As a crippled woman drags herself through Kenyatta Avenue in Nakuru town, she is accompanied by her own children who carry her begging bowl.
On her laps is her three-year-old last-born daughter who is slowly licking her lollipop.
One might wonder where Pendo (not her real name) gets the strength to move along all day, but that is just enough reason to push on since she came to the country more than 20 years ago.
The Tanzania citizen who has been a cripple since birth has made Kenya her home.
“I came to Kenya when I was 12 years old. At least that is what I can remember. We came as a group of about 20 people who were crippled and had different physical challenges,” said Pendo.
The mother of 11 and grandmother of five vividly remembers the day she was brought to Kenya, with promises of making money.
She told The Standard that she was approached by two men who promised them better lives on the streets in Kenya.
“I was approached by two men who told us that the begging business was better in Kenya. They said that we would be getting a minimum of Sh12,000 every month just by begging on the streets,” she said, as she dragged toward Wakulima market.
After being moved in trucks from Tanzania to Kenya, they were distributed to different towns in the country.
Pendo clearly remembers when they were put into a lorry ferrying fruits from Tanzania to Nakuru, passing the country border without being noticed. “They had promised that we would be getting money monthly. They listed our names every month but we failed to get the money. They used us to get rich, “ she said.
Pendo said all the promises made to them were empty since they did not receive any funds from the Kenyan government.
As she moves a few metres, she is joined by a man on a wheelchair. He looks younger than Pendo and is introduced as Harun Salama, also a Tanzania citizen.
A survey done by The Standard shows that there is an influx of beggars from Tanzania on the streets of Nakuru town.
The beggars, according to a source who requested anonymity, are brought to the streets every morning and distributed to different locations. Our efforts to know some of the ‘patrons’ bore no fruit.When asked who brought her to the streets, Salama suddenly went silent and turned her wheelchair the opposite direction.
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The young woman, who looked scared, even offered to give us back the Sh10 coin that we had earlier given her.
According to another source, Oliver Busaka, the beggars are offered meals by people who bring them early in the morning.
Busaka, who is a newspaper vendor in Nakuru, said different people move the beggars from one point to another during the day.
“They bring them as early as 7 o’clock in the morning. They bring them food later in the day and move them from place to place during different times of the day and are taken somewhere to sleep when the sun sets,” said Busaka.
Life is, however, not easy from the Tanzanian beggars who decide to survive on their own like pendo.
With most of them spending the nights on the streets, they have been exposed to robbery and rape.
Pendo gave birth to her first child barely six months after she landed in Nakuru.
Without a place to stay, the young girl by that time was forced to sleep on the streets where she was raped and got pregnant.“I was attacked by a drunk man who raped me and got me pregnant,” she said.
She could not hold back her tears as she narrated how the nightmare repeatedly happened to her, leading to the birth of her 10 children.
Having been raped by different unknown men, all her children have different fathers.
“I don’t even know one man who raped me because they mostly attacked when I was asleep and they were all drunk. I could not defend myself because of my crippled nature and they took advantage of me,” she said amid tears.
For Salama, their nightmare comes when the rainy season comes. Without a place to sleep and wet pavements and grounds, the beggars who lack wheelchairs to help them move around are exposed to extreme cold conditions that affect them.
He says that they are forced to battle pneumonia in every cold season.
“When we drag ourselves through the pavements, we are exposed to too much cold and we end up falling sick. Most of us suffer pneumonia. Others even end up dying from the diseases,” said Salama.
For Pendo, her reproductive system has been damaged after she was exposed to the harsh conditions.
“When I drag myself, I get bruises in my private parts. Sometimes the damage becomes intense that I end up getting sores and even bleeding. But there is nothing I can do, I have to find food for my children,” said Pendo.
Despite the challenges she faces on a daily basis, Pendo has been able to provide education to her children from money she gets from begging on the streets.
With her first daughter studying in a high school in Naivasha, she says that she is able to pay their school fees through the savings she makes every day.
Despite the harsh living conditions, most of the beggars opt to stay in Nakuru other than going back to Tanzania.
When contacted, Nakuru County Director of Social Services Wesley Kipngok refused to comment, noting the issue was under Immigration office.