Kenya's Kericho Cluster collect stories of people who refuse to let their disability dictate their prospects in life. By making these people better known in their community, they can give hope to others in a similar situation. Here, Cluster Mobiliser ROBINS OCHIENG' ODIYO tells the story of one of these women.
Mama Helen was born in Kiptere village in Kericho County, Kenya. She is blessed with six children: three boys and three girls. Though she is disabled and a single parent – a situation which can make it difficult for many women in Kenya to find work and to provide for their family – she has defied these odds, and is now a successful local businesswoman.
My first encounters with Helen were in 2006. Every morning I would see her sitting at the entrance of the local supermarket. She wasn’t working at the supermarket. She was a beggar, waiting for shoppers to drop her their spare coins, and I would admire how she interacted with these customers as they walked past her. For several years she reported to the same spot each day. And she wouldn’t leave ‘til late in the evening, when she would look for a good Samaritan to help lift her up and carry her to a vehicle waiting by the roadside.
In 2009, Helen enrolled in a business starter training programme organised by a Kenyan bank. After this, she started her own grocery business, operating at the very spot where she was once a beggar. With the initial support of the bank, the blessing of the supermarket owners, the support of her community, and through her own hard work, her business has been growing and growing. Today, she employs three other women. As for her children, three now have a college education. And one of her daughters is now a secondary school teacher.
Helen is demonstrating to disabled people in Kericho County that the barriers that prevent them from participating in society can be overcome. And that’s why we are sharing her story, and other stories of those like her.