Seeds and Sustenance
- Date: 23/02/2016
- In: East Africa
Grace is a single mother. She lives in a village about three miles north of Mwanza town with six children – four of her own and two of her sister’s children she’s taken in.
Railway Children’s Rachel Purdy went to meet Grace and retells her story...
Every morning, when it was still dark, I used to walk down to the lakeside and wait for the fishermen to arrive with their catch from the night, I’d buy from them what dagaa [small fish] I could afford and then I would go and sell them to people in the village or sometimes in town at the market.
As time went on, fish stocks got lower and the fish became more and more expensive. Most months I was earning less than Tsh 20,000 [about £6]. It just wasn’t enough.
The children were so thin. They’d sob when I told them there was nothing to eat. The sound of their hungry crying hurt my whole body. I barely ate anything myself so there would be more for the children. My little one was so malnourished I was terrified that she’d catch something. I knew she wouldn’t be strong enough to get through an illness.
After my husband died, I wasn’t able to buy simple things that the children needed for school, let alone their uniforms. They ended up not going school and just hanging around at home and in the village. I didn’t know what to do.
I was most worried about my eldest daughter, Theresia. She just stopped coming home. She didn’t think she needed me anymore. She’d disappear for days on end. I never knew where she was or who she was with. She was slowly getting sucked into street life. She thought she was so grown-up but she was just a child.
Our village leader told Railway Children about Theresia and my family’s situation, so they came to see us. I wasn’t sure if they could help us and felt ashamed that I couldn’t provide for my children, but I’d have tried anything to save my family.
They said they could teach me how to grow enough to feed us all. I didn’t believe them. I don’t have much land and it’s not good soil.
They gave me a kit of seeds and tools and they started coming every week – to see how we were doing, to help with food and healthcare for the children and – most importantly – to teach me how to get the most from our little patch of land.
I can’t believe how well our little garden has grown! We’ve already had bumper crops of tomatoes, maize and Chinese greens. We’ll use what we grow to feed the family and then we’ll sell what’s left over. I’ve just sold the surplus from my first harvest. I earned more from that crop than I used to make in a month selling fish.
Railway Children also helped me get the younger children back to school and they’ve arranged some vocational training for the older ones. Theresia has joined their youth association programme now too. It’s a kind of peer-support and training group for young people and it’s starting to turn her life around. She’s not on the streets. She’s starting training to become a tailor. She’s thinking about her future and working hard – and our relationship is so much better now.
Now that we’ve got enough to eat, I feel like a proper mother again. My children have a reason to come home and stay off the streets. They help me with the garden. I love the children so much. I’m so proud of how well they’re doing. And I’m proud of myself too!
As told to Rachel Purdy.
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