On October 20, 2020, Kenya marked Mashujaa Day which is also known as Heroes’ Day. On this day, we celebrate those who fought for our independence and all Kenyans who have gone above and beyond for their country in the past as well as those who do this every day.
There are so many such heroes we should recognize, especially this year when Kenya and the rest of the world is fighting the COVID 19 virus.
2020 has been a crazy year for the whole world. The virus took its time to get to Africa and Kenya but when it finally did, we were all scared due to the uncertainty that surrounded the novel virus and its mortality rate.
As the Ministry of Health tracked the growing numbers of cases, many people were forced to stay at home, employers had to let go of their employees and businesses went belly up.
In the heat of panic buying those who could run to the supermarkets to stock up on supplies did. Obviously, not everyone was in a position to do this as many Kenyans earn a minimum wage. For the economically disadvantaged, life got harder as masks, sanitizers, access to clean water and soap became a matter of life and death.
However, hope is being restored by some organizations like SHOFCO (Shining Hope For Communities), Mama To The Rescue, Heels For Pads, Vijana Amkeni Youth Organization, Paint the Run, Karen Crusaders, Turn Up For Good, and individuals like Miss World Kenya Wavinya and Miss Universe 2019 Wabaiya.
I got a chance to see first hand the amazing work of these organizations and individuals. For instance, in April I joined Vijana Amkeni in Gatanga to distribute masks and sanitizers. In May, on Menstrual Hygiene Day I spent the day with Heels For Pads as they distributed sanitary towels in Langata.
Each of these experiences made me reflect and also want to do more.
A few months later in July I was in Kawangware handing out packed meals with grassroots NGO SHOFCO, Mama To The Rescue, and Turn Up For Good. Companies like the Good Earth Group; owners of Nyama Mama selflessly developed initiatives like Mama To the Rescue and supported the work of NGOs like SHOFCO. This is despite their industry being one of the most affected. Mama to the Rescue has been raising money and delivering meals to the frontline workers and vulnerable communities since the beginning of the pandemic. They set a goal to raise 200 million shillings and they have currently raised 4 million Kenya shillings.
That afternoon, the distribution went smoothly as SHOFCO has identified specific recipients of the meals such as the elderly, disabled, or sick in the area. However, due to how dire the situation was, more people were in need of food especially children who followed us asking for food.
The other thing that stood out was the financial strain families with special needs experience. Several of them shared that taking care of their sick or disabled relatives was harder now. One woman who had just been supported by SHOFCO to start a vegetable selling business prior to COVID was forced to stop yet she lives with her niece who has cerebral palsy.
Christine who is a coordinator at SHOFCO shared that COVID has slowed down their SACCO and Welfare contributions because of less work opportunities for the members. She is however proud that SHOFCO quickly trained them on how to sensitize the community on safety measures for COVID. James Toya who everyone calls “Chairman” also praises Mama To The Rescue saying that the organization for their feeding campaign.
One of the notable Shujaaz was Brian Gathaga of Turn Up For Good, a non-profit organization by the founders of Turn Up Travel. Just like Nyama Mama; the bespoke travel agency chose to still continue doing good and helping those more affected than them.
This was his third time joining the Mama To the Rescue team and he was full of energy and enthusiasm asking to be shown other SHOFCO COVID-related activities. He also stayed longer than needed until the last meal was handed out driving all of us around in his car. “As a young Kenyan, I feel obligated to do my part to help anyone I can during these trying times. Being out here exposes me to a different reality I would have known nothing about if I just stayed at home worrying about what is happening; says Brian.
This pandemic reaffirmed the giving nature of Kenyans and it was heartwarming to see that despite so much loss and uncertainty people were still compassionate.
How to Support:
Heels For Pads: Donate to the cause via Mpesa Paybill 763766 Account No 0766920047
Images: Mama To the Rescue/Heels For Pads