Pitching In to Give Hope to Kids in Hard Places

Story and photos by Donna Atola, Kenya Field Communications Specialist

Despite not having a chance to pursue her dreams as a child, a Child Champion in Kenya shares her life’s story and what motivates her to serve kids in poverty who attend Hope Center programs.

Rose with her daughter Alicia.

Rose, 39, is a wife and a mother of three. She lives with her children and husband in Kajiado town, 48 miles south of Kenya’s capital, Nairobi.

She is fondly known as “Mama Alicia,” meaning Alicia’s mother.

At the Hope Center, Rose works as a cook and volunteers to train kids in hairdressing.

She joined the center in 2018 when it was announced in church that the center was looking to hire cooks. After applying and interviewing for the job, Rose was hired.

She says she was motivated to join the Hope Center because she was happy about how her daughter, Alicia, who had been registered into the program in 2015, was being cared for.

“The champions love and care for the kids,” Rose says. “I had seen what great influence they had in the lives of the kids, and this motivated me to also want to be a part of the team that transforms their lives.

“I wanted to cook my food so well and have the kids enjoy it with the hope that my cooking will be a chance to influence their lives positively.”

Happy Childhood and Discovering a Talent

But as a child, she dreamed of becoming a teacher and had a passion for braiding hair.

Being the last born of seven kids, Rose says her childhood was happy. Her parents, who were farmers and owned a small grocery kiosk at the market in their village, worked hard to provide for their basic needs at home.

Rose used her hairstyling skills to set up a little shop and earn some income.

Playing with her siblings, helping on the farm and at the market, and having evenings full of laughter as a family are some of the memories she holds dear from her childhood.

Rose attended a public primary school before proceeding to high school. In primary school, she realized she had a passion for braiding hair.

During break times in school, as other kids went out to play, Rose recalls sitting down on the school playground that had long grass and trying to braid the grass.

“I got into trouble for being the last to get back to class after break because I would always be down on the grass trying to make a braid from it and wouldn’t hear the bell ring,” Rose recalls.

By the time she was completing her primary school education, she had begun practicing braiding her two sisters’ hair and soon, her mother’s hair, too.

Rose enjoys cooking for the kids at the Hope Center.

In high school, Rose had a clientele of girls and would make a little pocket change from braiding. After high school, however, she was unable to attend college because she got pregnant and had to care for her baby boy.

As a young mom with no income at that time, Rose had to stay at home where her parents cared for both her and the baby. Her family also had financial troubles and couldn’t afford to send Rose to college.

When her son was older, Rose connected with a lady who owned a hair salon, where she sharpened her skills and learned other hairstyling skills. This allowed Rose to set up her own salon, and she was able to earn a living to care for her needs and those of her son.

She then married and moved to Kajiado where her daughter Alicia was born.

Becoming a Cook

At her in-laws she joined them in running their food kiosk business. Rose says that in addition to hairdressing, she also discovered she had a passion for cooking and later learned how to run a food business.

When the chance to work at the Hope Center came up, she knew it was a chance for her to help give hope to the kids in her community.

On program days, the cooks arrive at the center at 6:30 a.m. It is a day Rose says she looks forward to.

Rose stirs a pot of porridge that will be given to kids at the Hope Center.

“I love my job,” she says, smiling. “I enjoy when kids visit the kitchen to greet me in the morning as they arrive, and also confirm what the meals for the day are.”

Rose says that as the kids arrive, some come to greet her, and some come to ask for food that morning.

“What happens at times is that some families will skip meals on the evening before the program day because they are sure the kids will eat the following day. So, they come to the center hungry,” she explains.

Rose ensures that those kids get a cup of porridge before joining the others for the morning program.

Her other joy of cooking for children, she says, comes when they thank her for good food after they’ve eaten.

“It blesses my heart to hear a child say they loved the food and that it was sweet. To know that they loved it is enough assurance that impact is slowly being made,” Rose says.

Two years ago, when the Hope Center was setting up skills training sessions, she heard that some kids wanted to learn hairdressing skills. Rose asked the Hope Center to allow her volunteer to teach the skill.

“It is good for the kids to learn these skills when they are young,” she says. “The chance offered by the Hope Center allows for kids to realize a talent or learn something new, and just like it came in handy when I was in high school, I believe the skills will help them.”

Today, the Hope Center trains hairdressing and many other skills.

Rose’ prayer for her daughter Alicia and all other sponsored kids is that in addition to excelling in class, they can learn a skill that can help them in future.


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