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In praise of an unsung hero

World Vision
5 March 2015 by Prasanna De Silva
In praise of an unsung hero

World Vision staff member Prasanna met grandmother Loise during a recent trip to Kenya, and was inspired by her selfless efforts to help orphaned children in her community.

During a recent visit to Kenya, I visited a village where I met a local grandmother who was 87 years old. She was kind and humble – little did I know that the story behind this remarkable woman would surpass anything that I could ever imagine.

Her name was Loise and along with her night guard husband, Matata Katumo they had six beautiful children. Loise practiced subsistence farming on her five acre farm, but persistent droughts had resulted in her crops failing for a number of years.

As time progressed, Loise and her husband lost four of their children due to HIV-AIDs related illnesses leaving fourteen grandchildren behind. Their grandchildren moved in with them and to this day, eleven of them still reside there.

After the death of her children, Loise was empowered to join alongside numerous other women to create a community based organisation which supports orphaned children in the community, through the profits made from their farming.

I remember, as our conversation progressed, how she proudly asked me if I wanted to see her farm. As we walked through her farm, I could feel the dryness of the land and felt the harsh heat on my face and yet I could see the effort that she went to in an effort to provide. As she showed me the different vegetables she grew I could sense the pride in her heart, from the effort she had made to reach the stage she was in.

Loise proudly shows off her farm. Photo by Prasanna De Silva, World Vision

Loise proudly shows off her farm. Photo by Prasanna De Silva, World Vision

It was great to see the additional support World Vision provides as it partners with this community organisation to care for and support the vulnerable children of the village. Since Loise has partnered with this group, she has seen tremendous change. Her life has benefited because of the form of psychosocial support she has received as well as the training in modern farming techniques, farm water harvesting, planting of drought tolerant crops, poultry keeping and child protection.

Her grandchildren have also benefited from the support, receiving things like school uniforms, shows, bags, guidance and counselling and spiritual nourishment. Three of Loise’s grandchildren completed primary school education last year and are currently waiting to join tertiary institutions later on this year.

As she was telling me these facts I could sense her passion and the dreams that she holds for the capabilities of her children and grandchildren. I felt that this spoke great lengths about the boundless hope and faith she holds in her heart.

Their community organisation has also instilled a saving culture, supporting one another through their ‘merry go round’ initiative which is an informal savings scheme. The savings group helped Loise to obtain two local goats, three cows and a chicken which she depends on in order to feed her grand-children.

Through what could only be described as one of the worst times in her life, she was empowered to find the strength to keep moving forward for the sake of her family. She sees the orphaned children of the village through the eyes of a mother who has experienced the same kind of loss.

After four of Loise's children passed away, she and her husband took in 14 of their orphaned grandchildren.

After four of Loise’s children passed away, she and her husband took in 14 of their orphaned grandchildren. Photo by Prasanna De Silva, World Vision

As she told me this story I was moved to tears. As she was telling me about the burden of death she carries, I found myself being comforted by her and drawing strength from the positive outlook and thirst for life she maintains.

In my mind she signifies the role of a mother, a grandmother and a community leader on this International Day that celebrates the significance and importance of women. Loise is never going to get headlines in the paper or a few seconds on the news but she is a day to day hero that makes a remarkable difference in the lives of those around her and to me that is what an unsung hero represents.

Prasanna De Silva Prasanna De Silva

Prasanna was the former head of WVA international Programs and currently works as the Senior Director of Operations for the South Asia & Pacific Region.


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