Members of Athwana Ngwataniro Widows self help group distribute snacks to children during one of their monthly meetings
BY DAVID MUCHUI
A group of women and over 100 children gather at an open field near Athwana Chief’s Camp in Mikinduri, Tigania East Sub County for their monthly widows and orphans get together.
Athwana Ngwataniro Widows self help group raises money through merry go round to raise and educate over 30 orphans and HIV positive children in a group of over 160 needy children.
According to Mr John Kobia, the Assistant Chief for Athwana Sub location, the group has done so much in eradication of HIV/AIDS stigma in the area.
“This area had been hardly hit by HIV/AIDS and due to lack of information; many people were suffering in secret. When the women approached me with the idea of coming together, I encouraged them to do so. Their initiative has paid dividends to many especially to orphaned and sick children,” Kobia says.
He says that the women have been able to engage the community to embrace those living with HIV as well taking part in supporting the needy children.
Most of the children who had lost their parents to the HIV/AIDS had been left with their grandparents who cannot adequately fend for them and support their education.
“As a result, many children in the area were leaving school and becoming idlers. The sick ones could not afford a balanced diet and the right medication,” says Cecillia Mwathathi, the group Secretary.
Ms Mwathathi says that they established the group in 2008 to cater for the welfare of persons living with HIV/AIDS through a merry go round before they noticed greater need in the community.
“Our Chairlady went round looking for widows whose spouses had died from HIV/AIDS. We supported each other through the merry go round contributions. After two years, we realized that many orphaned children were suffering,” she recounts.
The Secretary says that they immediately organized HIV testing for all children where 12 children tested positive.
“Some parents were hiding their sick children but we convinced them to give them their rights. We have been able to help the children get the necessary medication when it is needed. Other children do not discriminate them,” Mwathathi says.
Ms Jennifer Mukiri, who is blind and a member of Athwana Ngwataniro group recounts how many orphaned children were turning to begging around the village.
“We realized that children whose parents had passed away were leaving school and had to rely on good neighbors to get a meal. They would go round the village to get food. They could not remain in school due to lack of uniform and fees,” Mukiri says.
She notes that despite many challenges, as many of them are not well endowed, they have been able to take the needy children back to school.
“We bring the children together once every month where we eat together and encourage them to work hard.
Besides, the group has managed to buy a rabbit and chicken for every child under the program to enable them earn money from sales.
“We realized that children who live with their grandparents need a source of income. They feed their rabbits after school and can earn some income to support their basic needs,” the secretary explains.
Dorcas Mugure, a beneficiary of the project and lives with her grandmother says that she could not go to school due to lack of food and school uniform.
“The women group has been of great help to me because I can now attend school comfortably,” Mugure, a class five pupil says.
Newton Mutwiri, a pupil at St Benedict Primary in Mikinduri says: “When they came to my help, I had no school uniform. Many times I could not get lunch and I had to go back to school on an empty stomach. But all is well now; I have peace of mind in school.”
The group Chairlady Margaret Kaberia says that she was inspired to start the group by her desire to eradicate problems affecting women in the community.
“We are pleased that we have been able to put them back to school. But supporting the sick children is a challenge because it is very expensive. If we can get a children’s home where they can learn from, it will greatly reduce our burden,” Mrs Kaberia says.
The women are now seeking support from well wishers and organizations to enable them educate the children in higher education since all are in primary school.