The third of seven children, Mary, 21, grew up in Nairobi, Kenya. Due to alcoholism, Mary’s mother was unable to properly care for them, the children were often left to fend for themselves. Mary couldn’t help but look around at other families in the neighborhood and compare her own mother to theirs. Mary reflected, “other mothers took proper care of their children”. While Mary’s siblings moved in with their grandmother, Mary stayed with her mom and tried to support her as much as she could. Eventually, Mary had to drop out of school because she was unable to pay school fees. She felt like her life had come to an end. She spent a lot of time crying. Slowly, she began to accept her situation.
At thirteen, Mary had an opportunity to attend school once again, the course of her life began to change. At Kamulu School—a vocational training school for street kids—Mary learned the basics of English, reading, writing, and sewing. The lead administrator noticed her hard work and offered to provide a way for her to support herself and attend school. It was a bittersweet prospect because while she was able to find a new home, expand her education, eat consistently, and sleep peacefully, she was leaving behind four of her brothers and sisters in a very unreliable, unpredictable environment of poverty and hopelessness.
Mary first heard about Amani Ya Juu from a friend while she was in trade school. Mary was intrigued by what Amani offered: a place in which to learn and grow not only as a seamstress but also as an individual. On her first day of training she was struck by the warmth and hospitality that Amani offered. She was welcomed by everyone she met and put under the supervision of Jerita who patiently worked with her on her first project—a coffee bag.
The Amani women she worked with took time to ask her personal questions, something no one had done before. They encouraged her and soon became her mothers and sisters. Mary said, “Amani is a home rather than a place of work”.
Mary has been working at the Amani Kenya center a little over a year. She has been inspired to pursue God and is learning how to forgive.
Sharing with others
Since coming to Amani ya Juu, Mary has begun volunteering at Mother Mercy, a home for children who are deprived of basic needs. Mary feels at peace when she teaches bible stories and crafting skills to the children each week. She is able to use herself as an example of what each child can accomplish.