The Rejected One

My life began in 1998 in a chilly Elbergon town in Kenya. HIV/AIDS infiltrated my family, first taking my father when I was three and then my three-month-old brother soon after. After my father died, we were stripped off our property and sent packing to my maternal grandmother’s home. My mother, herself suffering from HIV/AIDS, took my father’s death personally, and she never got over it. She must have been shattered beyond repair because two years later, she too fit into a burial box and was lowered into a six-foot grave.

At just five years old, I did not understand death. I just knew that some family members seemed to be planted but never sprout back to life like the maize in my grandmother’s garden. My two remaining sisters–one older and one younger–and I were left alone with my grandmother with no direction or hope.

My grandmother was very weak, and despite her determination she couldn’t satisfy three hungry mouths. We wore hand-out clothes all our childhood; owning anything new was a luxury I could only dream of. We slept on hard, cold floor with old sacks we spread out to create our bedding.

We seemed to attract the spirit of rejection in people around us including the neighboring children who looked down upon us as if we were contagious. It was in moments like that I wondered if my life would be different had my parents not died. Would they have loved me? Would life have been full of happiness? I would never get to know, and I grew up helplessly looking for the love I would never receive from them.

Me and my grandmother.

Eventually, trying to care for us in her old age was too much for her, so my grandmother took my sisters and me to an orphanage when I was 10 years old. While she loved us, she could not keep us. She believed that the orphanage could give us a better life than what she could have provided.

Unfortunately, the orphanage played favorites, and somehow my sisters and I were never on their good side. We had to work constantly to receive meals, but still, most of the time, we had to go hungry after being punished for the smallest things. While the orphanage was terrible, there were a few advantages. We always had a bed to sleep in and clothes to wear, and through it, we were able to attend school.

I tried to be strong despite the mistreatment at the orphanage. My two sisters, on the other hand, could not take the abuse any longer and eventually dropped out and returned to my grandmother’s. They knew the living conditions would be worse, but at least at my grandmother’s they would be loved.

I stayed in order to continue school. I was also determined to get noticed and loved by the caretakers at the orphanage. I’d grown attached to the new environment, even though it was terrible. Still, I knew I had a better fate than my sisters. Whenever I visited them, their situation was always worse than my last visit, and it broke my heart. But seeing them gave me the courage and motivation I needed to get through school to eventually make enough money to help them one day. I banked on my hope for a better future.

After the rain, comes sunshine, and mine illuminated so much that it caught a wind of hope. The orphanage was sponsored by a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO). After the sponsors learned about our mistreatment, they decided to transfer those of us who had completed their primary education to a better orphanage to begin high school. I was one of the lucky kids who got transferred and began high school in 2012.

The new orphanage was more accommodating and had a school built within it. The workers were flowing with love and gave equal attention to each child. For the first time, I felt loved. I thrived through the sponsorship and was so happy to be able to continue my education. I got to meet students with similar experiences to mine, and I developed a sense of belonging. Being in high school built my confidence and I started realizing my true worth. I studied really hard and got good grades; college seemed to be on the horizon.

After high school when I was 17, I went to live with my cousins hoping they would help me pay for college, but they refused, no matter how hard I tried to get on their good side. I soon realized they had no intention of helping me after they made up an excuse to throw me out of their home, accusing me of being rude and sloppy. I didn’t have anywhere else to go and couldn’t afford college on my own, I decided it was time to look for a job and fend for myself.

In March 2016, I landed my first job as a house servant in Nairobi, the capital city of Kenya. As much as I was disappointed at my overall situation, I was excited that I finally could earn some money to help my family and save for college. I was only earning $40 per month. I set aside $20 as college fees while supporting my family with the rest. I wouldn’t have much left for myself, but that didn’t matter because I was focusing on achieving my goals. I desperately wanted to be in school.

I sent in a college application without the slightest idea how I would fund it because I wanted so badly to help my family. I spent most nights breaking down and crying myself to sleep. I went on my knees each night, imploring God to open a door for me to go to college.

My silver lining eventually shone. In September 2016, the same organization that funded my high school education invited me to a meeting. I didn’t know what the meeting was for, but I hoped with all my heart that something good would come out of it. I sat across from them in anticipation.

“We would like to fund your college education,” they said.

I was beside myself with joy. They were only able to help a few students, and I was honored to be one of them. I could not stop crying. In that moment, I realized that my heart had been heard, my prayers been answered, and that there would always be hope in life as long as you worked hard and kept your heart sincere.

Since I started college, I’ve been working part time with the NGO that funded my education. Through them, I started a foundation of my own–Allied for Africa Foundation (AAF)–to help the less fortunate in the society. After what I had been through, I dreamed of helping others in similar situations. I wanted to change my narrative and empower the less privileged with opportunities to grow. I’ll never forget the joy I felt when we were able to find a permanent home for the first homeless child at our foundation. It was my proudest moment, knowing that he now would have a decent life and education, things that I had trouble obtaining at his age.

Me with some of the kids we helped.

I grew up feeling rejected, like I wouldn’t have a chance to do something with myself. Instead of letting my lonely situation defeat me, I fought against it in hopes of pursuing something better. I’m glad that I’ve found a way to help kids like me find love and success. I plan to keep reaching out to more youths who are seeking a platform to positively impact their communities. I feel that I’m doing good in the world. My dream now cannot be burned even by the wildest fire.

This is the story of Becky Mwende

Becky is currently in college and has started a foundation in October 2017 that reaches out to suffering individuals to offer the needed assistance. Having lost both her parents at an early age, Becky was put into an orphanage and faced rejection for most of her life until she found hope through the NGO that funded the orphanage she lived in. She sees beauty even in the broken things, worries less and laughs more while spreading joy all around her. She is planning to graduate in 2019. In the next five years, she hopes to increase her foundation’s impact and transform more lives through the formation of more sustainable projects. She is awed by the love she’s been given to pursue a better life.

Becky with some children she’s helped through her foundation, 2018.
| Writer: Opondo Maureen | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

Life Log #158

This story first touched our hearts on August 30, 2018.

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