Reeking of alcohol an old man sat pompously across from us in the tiny dirt floored hut. Sadly, this is home to a young widow and her three sons. The man, ragged, filthy, and very aggressive, is a client who comes here to buy alcohol. He happened to notice us, the wzungus (whites), going into the home, so he quickly came in hoping to coerce one of us into giving him a couple of shillings for a “soda.” But, first he rose up, demanding that we all stand while he prayed. I’m not sure who or what he prayed for, but he was definitely letting us know this was his territory and we were visitors. Still trying to adjust our eyes to the dim light coming only from the doorway, we sat down on what I could only imagine were flea infested chairs. However, the filth and darkness in the room were so light compared to the story of this poor mama’s life.
Her husband had died in the post-election violence of 2007, leaving her sole supporter of her children. Desperate times had ensued which drove her to start a home brewing business with two other widows. This had at least made it possible for her to provide food and housing for her kids. There’s no money left for school, though, so none of her three kids have ever been to school. The oldest, Samuel, is 13. He sat beside me, clearly intimidated, but by what? I thought perhaps it was at having whites in his home, but the fear was clearly not only of his own mother, but also the drunkard in our midst.
His mom said she wanted the kids to go to school, but it was impossible. When we asked Samuel if he wanted to go, he quickly answered, “Yes.” Since he has no education at all, he would be placed in Class 1, starting at the very beginning with kids half his age. We asked him if he was willing to be with the younger kids and again, he quickly nodded, “Yes.” Already, this young boy knows only one life: that of making beer and selling it. The situation is extremely dangerous for him and his siblings: Paul (11) and Maxwell (9). Not only are clients coming to buy the local brew, but they are also taking advantage of the mothers sexually and even the children.
During our visit, one slight verbal interaction between the drunkard and Samuel belied so much more of the treatment these kids had experienced. Both boys sitting with us were clearly filled with shame and fear. Whether they will ever find a way out of this life, I don’t know, but for today, hope was offered. The new school term opens on Monday. If the mother is willing, and the boys want it, they can come. The challenges are great; only a few will find their way out. Today this family was offered a gift. Only grace will make it possible.
(Addendum: That was last week. I’m happy to say that all three boys showed up on Monday. Follow up article here!)