away the sources as well like her property.

I wish women reason how important it is to be educated and finacially independent or atleast have some skill. They should not only have the realisation but aslo act. try to update themselves even if in a small way like learning a skill. and ensure that thier childtren especailly daughters don't suffer from this handicap.

Nusrat

lindalubin's picture

Extraordinarily powerful story

I am so deeply moved by this story, and the way you have brought Violet's life to us, touching our hearts, opening our minds, rekindling our desire to help make this world a better place for women. When I read this, I was right there in the shanty with you. This is writing at it's most powerful and effective. Even with the struggles you are dealing with in your own life, you are able to connect deeply with Violet. Thank you for all you are doing to shed light on the lives of those who are rarely seen or heard.

Linda

Magazine »

Read global coverage through women's eyes

PHOTO ESSAY: The Dreams in Their Eyes

PHOTO ESSAY: The Dreams in Their Eyes

Community »

Connect with women on the ground worldwide

On Women's Agency in Southern Africa

On Women's Agency in Southern Africa

Campaigns »

Be heard at influential forums

WWW: Women Weave the Web

WWW: Women Weave the Web

Programs »

Help us train women citizen journalists

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

World Pulse Voices of Our Future

Blog »

Read the latest from World Pulse headquarters

Welcome, Women in the World!

Welcome, Women in the World!

Partners »

Join forces with our wide network of partners

Nobel Women's Initiative

Nobel Women's Initiative