She left home 15 years ago aged 15. Since then, Esther Mwikali’s family has never set eyes on her until two days ago when she returned home a grown up woman.
For the better part of last Sunday, songs of jubilation rent the air in the sleepy Kagochi village in Subukia sub-county, as unbelieving villagers welcomed back Ms Mwikali, whom they had long presumed dead.
As the villagers shouted, sang and gawked at the returnee, Mwikali beamed with joy, her smile masking the untold pain she claims to have gone through since she left home.
She left home in January 2002 after a neighbour reportedly promised to take her to school in Kisii. However on arriving in Kisii, the neighbour, a teacher, immediately turned her into a house help.
Mwikali claims her employer frequently tortured her and sometimes even forced her to go without meals. As a result, she begged for food in the neighbourhood.
She also claims that she was beaten mercilessly by the employer whenever she made a mistake.
Pushed by the desire to return home, Mwikali visited various police stations seeking for help to trace her family. She was helped in her search by Josephine Wainaina from Maili Sita in Nakuru.
Subukia OCPD Alex Ng’ang’a said they managed to locate Mwikali’s family soon after they were informed that a girl who had gone missing years ago had been spotted in Kisii.
YEARS OF HOPELESSNESS
Two weeks ago, Mwikali received the phone number for one of her parents and for the first time in 15 years, spoke to her mother. The rest is history.
“What do I have to say apart from thanking God that I am back to my roots? Everyone and everything looks very new to me. I am no longer an orphan, I now have a place to call home after so many years of hopelessness,” said Mwikali before bursting into tears.
“I left my brothers and sisters when they were very young. I am now seeing grown up men and women. It is sad I have not been part of the family for the past years,” she said.
A joyful Anne Kalunde, Mwikali’s mother, narrated the pain she had gone through over the years, including being accused by neighbours of selling her daughter to acquire wealth.
Philip Mwange, Mwikali’s father, said: “Every parent’s wish is to have their children support them in their old age. I am the happiest father seeing my daughter back. I will now die a happy man.”