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Mother Of An Orphaned Boy Seeking Self Reliance

She has seen Orphaned and Vulnerable Children (OVCs) grow up to begin their own life outside foster care, since she arrived at Nyumbani children’s home, she has become a mother to all and when young Shawn expressed desire to begin a new life outside Nyumbani children’s home, she could not accept it but time has come, the young boy was now an adult and needed to create a vacancy for another like him

Read a story of Hellen and Shawn

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Mother Of An Orphaned Boy Seeking Self Reliance

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Writer - Edna Kivuva

Helen Oyombera has worked as social worker at Nyumbani children’s home for more than five years now. A widow and mother of three, she has nurtured and seen young boys and girls grow into adults, many who are still at the children’s home look upon her as a mother.

In a lively interview, Helen could not hide her joy when she shared her most precious memory of her time at Nyumbani.

She tells us a story of Shawn*, a young man she has nurtured since childhood. Having taken care of Shawn, Hellen feels excited sharing the life and times of this amazing young man.

It is time for him to leave Nyumbani Children’s Home, not because the management of Nyumbani want him to leave but because Shwan wants to start a new life outside of his comfort zone.

When Helen first heard about Shawn’s intention to begin life outside Nyumbani, he had mixed feelings about the young man’s decision; it was a delicate state of affairs since the well mannered young boy would be a first to be released from Nyumbani.

She says “As a mother it is always difficult to accept that your child has grown up and can now be independent” she narrates, “I asked him why he has decided to leave.”

Asked why he thought it was right for him to begin a new life outside Nyumbani Chuildren’s Home, the young man said that he was creating a vacancy for another needy child to benefit just like he has gained.

Shawn joined Nyumbani Children’s in 1998, during a period of transition fuelled by the introduction of effective antiretroviral medication. Nyumbani witnessed a major decrease in child mortality thanks to careful drug adherence, a good diet and love.

Young Shawn grew up to become a friendly and polite boy. The founder of Nyumbani, the late Father Angelo D’Agostino, had entrusted Shawn to run errands because he was honest and hardworking. In return Fr. D’Agostino took Shawn to a driving school while he was still in his secondary school.

In preparation for his move Shawn had enrolled for a course in clearing and forwarding. This gave him an advantage in the job market and helped him secure a job. He also began to invest in house wares which he kept at his dormitory at Nyumbani.

Helen recalls, “I was surprised that he had bought a meko, sufurias, utensils and a few cutleries. He did not have a bed or a mattress but he was determined become independent.”

Nyumbani engaged an uncle to help him look for a house of his specifications. Once a suitable house was secured the Nyumbani community helped him move in and organized a joyful farewell party which all of the children and the staff attended.

The Nyumbani community recognizes the importance of raising the children in an upright manner. They strive to help each child develop into responsible and independent adults. Helen described some of the ways they achieve this.

Children must wash their school uniforms daily and are expected to help out in their cottages. They are given more responsibilities as they become older and help the house moms look after the youngsters. Secondary school children use public transportation to get to and from their boarding schools.

This enables them to be independent so that when they join college they will not have a hard time living in the hostels and interacting with other people in society.

“It is important that the children gain the life-skills they need to live outside Nyumbani. We do not want them to grow up in a cocoon. They are not invalids and we do not want them to grow up feeling different than other children.”

Nyumbani Children’s Home has had some hard times, especially when a child succumbs to HIV related opportunistic diseases. Thankfully this has not occurred in the past three years. This is a hard time for both the staff and the children.

During such times Helen and other staff members do a lot of counseling and therapy with the children to help them deal with the tragic loss. It also pains Helen to see the children at Nyumbani loose out on opportunities because of their HIV status. For example, one child was forced to give up on their dream of working as a cabin crew member as it would require a yellow fever vaccination. This live vaccine is potentially dangerous to those living with suppressed immune systems.

One project that Helen is particularly passionate about is the reintegration of the children with their surviving relatives. This allows the children to learn about their family roots and is an opportunity to educate their families about the reality of living with HIV. She helps organize visits and encourages the families to host their children over school breaks.

She expresses joy about children who have gone on to study at universities and colleges across Kenya. “we have two pursuing  Bachelors of Science in Information technology at the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) and the Kenya College of Accountancy University (KCA) and one studying Law at Catholic University (CUEA)” she says.

“Another one is studying for a Diploma in Tourism at the Nairobi Aviation College and yet another will soon be starting a diploma in Social Work at the Kenya Institute of Social Work and Community Development” she says.

This is all the more remarkable in light of the challenges that Nyumbani has faced in the past. In the 1990s, “many public primary schools would withdraw their admission when they learnt our children were living positively.

The late father D’agostino had to fight through the corridors of justice, to see to it that our children were not denied the right to acquire an education.”

Helen described that when Father D’Agostino died many people feared that Nyumbani would cease to exist. The current Executive director has kept the fire burning in Nyumbani. The other collegues include: Protus Lumiti (Chief Manager), Sister Theresa (Medical Head) and Sister Ann (Diagnostic Laboratory Head).The house moms and uncles along with the rest of the staff are vital in providing a nurturing home for the children.

By Edna Kivuva          

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