Like hundreds of internally displaced people, James Mwangi was uprooted from his home in Burnt Forest when violence broke out following the disputed presidential elections last December.
With his family, he fled the small, hilly town in the Rift Valley and found refuge at his relatives’ home in Limuru, Kiambu.
Others who were not so lucky had to live at the Limuru Word of Faith Church, which had set up a temporary shelter for the displaced families.
But now, thanks to one woman’s generosity, Mwangi’s and 39 other displaced families have a reason to look forward to the future with hope.
They can start life afresh after receiving a land donation from Mrs Salome Lenana, a 49-year-old Nairobi businesswoman. Salome gave the families 12 acres of land near the boundary of Nyeri and Laikipia East districts.
“I did not donate the land out of abundance,” says Salome who revealed that the farm was part of a parcel that she and her sister inherited from their mother.
“I was touched by the deplorable conditions the families lived in,” she said. But before she could give away the land, she had to consult her sister who is married in the US.
Thankfully, her sister agreed with her. And last Thursday, the beneficiaries left their temporary shelter in Limuru to start their lives afresh in their new home.
Salome was at the church when the lorries ferrying the 40 families were flagged off by the permanent secretary for Special Programmes, Mr Ali Mohamed. In a speech she gave before the journey started, Salome described the families as “true heroes”.
“Having to endure life in a camp for nine months is no mean task. I wish you God’s blessings as you start life afresh,” she told the overjoyed families.
Ironically, when the group arrived at Wiyumiririe, off the Nyahururu-Nyeri highway, they had to spend the night at the shopping centre because it had rained so heavily that the road to their new home was impassable, although the land was only 11 kilometres from the shopping centre.
However, this hiccup did not stop area residents from celebrating the arrival of their new neighbours. The night before the group arrived, the residents lit bonfires to keep themselves warm as they waited for the group to arrive.
When it dawned on them that the group would not be arriving due to the heavy rain, the women in — a rare show of sacrifice — boarded an open pick-up truck and travelled to Wiyumiririe to deliver food to the arriving families.
There was song and dance as the new arrivals and their hosts turned the humble meal of tripe (matumbo) and mukimo, a local delicacy, into a feast.
When Justice, Reconciliation and Constitutional Affairs minister Martha Karua heard about Salome’s generosity, she said: “What the family has done does not indicate that they are the richest in the country but it demonstrates that they have a human face.”
Other well wishers were equally candid. “Well done Salome for your love and compassion to humanity.
“You are a true hero who should be emulated. God bless,” says one admirer in as SMS to the mother of three who has been married to Mr Alfred Lenana Wambugu for the last 28 years.
According to Salome, she would not have made the decision without the support of her husband, whom she describes as her “number one supporter”.
But what has inspired her the most is the willingness of other people to follow her example. “I am touched but my message remains the same: Come out and assist where you can,” she says.
Generosity is not Salome’s only unique attribute. Besides being a vegetarian, she has three children all of who have only African names: Wambugu Lenana, 27, who works in Australia, Nyokabi Lenana who is pursuing a journalism degree in the US and the last born, Wanjiru Lenana.
Back in Wiyumiririe, James Mwangi asked the Government to fully implement the Waki report to punish the perpetrators of the post-election violence.
“I am still apprehensive about returning to my farm in Burnt Forest because of the hatred instigated by a few individuals.
“I urge the Government to take decisive action to stop such violence in the future,” he said.
Mr Omar Harsi Salat, who spoke on behalf of Special Programmes PS Ali Mohammed, promised to ensure that additional amenities such as running water were installed and the road improved to ease access to the area.
Each of the affected individuals received Sh35,000. They were also given enough food to last three months.