Othaya widows and the poor get modern houses in new project

A wooden house that is part of the housing project. [Jefitha Mwai, Standard] 

Joyce Wagaki, 90, of Ichamama village in Othaya constituency, is delighted to have visitors to her home.

The widowed mother of four shared her mud house with her children and grandchildren for decades.

Her eldest son fusses over her as she sits on a wooden stool outside her new modern timber house.

“Before my husband died, we tried everything we could to save money and build ourselves a modern house, but our efforts were futile. We were both farmers who relied primarily on tea to make a living, and we only had a small plot of land,” she said.

Wagaki went on to say that after her husband died, things became difficult because she was unable to feed her family of five because he was the breadwinner.

“When my husband died 28 years ago, things became difficult for me because I had to live with my family in our one-room mud-walled shacks, which were very crowded because my sons had married and lived in the same house with me,” she said.

Her son, Charles Macharia, said their mother forced them to live in shacks because they spent all of their money on educating their children.

“Our parents gave me a small plot where I grow coffee, but because the prices are so low, I can only afford to educate my children. I hoped that after they finished their studies, they would come to help us, but due to the high unemployment, this never happened, and we were forced to live in the same house.”

Macharia said life has been more difficult because his mother, who relies on him to pay her hospital bills, has been getting sicker while living in the mud house.

Joyce Wagaki, 90, with her son Charles Macharia outside their new timber house. [Jefitha Mwai, Standard] 

“Life has not been easy; my children are unemployed, and when my mother becomes ill, the hospital bills become prohibitively expensive; the mud house was too cold for a person her age,” he added.

Macharia said community members who were assisting their family had spoken with area MP Wambugu Wainaina, who was leading an initiative to build three-bedroom houses for those living in mud-walled shacks.

“After the MP launched the initiative, the community forwarded our family’s name because they have been helping our family, and the MP sent building materials two months ago,” he said.

He said because his neighbours volunteered to help with the construction, it only took them five days to complete the three-bedroom house.

“Because I’m a carpenter, it didn’t take us long to build the house, and there were also other members from my village who offered a helping hand, and the materials were delivered on time,” he said.

Macharia expressed gratitude, saying their mother has moved into the house and that they no longer have to pay large hospital bills because the house is warmer than the mud hut.

“As a family, we are very happy; we never imagined that one day we would live in a modern house,” he said. Margret Wanjiru, a housewife in Mutitu village, said she had never lived in a mud house before marrying, but in order to demonstrate her commitment to her marriage, she moved in with her husband in the house inherited from his uncle.

“When we moved to his village with my husband, he had no place to sleep and was given a small mud hut by one of his relatives,” she said.

The mother of two also said during the rainy season, the house would flood and her children would become ill on a regular basis.

So far, 70 houses have been built, 40 of which have cemented floors to improve sanitation and keep parasites like jiggers at bay.

Wainaina said the initiative aims to eradicate poverty in the constituency by providing residents with affordable and decent housing.

“As I went around during the campaigns, I discovered that many residents were affected by jiggers as a result of their extreme poverty,” he said.