Reporting by Joan Ng’ang’a, Documentation and Communications Officer, ChildFund Kenya
At only 5 years old, fun-loving Meshack doesn’t particularly feel the sting of the poverty surrounding him in the small village where he lives in Kenya. It’s just what “normal” is.
His daily three meals of black tea and ugali, a meal paste made from maize, with the occasional addition of beans, are what normal is. “There are often days when we eat only twice,” says his grandmother, Kaputi. “Breakfast and dinner.”
Meshack’s “normal” also includes the fact that his father is gone, and that his mother, who is paralyzed, can neither care for her children nor contribute to the family income. So Meshack’s 70-year-old grandmother cares for all of them and supports the household by selling charcoal for an income of a little over a dollar a day. Meshack helps as he can, joining in chores such as caring for the family’s baby goats.
“Life is difficult, but we are getting there day by day” says Kaputi, noting that the family also has some help from the village headman as well as supportive neighbors.
Meshack’s attendance at ChildFund’s Early Childhood Development (ECD) center further helps lift the family’s burden, through its on-site feeding program and regular medical checkups.
The school nurtures Meshack in other ways, too. “Through the school here, I have learned to appreciate education,” Kaputi says. “He is very inquisitive, always wanting to learn and know things.”
Meshack happily confirms this. Asked whether and why he likes going to the school, he answers, “Yes, because there are good things to learn.” His favorite? “Writing.” What makes him happy? “Playing with my friends, playing with toys and wheels, and writing numbers on the ground.”
Says Kaputi, “His attending school will one day lift up the situation of the family.”
Meshack’s dreams are squarely in line with his grandmother’s statement. He wants to be a teacher one day, he says. “When I grow up, I want to buy land, food for my family and a big house!”