By Joan Barsulai
It is mid-day and business as usual in Kibera slums. A robust 48-year-old woman is slowly making her way through the food stands, as she delicately balances a basket of bananas on her head, while holding a loaf of bread. She seems to be popular, and everywhere she passes, people wave her with excitement, or stop her for a little chat on the roadside.
Peris Onyango, or Mama Aggy as the residents fondly call her, has been a resident in Kibera slums for the last 16 years. She moved here with her five children after her husband was involved in a tragic road accident that left him blind.
"My husband stayed in the intensive care unit for three months, and when he came out, he went temporarily insane for about a year because of the trauma. We lost everything, and I had to move to Kibera to raise my children and take care of my husband." Mama Aggy (in white) joins some of her 31 children in song and dance. The children have found love and care in Aggyâs home in Kibera. [Photo: Evans Habil/Standard]
Mama Aggy (in white) joins some of her 31 children in song and dance. The children have found love and care in Aggyâs home in Kibera. [Photo: Evans Habil/Standard]
Despite her struggles, Mama Aggy stands out from most people because of her selflessness for, amid abject poverty and great financial constraint, she started adopting children three years ago, and her brood has since expanded to 31.
While here, she witnessed this same calamity among children who had lost their parents, and she opened her home to them.
She started by adopting two children, and she would especially target children who had no parents or living relatives to care for them. As the number grew, so did her reputation, and the area chief would sometimes place abandoned children in her care; this would end up becoming their permanent home.
Mama Aggy sometimes moves around Kibera with a purpose â to rescue abandoned children.
"I get calls from neighbours and strangers regularly, informing me of children in need of my care. Just recently, the chief dropped off three children who had been abandoned."
To make ends meet, she expanded her semi-permanent structure, which is made from mud walls and tinned roofs, and rented out a few rooms in order to provide for her childrenâs basic needs. She planted vegetables on a small piece of land next to her house, which her growing family relies on.