The sights, sounds and smells of the market cannot easily be described, they just have to be experienced, and as three bazungu we hardly blended into the background. In general people were amazed to see us and most just wanted to say hello, especially if they spoke any English. From those touting their wares to the porters offering to carry our purchases to the car, we drew quite a bit of attention. Despite our desire to purchase a ton of brightly coloured fabric, we were actually there to visit the stalls of some of the beneficiaries of the Loan4Hope Project. We learned how the loan had helped them to grow their businesses, provide for their families and restored hope. The ladies all attended their local churches and gave thanks to God for His blessings on them.
Then off to Kimironko Parish where Pastor Maurice is the full time pastor, although he is not the ‘main man’. We were delighted to visit his parish and learn about some of the challenges they face. Whilst many of the homes by the church were quite affluent the parish also encompasses the slums.
The recurring challenge on this visit is that of underage mums rejected by their families. Accessing vocational training is their best hope for the future but of course the fees are beyond their means. We paid a quick visit to a privately run Christian Vocational Training Centre to see the courses on offer. This is an area we will explore once we are home.
After a very pleasant lunch Maurice drove us back to Nyarutarama where we visited Alphonse, one of our sponsored children, and his mum Alphonsine. We were surprised when we pulled up outside a very grand gated property and saw Alphonse peering through the railings. All became clear when Maurice explained how Alphonsine had had to run away from her violent and abusive husband leaving her 5 year old son with his paternal grandmother. She was taken in by an elderly widow in the church as a house maid, she then discovered she was pregnant. Fortunately the lady allowed her to stay and they now share her home. her other son remains with his grandmother. For now they are safe, but with no other income we daren’t think what will happen to them once the old lady dies.
After a short drive into the slums on the edge of the city, and a less than secure bridge to negotiate, we met with Nice, a sponsored child, her mum Grace and her sister Sarah. We had been moved by Grace’s joyful and enthusiastic worship in the church on Sunday, and marvelled at her appropriate name. She is the most elegant, serene and graceful lady and she and her children are immaculate. As the children took us by the hands and led us further into the slums, up tiny alleys where Joff’s shoulders touched each wall, we were once again the subject of curious stares. As filthy children teemed around us and dejected adults watched on suspiciously, we didn’t get the impression buzungu often ventured into this area.
And then we arrived at their front door, “come in, you are welcome” we were told. The windowless room measured about 6ft x 6ft and served as a bedroom separated from the front area by a curtain, with one mattress reaching from wall to wall, and a living room, all their worldly goods were neatly stacked in the corner and along the side wall. Water is collected from the tap in the alleyway, cooking is done on a fire outside and we assume there is a communal long drop at the end of one of the alleys, we were not going for a look!!! As we all squeezed into her tiny room, 7 adults and 2 children (on our laps), we could not imagine how this wonderful lady could possibly remain so smart and elegant. The children proudly showed us their toys, a tiny teddy and a ball. We learned how 3 year old Sarah is left alone in the alley while Grace goes to work. The door has to be locked for security and Sarah is apparently inventive as she passes the time outside. Grace cleans at the Cathedral but cannot afford to put Grace into nursery. Nice also waits outside once she returns from school.
We shared a time of prayer before we left this amazing family with tears in our eyes. How can we possibly help this family? Sadly there are so many others living in these conditions. We are throwing the starfish back but it feels like the tide is going out.