Every year, a time like this, I take time to reflect on the day my mother died. Often it is a poignant moment, and no matter how absent minded I am, It just springs to mind. Like yesterday, as I walked out of the house, it struck me that it has been 17 years.
I wondered what I would have done for her, if she were alive and everything constant as it is now. But that is moot. She died young. 35. Young. Beautiful. Entrepreneurial. She had her faults. In deed she made a dozen wrong decisions in retrospect. But that is what made her all the more human and she still remains the best. She left us orphans, and yearly I have cried victim, but today I want us to take moment and think about orphans.
Luckily for me, I had a caring maternal side of folks who took us in and embraced us as their own children. I never lacked. Other than the eternal emptiness that the death of a parent grants you at a younger age, I was raised in a fairly middle-class family. I was fed, clothed, and sheltered. They took me to the best schools they could afford and my ability could take me to . But I know other orphans who have suffered, no end, upon the death of their parents.
Few people have the courage, maturity and the intelligence to treat orphans as one of their own, in spite of their humanly faults. Many of us look at orphans as inconvenient strains to our already limited resources. Many of us look at orphans as cheap labour to exploit. Many of us think of orphans as burdens that we struggle to bring up and dispense with as soon as they can fend for themselves.
It is not easy being an orphan. More so if orphaned under the age of 16. For one, you have a long way to live without someone to call Mama or Dad for the rest of your life. Whoever brings you up(unless grandparents who are caring most of the time) will always treat you as a second class citizen.
In rural Kenya, it is the orphans always taking care of the sheep and goats, even when it is raining. It is the orphans who work at the farms, doing all the donkey work-literally. Their days are long and hopeless.
Orphans can never fill the void of their lost parents. Some keep quiet about it and you will never know anything. By the way, if someone has never let up about his or her family, go slow on personal questions, lest you prick some emotional wound festering in their hearts. Psychologically, few orphans are able to look beyond the death of their parents and stop blaming their orphanhood for any ill-treatment intentional or otherwise from those who take care of them.
If you treat an orphan badly, s/he will always blame it on the death of the parents. Afterwards, they lock themselves somewhere and cry profusely. They dream. They ask God all the questions and answers hardly come by. I have seen or heard of orphans who are treated so bad that they contemplate suicide or commit it anyway. I know orphans who turn to crime or prostitution after relatives abuse and misuse them them in every possible way.
There are some men who take advantage of female orphans to rape them or solicit sex from them in exchange for a favour. How heartless. Often, there are women out here who are forced to obligatory sex from their relatives or friends of their parents in order to pay their bills. Any man who cannot restrain his lust even to young orphans is the worst accident of nature.
Individuals out here don’t know how to handle orphans. For some, they treat orphans quite so cautiously that to an extent it isolates them(orphans). For some, they become too caring, it becomes facetious. Some think that orphans just need money to get them through school and carry on with their lives.
Yet what orphans need is simply love and to be treated normally. To be showered with love to make up for the absence of parents. Those who offer tutelage to orphans need to have a sense of fairness as much as possible. Orphans need to have that sense of belonging. If they make a mistake, they should be admonished on the basis of their mistake without bringing in their parental status. If for instance a kid is suspended from high school for the normal misdemeanours that high schools are commonly known for, deal with the case as a teenage problem without necessarily cursing the dead parents in his or her presence.
But routinely, it pays to remind orphans that death is normal and favours no one. Remind them, they have to work extra harder, more so if their parents never left anything for inheritance. It is pointless to take your children to the best schools and orphans to the cheapest schools available.
And if you reading this, know this, most of our parents were quite selfish and misinformed. Mostly, they believed that treating orphans fairly, will advantage them more than their own children. They believed that a candle will lose light by lighting another candle. They saw orphans as burdens.
You can make a difference by reaching out to orphans that you know and empower them without gloating. Gloating is the basic form of stupidity. Actually, stupidity in its most primitive form. If in school, buy them books. Pay their school fees and ensure they achieve their dreams. As to whether they will they remember you in days to come or be grateful is upon them and their personal God.
We all must strive to empower the weak in society. Those gifted intellectually, should be given every chance to accomplish their dreams. Those gifted with vocational skills, should be trained accordingly and better still be given capital to build themselves. Not just orphans, but everyone in society.
Why aren’t church member fasting and sending food for the less privileged in places like Turkana? Why aren’t churches leading by examples by setting shop in such places to educate people on better lifestyle practices more pragmatic in 21st century. What does it benefit anyone who steals billions from the government to build palatial homes that they never sleep in anyway as they nurse their lifestyle diseases.
Capitalism eroded the notion of African socialism and we prefer nuclear families and outsiders are always looked at as burdens to be dealt away with. At an individual level, if you can sacrifice one weekend of drinking and use that money to uplift someone, God bless you. After all, all the alcohol you drink you leave it in the restaurant. We have to be charitable and while at it, question churches why they spend the tithe we remit to the headquarters, yet there are congregants suffering.
Actually, some of the church institutions are the most expensive out here. They would do better if they catered for orphans, whether bright or otherwise.
Here is to a great year . The blog resumes the weekly posts. The mellow pieces. The provocative pieces. And fiction. Karibu.