As kids, we loved to play in the rain. This was an opportunity to jump and run around and sing our lungs out as we got drenched by the refreshing drops from above. Occasionally, there would be hailstones and we would grab our mugs and collect the precious lumps of ice, the nearest we could come close to tasting ice cubes.
Heavy rains meant that all the dirty water and debris from Kondele would be washed right into our houses, wetting all our bedding and carrying our valuables; mostly utensils. It was not uncommon to see families draining out water from their houses after the torrential rains.
Sleeping in empty stomachs was nothing out of the ordinary. We could not afford 3 meals a day. With no education, women; our mothers couldn't get decent jobs in the slum. We watched helplessly as they struggled, doing anything they could lay their hands on so that we could have a better life. They washed clothes for people, brew and sold illicit alcohol, traded on fish remains, started small businesses selling fish and charcoal, worked at construction sites, and sometimes engaged in commercial sex work to provide for us.
For many of us, clothes and shoes were a luxury. Walking around and playing in our birthday suits was so normal. What would we rather have, food or clothing? Playing naked in full stomachs was an option we would take any day.
Much to the consternation of the teachers, Harriet had not had a meal for 2 days! She had taken porridge at the school on Friday afternoon only to go home and find her father missing, having been arrested at an illicit alcohol den in the slum. She lives with her dad and his absence from home meant there was no one to look after her over the long weekend.
Harriet loves school and wants to be a nurse when she grows up so that she can take care of sick people in her community. Her love for education is so strong that even 3 days without food didnt deter her from coming to school on Monday morning. With the strength and determination of a woman, she sat in class, keen to learn with the rest of her classmates despite the challenges that preoccupied her young mind. But her glucose levels failed her.
Having been raised in the slum, we resonate with Harriet's challenges and this is the reason we are inspired to work hard every day to support her and all our girls through education.
With our community of supporters from all over the world, we have succeeded in building this farm together into a beacon of hope for our girls and community. This beautiful farm is a sign of wealth and abundant food, where our girls can walk in hungry and walk out filled and rejuvenated. When our girls walk into this farm they see food security, hope, happiness and a great future ahead. They don't fight on the queue or shove each other, they patiently wait, play on the queue, chase friends around, because they are sure they will have their share, for the farm has plenty.
And for us who work tirelessly to give these girls a platform to realize their dreams; a platform our mothers and many women from Obunga slum never had, we know we are making a difference. We are no longer helpless and unable to do anything like we were when our mothers were struggling to raise us.
With every meal we provide at the farm, we are improving health and nutrition for Harriet and her friends and by so doing empowering them to actively participate in class and excel.
Riley Orton Foundation