Women at Work

This is Mercy, a seamstress who lives next to Royal Kids School. Her son, Victor, just finished eighth grade at Royal Kids. Her shop is down the road from the school, and I frequently stop by for a quick visit during the day. Many of her friends stop by to chat, and she’s frequently visited by the neighborhood toddlers. Today, we went to town to shop for fabric. She’s very familiar with the various merchants, and always gets the prices she wants. Mercy is just one of the several beautiful, and hard working women I get to see and laugh with on a daily basis.

Mwendu is in charge of all those little details that keep the school running. She has quite a challenging task. Today is the first round of pay day at the school, and she’s calculating how much of their monthly salary each teacher will receive. And it usually takes several rounds to pay their salaries due to late payments from the paying students at the school.

I’m amazed Mwendu stayed still long enough for me to get this picture. She’s very shy and frequently darts around the corner after she’s delivered a particular message. She’s been at the school since its very beginning. Grace and Ngao, the school founders, met her when she was hawking Bob Marley paraphernalia and rasta hats. Knowing that history and her antics keep me amused. But she’s a very thorough administrator, and handles the students and staff with an even hand.

Mama Chiro, who is in charge of the school’s kitchen, prepares ugali (made from corn flour and water) on a charcoal stove. Her son, Kimani, is one of our sponsored high school students. Besides running the kitchen, she’s also entrusted with the task of gathering the high school students’ supplies and traveling with some of them to their new high schools. Last July, we traveled together (on some very challenging roads) to visit six of our first year high school students.

I’m struggling to describe the respect I have for her. She was widowed shortly after having Kimani and did everything she could to provide for her children without sacrificing her principles. It’s rare to meet someone with such strong character.

Maggie is another cook at the school. She also lives in the school compound. She wakes up every morning at 3:45 AM to start preparing breakfast for the boarding students. And then she cooks all day until about 4 PM. But she truly enjoys cooking. She’s told me how much pride she takes in providing others with such an essential need. For her, making sure everyone is well-fed is the most important thing she can do. I caught her at the end of the day, as she was reviewing kitchen food expenses.

All these women amaze me. They’re so strong and hard-working. And they know how to take care of people. They always have time to listen to a student’s needs and to keep them from misbehaving. The role they play in the students’ lives is just as important as the class teachers.

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