My Dear Sister,

It is sad that you did not live long enough to read this. I have wracked my brain for women who shaped my life, but none of all the ones I know holds a candle to you. You took me to school, and would wait to help me cross the road and ensure I had someone to escort me home while you returned to school for your afternoon classes. I was a slow one, I hated waking up in the morning, yet you were very patient with me, ensuring that I had something to eat, before going to school, even if it was just a cup of water, because Mama seldom had enough, if any food, for us to eat. I was tiny in stature, so I got my share of bullies who never wasted a moment to be mean to me. You always dealt with them, but taught me never to use my fists to settle scores. When I was 9 years old, I remember seeing you with money, with which you used to buy us all some snacks to eat. You never allowed us to take the food home because in as much as Mama had no food in the house, she was a principled woman, and had raised us never to ask for money in exchange for anything whatsoever. So I understood your reluctance in sharing with her anything you brought in from your boyfriends.

It took me a long time to understand why you always used to tell me that if you ever found me with a boyfriend, you’d skin me alive. I was naïve and because I respected and looked up to you, I was never tempted. You kept tabs on my studies, encouraging me to read, read and read. You were in your final year of primary school when we were thrown out of the house and forced to leave the city for upcountry. I remember you passed your exams very well and even got admitted to one of the best schools in Western Kenya. Unfortunately, you only stayed in school for one term before dropping out for lack of fees.

You did not falter in your resolve to encourage me to read, read and read. It was not long before you got pregnant with Kimberly at 19 years of age. Her father disowned you and besides carrying the burden of a single mother, you still took care of us whenever you could. Four years later, you got married to Ken, and had Minah. You guys were so happy, and this was around the time I lost out on my bursary to finish my last year of high school. I remember you telling me not to lose hope, that all was not lost. You told me that I was so bright, and could do odd jobs and pay for my final year. You really wanted me to complete my high school education. Nothing was forthcoming, and I decided to get married.

I can still hear the outrage in your voice as you admonished what you termed my choices in life. Nevertheless, you let me lean on and cry on your shoulder even as my marriage life got tougher. You were the first person who applauded my decision to register for my final high school exams as a private candidate, five years later.

It is unfortunate that you’d left Ken, who later died mysteriously. You were now with Peter, with whom you had Arafat and Faridah. Life was tough for you, but you never failed to support and encourage my own. You taught me not to do what you did, never to walk out on my marriage, but wait for the light at the end of the tunnel. You redefined the value of education, when you told me you would never be able to educate your kids, that you needed me to do that for you. I did the best I could, sweetheart. Kimberly is now a single mother of two, Minah has a son, and is married, though not to the baby’s father.

Am sad that HIV/AIDS caught up with you and robbed us of your life at your prime. You were still young at 35. Arafat and Faridah are in school, and I hope that in as much as Arafat was born HIV+, he will live a full life, he is 15 now. Am also sorry that Peter also died a month ago, and it was such a blow to the kids, though Arafat was hit hardest. You are the reason I am who and where I am, and I thank God you inspired me to set up the Centre for Disadvantaged Girls.

I love you so much, my sister and second mother. Phy.

Take action! This post was submitted in response to Girls Transform the World 2013.

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It is hard and very sad to lose a loved one, but Lillian prepared and reminded me of the eventuality of her death everyday, so it wasn't that much of a surprise, though I must admit it was and is still very painful. Am happy that her life inspired you. All the best,

Phionah Musumba Founder/Executive Director Malkia Foundation & Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya P.O Box 9461 - 00300, Nairobi, Kenya Facebook: Phionah Musumba Twitter: @KenyaGals LinkedIn: Phionah Musumba Skype: phionah.anguzuzu.musumba

The Centre for Disadvantaged Girls operates in Western Kenya, Vihiga County. You can pay us a visit anytime.

Phionah Musumba Founder/Executive Director Malkia Foundation & Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya P.O Box 9461 - 00300, Nairobi, Kenya Facebook: Phionah Musumba Twitter: @KenyaGals LinkedIn: Phionah Musumba Skype: phionah.anguzuzu.musumba

Sorry for your lost.

I know how hard it is for a woman who drop out of school and become single mother. In my country, even there is a equivalency program, but it is really not easy for a single mother to access education because of many reasons such as having multiple role so she doesn't have enough time.

Mia

Thanks for your concern, Mia. If you read again and go through my other posts, you will realize that am not, and have never been a single mother. I am married with 5 kids. Even so, I agree with you that life is pretty tough for single parents. All the best,

Phionah Musumba Founder/Executive Director Malkia Foundation & Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya P.O Box 9461 - 00300, Nairobi, Kenya Facebook: Phionah Musumba Twitter: @KenyaGals LinkedIn: Phionah Musumba Skype: phionah.anguzuzu.musumba

Thanks for your concern, Mia. If you read again and go through my other posts, you will realize that am not, and have never been a single mother. I am married with 5 kids. Even so, I agree with you that life is pretty tough for single parents. All the best,

Phionah Musumba Founder/Executive Director Malkia Foundation & Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya P.O Box 9461 - 00300, Nairobi, Kenya Facebook: Phionah Musumba Twitter: @KenyaGals LinkedIn: Phionah Musumba Skype: phionah.anguzuzu.musumba

Hey, Usha, Thanks for taking the time to read and comment on my post. It is very inspiring and encouraging. Even so, I don't think you need to read any sadness in it, since it is a rite of passage, thus we should learn to adapt to living without our loved one at some point in time. More love from Kenya,

Phionah Musumba Founder/Executive Director Malkia Foundation & Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya P.O Box 9461 - 00300, Nairobi, Kenya Facebook: Phionah Musumba Twitter: @KenyaGals LinkedIn: Phionah Musumba Skype: phionah.anguzuzu.musumba

Dear Phy,

Your story is inspiring! I couldn't find any other word to describe it better. It is a story of selflessness and love and is truly touching. The experience you've shared with your sister has obviously taught you a life lesson and it is really encouraging to see how you transformed a series of tragedies into something positive and long lasting. I believe it is something to be appreciated because it shows not only your strong character but also kindness. I take my hat off to you!

Antonia

Hello, Antonia, Thanks a lot for getting the time to read and comment on my post. It is very encouraging and inspiring. It is also humbling to be respected as you've done. I feel honored that you were inspired by my life's story. Thankyou very much. All the best,

Phionah Musumba Founder/Executive Director Malkia Foundation & Centre for Disadvantaged Girls, Kenya P.O Box 9461 - 00300, Nairobi, Kenya Facebook: Phionah Musumba Twitter: @KenyaGals LinkedIn: Phionah Musumba Skype: phionah.anguzuzu.musumba