Posted by: hilarycole | September 21, 2009


This is just my fourth day in Kenya, but it feels like much longer.  After a day of attempted jet-lag recovery, I came to the town of Ongata-Rongia, about 20 minutes outside Nairobi (or two hours, depending on the time of day). Mama Mercy wanted me to stay with her, for which I am grateful.  I expect I’ll be with her for much of this three-month trip, if I can keep up.

It’s hard to believe what she accomplishes each day. It’s hard for me to believe because I’ve yet to come close to that level of singular focus. She wakes up each day with one purpose, to serve the poor, and of that, she says, she has no doubt. Imagine, not doubting your life’s purpose, ever….

On Saturday I woke up (in her bed as she insisted on sleeping on the couch) to the sound of children playing on her little compound; they were the first of 73 who would show up that day to have a hot meal, cooked by two hard-working Mamas in the adjacent cookhouse.  These are children who either have no parents, or whose parents cannot provide them enough food. But more than a daily lunch program, the children come here to play, sing, learn and rejoice. Download in Rongai 006You see, Mama Mercy is a full-on preacher, determined to give these children something to hold them up in life besides sniffing glue.

We left the compound before the children ate, as we had a driver to take us 45 minutes away to Kiserian, the site of Mama Mercy’s land and the makings of a new orphan’s centre. She has three actual plots of land, with large portions of each ready for the third planting since Hands Up for Africa (HUFA) started supporting her work last year.

sunburned maize; irrigated field and well on a neighbouring propperty in the background

Everything is bone dry though due to drought – the difference between a farm with irrigation and one without is astounding (note the contrast between foreground and background in this photo – that land has a well).

She then showed me around the “shamba” – her one-time home which she has been slowly converting into a permanent orphanage, most recently thanks to funding from HUFA and Lush Fresh Handmade Cosmetics‘ Charity Pot program.

An amazingly versatile woman, Mama Mercy was once an accounts manager for a printing company, but now runs several lunch programs for 100 children each day, oversees every step of digging toilets, cementing floors, planting crops, and drilling wells, fundraises to bring food and water to internally displaced people, and preaches every moment in between. Currently, there are two long tubes of power-line wire in the corner of her living room, waiting to bring electricity to the new well at the orphanage site. This is not a woman who sleeps in.


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