Having been rejected by her father due to her physical disability, Mwanajuma from Kenya had to live with one relative after another from a young age. Because her parents didn’t get her immunized, Mwanajuma contracted polio. This threw her into a life of hardship and stigma.

“My father chased my mother and me away when he discovered that I would not be able to walk. With no other option, my mother decided to return to her maternal home. After a while, she remarried, and her new husband did not want to take me in because I was going to be a burden. So, at the age of six, I was left in the care of my relatives. I was never really welcomed in any household and after a while, they sent me off to the next relative,” says Mwanajuma.

“All my relatives wanted nothing to do with me when I became a teenager,” recalls Mwanajuma. So, Mwanajuma made the difficult decision to leave with nothing but the clothes on her back. Full of optimism, she headed to the big city of Mombasa.

But surviving in Mombasa proved difficult. Mwanajuma repeatedly tried to get a job as a housemaid, but no one was willing to employ her because of her disability. Added to her lack of education, she was considered unemployable.

She became friends with another physically challenged woman who introduced her to the life of begging on the hot and humid streets of Mombasa. During this time, Mwanajuma met men who promised to marry her and take care of her. Desperate, she would trust these men and fall for their lies. But as soon as she became pregnant, they would all leave. This is how she became a single mother of four. But she continued to survive by begging.

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Mwanajuma, a single mother of four, survived by begging before hearing about the Compassion project.

The life of begging on the streets was difficult—the income was not enough for her basic needs. Many nights she would go to bed hungry with her children. And when they got older, her children joined her on the streets.

Every day, Mwanajuma and two of her eldest children would be on the streets from seven o’clock in the morning until late at night. This wasn’t the life that Mwanajuma wanted for her children, but their choices were limited. And so, the news that she was pregnant again was a hard pill to swallow. "I could not believe it. What was I going to do with another baby, when I could not even take care of the ones I had?" Mwanajuma contemplated terminating the pregnancy, but the little optimism she felt growing inside gnawed on her conscience.

With mounting pressure to provide for her children, she developed health complications in the second trimester. Mwanajuma could not afford treatment or beg anymore since she was very sick.

The fate of Mwanajuma’s tiny unborn baby hung in the balance. But in the eighth month of her pregnancy, a neighbour directed her to the Compassion project. Eddah, the project director was shocked by Mwanajuma’s condition.

“Her situation was so moving that the Babies and Mums programme staff at the church immediately registered her into the programme. I immediately arranged for her to go to the health centre to start her antenatal,” recalls Eddah.

But Mwanajuma was troubled. “I was worried about paying the hefty bill for the surgery which was costly compared to the normal delivery. But the project covered all her hospital bills, and provided all the medicines,” says Mwanajuma.

A month after she joined the Babies and Mums project, Mwanajuma gave birth in hospital to a healthy baby girl whom she named Elizabeth. Her delivery turned out to be complicated and required surgery because the baby was breach.

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Had it not been for the care of the babies and mums project, Elizabeth would not have lived.

“I wept with joy the first time I held my baby tightly in my arms. Looking at her tiny little features—she was a gift from God. Had it not been for the care of the Babies and Mums project, she would not have lived,” says Mwanajuma.

Mwanajuma also received additional food assistance, so they did not need to beg. Mwanajuma also received a ‘baby welcome kit’ from the project that included a set of baby clothes, diapers and baby care equipment.

The programme's intervention saved the life of Mwanajuma’s baby, but it also gave her a fresh beginning filled with hope. Through individual and group training, and counselling sessions, the staff helped her to realize the potential and ability within her.

“I started to believe in myself. That I can work just like any other person and feed my family. I decided to sell roasted groundnuts and doughnuts in my neighbourhood. I did not like begging because it robbed me of my dignity,” she says. “I only want to eat the fruit of my work,” says Mwanajuma.

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Mwanajuma and her four children who all are receiving an education now.

Although one of Mwanajuma sons dropped out of school to beg all her children are at school now. “Although my dreams may have been crushed by life's circumstances, I still have dreams and hopes for my children. I want to give them a better education and environment to help them to become successful and productive citizens,” Mwanajuma says. The Mums and Bubs programme enables little ones to not only survive but also to thrive. 


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