(YENYEWE)I fell in love today. Hook, line and sinker. It was pretty simple. The object of this affection was Robaim Mkoto and she is 74 years old. Before you start making those faces and cursing me for stuff you are dreaming up I will offer a scandal-free explanation. Work has a component called screening which requires us to meet possible candidates for our community sessions. Today this less than sprightly young lady walked in and sat down in front of me with the kindest smile I had ever seen. Her face, lined with wrinkles from both age and the elements, showed experience in things I could only imagine.
On this cold morning, we hunched over a questionnaire as we worked our way through the relevant information. She was a grandmother taking care of her late daughter’s children. This wasn’t mentioned as a fact but rather an emotional outpouring. Tears were blinked back as this woman confided in me like an old friend. After having raised her own children, she found herself raising her grandchildren in her twilight years. Work done, she rose up on her unsteady legs and thanked me for the time. At the door, she stopped and said she would pray for us both.
I find it hard to imagine what her life is like. The screening process has stories like hers. Many of them. Later in the day I get snapshots of what these people’s lives are about. Their hopes, their dreams, their struggles. There is something surreal about it. As if it’s off the pages of a book. Some surprise me by how young they were when they had their first children. I do the math in my head. Thirteen, some fourteen, most too young.
One question that puts a smile on my face is about occupation. The choices offered include ‘unemployed’. Through the whole process no one says they are unemployed or looking for work. It’s a luxury they can’t afford. You are always working here. It’s not much of a choice.
The insight ends with questions about school and the refrain I get is that most didn’t make it past primary school. It’s the only answer that seems is delivered with what looks like disappointment. Few look me in the eye when they reply to this. It’s an answer they wish were different. Robaim has a glint in her eye when she answers. The last time she was in class was in 1947 and back then her classes were outside and they would scribble on the ground with sticks.
I’ve seen many faces today. Talked to many people. (I have no idea why but Kibera has a ridiculous number of Evaline’s) But the one person that stands out is Robaim. Her sacrifice. Her strength. Her hope for the future. Today I fell in love with that little grey haired lady.