For Her Son

One aspect of home life here in Kenya that is very different than in the US is the prevalence of house maids or live in help. In the US it is very rare to see a household that has a live in help. However, in Kenya it is very popular. In middle class households where both parents work, it is common to have a house maid. They clean, cook, babysit and do it all. I was fortunate enough to be placed with a family who employs a house maid.

After about a week I learned that most house maids are young women who are working to support themselves until they are married. This intrigued me because my house maid is a woman who looks to be in her 50’s. My house maid goes by the name ‘Auntie’ or ‘Madre’. She doesn’t speak much English, so I can barely communicate with her. However, I was still very interested in learning about her story.

After talking to my host mother, she told me that Auntie had recently starting working for them. Auntie had recently become widowed and was left with a middle school aged son. She hadn’t worked previous to her husband’s death as he made enough money to support their family. She then explained that in Kenya, school is only free through middle school and Auntie wanted to send her son to high school when he finished middle school. But, since her husband had died she needed to start working to make the money. So she was forced to leave her son with relatives to go work to support his education.

She doesn’t get many days off here. In fact since arriving here four weeks ago, she has not taken a single day off. I have only seen her leave the house twice to go to church. I got to thinking about Auntie more this week and how much work she does. She cleans my clothes, makes my bed every day, and makes me dinner. She works so hard just so that her son could have better opportunities than she had. She hasn’t seen her son in over four weeks, yet she works every day for him.

I think her sacrifice is truly noteworthy. She went from not working to working seven days a week. She went from raising her son in a happy household to having to be separated from him and work tirelessly to ensure his quality education. Her dedication to her son is amazing. No parent wants to have to sacrifice seeing their child, but Auntie had no choice. She was determined to send her son to high school and she is doing what she has to do to make sure that happens. I have the upmost respect for her and I am amazed at her dedication. She is truly an inspiration.

Dan Rustico ’15
Kisumu, Kenya