The women living in the slums in and around Timau, Kenya, face huge challenges of survival. Many are breadwinners as elderly and unwell grandmothers, raising their grandchildren, single women raising their children sometimes even carrying their babies to work, and young girls raising their own children or their younger siblings trying to get enough food to survive on. Sometimes the food they manage to get for the children enables them to stay alive but not to grow healthily. Stunting is rampant in Kenya as are childhood diseases. Many live from hand to mouth and their children beg or go through garbage put out by small eating places in town. When these women succeed to get work, they may be found putting in long days on company farms or doing occasional seasonal jobs on other people’s farms for $2, $3 or $4 a day.
With what little they make they try to feed, clothe and get medicine for the children, find firewood or buy charcoal to cook with, and pay several dollars a month for a rented room, often made of timber and iron sheets or live in a shelter crafted by themselves. They use communal latrines or makeshift toilets or are forced to use the great outdoors. There is no money left for education or emergencies. Our project sponsors children and puts them in school, offers supplemental food and other goods, enables them to get medical help, and builds houses for them where possible. The work these women do on farms contributes to the food supply of the area. Through the milk and porridge project of St. Theresa’s Catholic Parish in Akron, New York, we are able to support over 20 babies annually with healthy food. As prostitution is common in the slums giving women food erases the need to sell themselves.
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