When I meet the 22-year-old twins for the first time, I notice their uncanny resemblance. When I get to know them, however, what strikes me about them is how different their personalities are. While Rose Njeri is a chatty ball of energy, Rebecca Mutindi is soft-spoken, preferring to quietly observe her surroundings.
They both, however, love music, that was nurtured by the woman that they, together with their two elder sisters, have called ‘mum’ since they were seven years old. They wandered into her life 16 years ago and she promptly rose to the occasion to play the role of both mother and father to the four siblings.
“Our father died following a snake bite when we were one. Then our mother died a few months after,” Rose narrates their harsh start to life in Kitui County in Eastern Kenya.
Orphaned, the twins and their two sisters moved in with their maternal grandmother. With not much resources to go around, the oldest girl, Theresia, who was in her teens, decided to go to Nairobi to look for a job as a house-help. Joyce Gitau, who lived in Jericho at the time, gave her a job.
“Life was hard back in the village even with our sister making little money to help feed us. When ‘mum’ found about the situation back in the village, she sent for all of us,” Rose narrates.
When I first contact Joyce Gitau, 73, who everyone around calls mama Gitau, she is reluctant for an interview.
“I am not sure what you want with me. Those girls do not owe me anything,” she tells me over the phone. When she finally invites us to her home in Ruai, Nairobi, she cuts the picture of a proud mother. She speaks fondly of her nine children: her five biological ones and the four girls, now young women, that she raised.
“Theresia had lived with me for about three months when she told me about the plight of her younger sisters back home. I knew right away that I had to do something. I couldn’t turn my back on these children,” she recalls what led to her decision almost two decades ago.
She lived in Jericho at the time and had just retired from her banking job. With all her five biological children out of the nest, she spent most of her time knitting sweaters and scarfs. A house full of children once again was thus a welcome idea. “I just called my children and informed them that I had taken in four girls and they were okay with it,” she says.
SENT THEM OUT IN INTO THE WORLD
She enrolled the girls in schools and on Sunday, took them to church where she sings in the choir and where the twins nurtured their love for music. The biggest challenge raising her bigger family, she says, was getting the documentation she needed so that she could enroll them for the national examinations as their parents were deceased.
When they were old enough, she sent them out to the world. They still have a close relationship though.
“They are our children, their bedrooms are still untouched. I feel very proud when they visit and tell me about what is going on in their lives,” she says.
While Theresia and Alice - the older sisters- are business women, the twins are still pursuing their music. As a music duo, the two call themselves G2 Unit. By day, Rose works as an office administrator for a local company while Rebecca is a barber. During their free time, they sing. Last year, they recorded their first single "Amani".
“We share our story through music. We visit children’s home to talk to orphans. To tell them that they, just like us, can make it to the other side unscathed. That there is still a lot of good in the world,” Rebecca shares.
Rose also has a passion for peer counselling. In between her job and her passion, she creates time to talk to youth in the lower income areas. It’s her way of paying it forward. She figures that if she can turn around just one life, it will be all worth it.
Together, their ultimate dream is to produce music that will change the world.