What you need to know:
- Mr Musyoki says his blindness resulted from his mother’s failure to seek treatment when she suffered a measles attack while pregnant with him.
- Mr Musyoki started begging on the streets in order to meet the increased responsibility of feeding a pregnant wife.
- Their main problem is that they are both jobless and have to struggle to support their four daughters aged between 10 and 28 years.
Paul Musyoki and Jacinta Syombua have been married for 20 years, yet they have never seen each other. You see, they are both blind.
Mr Musyoki, 59, says his blindness resulted from his mother’s failure to seek treatment when she suffered a measles attack while pregnant with him.
On the other hand, Ms Syombua, 48, says her blindness could be hereditary, since many of her maternal relatives have been born blind.
But the two have no doubt that if they were to live their lives all over again, they would choose each other.
Despite their difficult circumstances, the Musyokis’ are determined to live their lives to the fullest.
And although their life has its ups and downs like any other couple’s, their commitment to, and love for, each other is touching.
In fact, they say that only death will separate them.
“It might seem odd to you that we live together without seeing each other … but we feel each other … We have bonded so well … But I would not blame you … I would also feel confused if we were to receive sight and start seeing each other,” Ms Syombua says.
Their main problem is that they are both jobless and have to struggle to support their four daughters aged between 10 and 28 years, two of whom are also blind while the other two are partially blind.
But despite their financial handicap, they have managed to send their daughters to school: two are pursuing secondary education at Thika School for the Blind while the last born is in Standard Five. The eldest is married.
“Ours is a life of relying on God’s unfailing grace, with whose help we would want to succeed like other families, irrespective of our disability. We intended to live a normal life and we have succeeded. We live a day at time, knowing that tomorrow might bring us good tidings,” Mr Musyoki says, adding, “It is a life of faith and hope”.
HOW THEIR LOVE BEGAN?
“She, too, was blind, and we met at a forum that brought together people with disabilities in the slum. I could not see her but from her liveliness and the way she articulated issues during the meeting, I developed this mental picture of her as a beautiful and gracious woman,” Mr Musyoki recalls.
And what was it that endeared him to her?
She says she was attracted by “the sweet voice I heard as he made his contribution at the forum”.
“He kept our meetings lively and at times entertained us with songs in Kikamba as we waited for the speakers,” she recalls with amusement.
Gradually, she became friends with Musyoki, “whom I could not see, but could identify with on matters of the heart”.
As they got to know each other better, Musyoki would invite her to his shack, which she accepted since she enjoyed his company.
“I only realised that we had been living as husband and wife four months into our relationship when I conceived,” she says.
Mr Musyoki interrupts saying that he was elated to learn that despite being blind, he would be having a child of his own.
Ms Syombua’s pregnancy marked the turning point in the couple’s life as they came to terms with the reality that they would soon have an extra mouth to feed.
“That [his wife’s pregnancy] made me realise that I could no longer afford to depend on random donors to put food on the table. I knew that an expanded family meant higher bills. I was determined to be the head of the family and play my role effectively,” he says.
While dating, they say, they were comfortable with each other’s disability and had discussed how they would live together in future.
Interestingly, Ms Syombua says, she had initially promised herself never to get married, but all thoughts of remaining a spinster for life vanished when she met Mr Musyoki.
“My darling was very convincing as he proposed to me. He told me that if I married a man who could see, and given the domestic violence we had been hearing about on the radio, I risked being murdered if ever we quarrelled,” she reveals.
COST OF LIVING
She adds that to bolster his argument, Mr Musyoki told her that if she married him, he would not be able to “discipline” her even if they quarrelled since he couldn’t see.
“He made it appear normal in his usual humorous way,” she says. “But those were only sweet nothings to liven up our dating. I had already made up my mind to marry to him. And so we moved in together, after which I got pregnant,” she recalls.
With no prospects of getting jobs or the financial means to start a business, Mr Musyoki started begging on the streets in order to meet the increased responsibility of feeding a pregnant wife.
“I told my wife in no uncertain terms that I would never allow her to accompany me to the streets. It was my responsibility to earn money and take it home to keep us going,” he says.
Like many other couples, they are complaining about the increasing cost of living.
Mr Musyoki says that when they started living together in 1995, they were paying Sh150 a month for their single-room shack.
“Today, we are paying Sh1,000 for the same house, where we live with our three daughters. The only reprieve is that they are all in boarding school and their school fees is paid by the government,” he says.
When their daughters are in school, Mr Musyoki says, he and his wife need only Sh200 a day to survive.
But when the girls are at home, their daily budget shoots up to Sh500 since they have to buy more water for washing as well as more paraffin or charcoal for cooking and warming their bath water.
Mr Musyoki says he is up to the task of being the family’s breadwinner.
“I will not allow my wife or any of my daughters to go and beg on the streets for as long as I live. It is my responsibility as the breadwinner of the family. It is up to me to solicit for financial assistance using any lawful means and I intend to play that role until I die, or until God blesses us,” he says.
But even as they wait for that blessing, they are seeking help from other people.
Ms Syombua says they have tried to get audience with First Lady Margaret Kenyatta, Nairobi Senator Mike Mbuvi, through his Sonko Rescue Team, Kiambu Governor William Kabogo and Thika MP Alice Ng’ang’a.
“After contacting the MP and the governor we managed to get bursaries for our daughters. If only we could reach the others; the blessing we have in mind would materialise. But we are a prayerful family and know that our prayers will be answered one day,” Mr Musyoki says.
He adds that such a blessing could come in the form of a well-wisher giving them a place to call their own, or setting up an income-generating project for them, or empowering their daughters to live full, meaningful lives.
The couple says that despite the hype about funds for the disabled and the elderly, they haven’t been able to access either.
“My husband recently visited the chief’s office to enquire how we could be included in the list of beneficiaries for the two funds but he was told that we are not poor, and therefore, did not qualify."
"However, I was later told by those in the know that if I were willing to be introduced to someone to whom I would have to give a cut of my monthly stipend, I would qualify instantly,” she says.
Mr Musyoki picks up the story saying he was more than ready to do that, but was further advised that he could only be trusted to play along if he raised Sh3, 000 upfront to grease the facilitator’s palm.
“I left, optimistic that I would raise the Sh3,000 and give it to whoever would help me get the cash for the disabled. If that cash could earn me a little more every month, I would be alright. But to date, I have not been able to raise the money,” he says.
But even as they seek help as they wait expectantly their blessings, they say they will continue living to the best of their ability, determined to show the world that their visual impairment is not a serious impediment to their eking out a living and making the best of their circumstances.