Thwank! Nadira’s* shovel clattered to the ground when she dropped it. She caught her breath and wiped the sweat from her brow. She looked around, finding only dry, cracked earth as far as her eyes could see.
Nadira, 40, is the sole supporter of her six children since her husband left two years ago. “As long as my children get to eat, that’s what matters,” she said as she picked up her shovel to dig for good earth.
Kenya has experienced severe drought since 2011. With so little rain over a long period of time, violence has escalated, businesses have shut down, and villagers haven’t been able to farm. Almost all livestock have died, and many families have lost parents and children.
“My husband left me because we were always hungry,” Nadira shared. “I found shelter in the abandoned house of my parents who had passed away. My brother had been living there, but he’d gone to the city during the drought. When he learned I was staying in the house, he told me to leave because he’d be moving back.”
Nadira decided to build her own house on her parents’ land. Though weak with hunger, her children pitched in to help.
When what little food the family had was gone, Nadira went around the village, begging. “Sometimes I want to steal just so my children can eat,” she confided. “I feel ashamed that such thoughts cross my mind.”
Nadira’s children had to drop out of school in order to try to find food. Her eldest daughter, Akeyo, ran away to the city, hoping to find work. “Her choice was to either stay and die or escape and survive,” Nadira said.
While in the city, Akeyo washed people’s clothes but got little money in return. It wasn’t enough to survive. “A man approached me one day and offered to marry me,” Akeyo recalled. “He promised to take care of me, and since I had nothing to eat, I agreed.”
After several years, Akeyo bore two children but still had no job to depend on. Her new family was poor and often overcome by hunger. “Life was miserable,” she said sadly. “Eventually, I packed up my children and returned to my mother.”
Nadira welcomed her daughter home. But the addition of two grandchildren in the house had taken its toll. “I don’t see any future,” Nadira said. “If I had power, I would make sure that it would rain so that people could farm and harvest again. I must go on because of my children. Otherwise, life is meaningless.”
Just when things were at their worst, hope found Nadira through the intervention of the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) Kenya.
For four months, ADRA delivered provisions of nutritious, life-saving food. Every month, Nadira received 100 pounds of maize, 55 pounds of beans, and five quarts of vegetable oil, as well as salt and other vital staples. With this food, her children and grandchildren went from eating one meal a day, if they were lucky, to eating three meals a day!
The initial four-month emergency response was followed by a cash assistance program that allows Nadira and other families to purchase food from the local markets. This kind of intervention gives Nadira the independence to choose what’s best for her family going forward, and it’s also an investment that will help her local community move toward stability.
It was painful for the chief of Nadira’s village to watch his people suffer. “For us to achieve anything in this powerless situation, we need stakeholders to help with food but also help improve our livelihood,” he said. “I appreciate ADRA Kenya for the support they’ve given my people.”
*Names were changed.
The Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is the global humanitarian organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. ADRA is fighting poverty and developing communities in more than 130 countries around the world. They represent the unconditional love of Jesus to children, women, and men through a broad spectrum of development and emergency relief programs. To learn more about ADRA or to get involved, please visit adra.org.
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