Elizabeth Macharia was orphaned at a young age. Now a mother of four, she selflessly takes care of the unwanted and unloved people in the streets of Mombasa. She narrates her story.
“I am a housewife and I sell flour, but I have been using my earnings to feed the street children at Maboxini and Mwakirunge in Mombasa County.
They are my children. Some need financial help and food but others just want to be treated like humans. The children embrace me every time I visit.
I was born in 1984 in Lari, Kiambu County, in a family of seven. I was only seven years old when my mother died. Six months later, my father remarried and that is when the nightmare began. He changed.
Our stepmother came with three other children who were older than me. I was still dealing with the emotions of losing my mother and I would quarrel with the children and my father always sided with them.
My stepmother did not like me. She used to make me do all the house chores. My father worked as a security officer in a school and, even when he retired and stayed at home, the abuse did not stop.
He showed blatant favouritism towards the other three children.
When I was in Standard Three, I started doing chores like collecting firewood and washing utensils for the neighbours to earn money.
But it was rejection that overwhelmed me. Every woman I called mum while my mother was alive despised me. My relatives did not stand up for me.
In the house of one of my aunts, her children used to sneak food to me over the fence without her knowledge.
Then one day when she was away, they invited me over and gave me some of their clothes.
On my way out, I met with my aunt, who claimed that I had stolen the clothes and reported the same to my father. I was punished.
While in Standard Four, I was diagnosed with stomach ulcers. I never received medication so I used to take milk or eat Patco mints to relieve the pain.
One day, tired of the hard life, I ran away to my elder brother’s house but my father came to take me back home.
He never used to physically beat me, but there was one time when I asked him if I was being mistreated because my mum was dead, and he kicked me and told me to go and live with her in the grave.
I would go hungry and steal food from people’s gardens. I used to dig up potatoes and roast; I would steal peas, maize and carrots and eat them raw.
One day, one of my mum’s friends caught me eating raw peas in her shamba and invited me over for lunch.
My stepsisters reported this to my father and he refused pay my school fees. I dropped out in Standard Seven.
My father tasked me with cultivating the shamba, which I did for two weeks, before running away to my brother’s house. But he turned me into a house help.
Later, I got a job as a house help in Naivasha, but quit after two months.
My brother then took me to a college where I learnt hair and beauty skills after which I worked in his shop, selling clothes and music DVDs.
One day, I had an argument with my cousin and my brother chased me away.
I went to live with a friend who had a cousin who was travelling to Mombasa. I decided to move to Mombasa.
We did not have any money, so we hitched a ride on a lorry transporting milk. In Mombasa, I worked many jobs, including as a salonist, a waitress and a house help.
I decided to get born-again and joined a church. When praying for a husband, I wanted someone who was educated, a father, mother and husband. I got married in August 2006.
When I was going through the problems, I made a pledge to God that no orphan would sleep hungry if I had something to give.
People failed to show me love, care and compassion and because of that I decided I would teach the world how to love and care for others.
A BETTER LIFE
In 2015, I began feeding street children, targeting those who were mentally challenged.
In 2018, together with a few friends, we formed the Mother’s Touch Community-Based Organisation to give hope for a better life to street people.
Besides the feeding programme, we have supported four street children to join a vocational training institute. The funds come from my small business, my husband and friends.
We have enrolled one in a driving school and he is now boda-boda rider in Mtwapa. We helped him reconcile with his family.
We have also taught 15 women how to make mats and others sell T-shirts.
Sometimes when the children get in trouble, I am called to the police station because I am like their guardian.
I have since forgiven my father my family, but I still miss my mother. If I had not gone through that, I would not be who I am today. The life of rejection defined me.”