Father's Day: Uncelebrated heroes whose big day passes with little notice


A man serves a meal for his young family. [Getty Images]

Fathers are the beacons of hope and glue holding families together and are instrumental in the growth and well-being of their children yet they are hardly celebrated.

In some places, International Father's Day celebrations always pass without any notice or fanfare that is always associated with other celebrations.

While some of them spend several days away from their family as they burn the midnight oil to find the means to put food on their family tables, others have made immense sacrifices to ensure that their families thrive.

For some who lost their wives while their children were still at a tender age, they have slotted seamlessly to play the roles of a mother.

Interviews with several Kenyans established how fathers are uncelebrated heroes whose sacrifices is the backbone of their successes.

Most of them, however, admit that they have never celebrated their fathers the way their fathers deserve.

Several fathers also told The Standard that they do not believe they should be celebrated for their acts of heroism to make their families prosper.

"I have never known that I should be celebrated as a father. I only see my wife get calls and messages from our children in the month of May," says Rodgers Ombayo, a father from Butere.

The Sunday Standard has documented several stories of courage, heroism, sacrifices, love, compassion, and mentorship from fathers who have been key in transforming lives.

As International Father’s Day is celebrated today, Davis Nyamasara 38, a resident of Magisima Ward in Nyamira County stands tall as a testament of resilience, love, and hope.

Davis Nyamasara, a resident of Magisima Ward in Nyamira County, holding one of his children after the passing of his spouse about ten years ago. [Courtesy]

For about 10 years, his children have been celebrating him during both Father’s and Mother’s Days.

Nyamasara lost his wife, Wilter Nomenda, a decade ago due to complications following a cesarean section and two subsequent operations for an intestinal obstruction.

Since that tragic day, he has shouldered the dual roles of mother and father to his four children.

"My last conversation with my wife lasted 20 minutes while she was still in the ICU," Nyamasara recalls, his voice heavy with emotion.

He adds; "About an hour later into our conversation, I received the heart-wrenching news that she had passed on."

Nyamasara, who works for a private car tracking company in Kitale, has faced the challenges of single parenthood with remarkable strength. His children celebrate him for the strong bond they have kept, recognizing his efforts to fill the void left by their mother and providing all they need as a family.

"The hardest part is when my children see pictures of their mother and ask questions. I try to answer them as best as I can, but it's never easy," Nyamasara shared.

His firstborn, Dickson Nyamasara, now in Grade Eight, expressed pride in his father's dedication.

"It is not easy being raised by a single parent, but I am a proud son. My father has done everything he can to provide for us and be there for us," Dickson said.

Nyamasara's youngest child, who missed out on the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding, developed a skin problem due to an excess of protein intake. Despite the health challenges, Nyamasara has remained steadfast in his commitment to his children's well-being.

"My children prefer to stay with me rather than with their grandmother," Nyamasara noted, acknowledging the vital support his mother, Doris Matundura, has provided since his wife's passing.

International Father’s Day, for many, is a day of joy and celebration. For Nyamasara, it is also a reminder of the resilience and responsibilities that come with fatherhood. "Men celebrate this day with joy, resilience, and a deep sense of responsibility," he stated.

In a world where parent’s roles are often distinctly defined, Nyamasara's story is a powerful reminder of the flexibility and strength required to adapt to life's unforeseen challenges. His journey highlights the profound impact of a father's love and the extraordinary lengths to which a parent will go to ensure their children's happiness and security.

Eddy Kimani at the Sarit Centre speaking to men during the International Fathers Day men's wellness initiative organised by Sarit Centre on June 16, 2023. [Wilberforce Okwiri, Standard]

Nyamasara's story stands out as a beacon of hope and resilience. His ability to navigate the complexities of single parenthood, while also holding down a job and ensuring his children feel loved and supported, is nothing short of heroic.

In the words of his son Dickson, "My father is my hero. He has taught us what it means to be strong and to never give up, no matter what life throws at us."

Similarly, Michael Owino, a father of four, has been the hope for his family after they separated from his wife 20 years ago.

The father from Kisumu believes he has been a supportive father and has ensured that his children get a good education.

"As a father, I have a responsibility to ensure that my children are well. I used to take my youngest daughter to school every day and would take a bicycle to pick her up," he says.

His daughter who is now pursuing a course in nursing said she regards her father as the beacon of hope who opened opportunities for her.

"He is now a pharmacist and I hope to follow in his footsteps," she says.

In Mombasa, along the busy Moi Avenue in Mombasa’s Central Business District (CBD) and not very far from the imposing Elephant Tusks, one encounters an aging newspaper vendor doing his trade each day.

For 40 years, Mzee Musyoki Mbwika, 74, has left his house at 5.30 am every day, unfazed by the biting cold, to ensure all his clients never miss their preferred newspapers. All he says is for the love of his kids.

However, even after doing the same trade that has enabled him to educate his kids to university levels, Mbwika, who now walks with a hunched back, says he is not quitting anytime soon.

“My children, who are grownups, have unsuccessfully convinced me to stop this job. It gives me some satisfaction and kills boredom,” said Mbwika, a widower who appeared protective and not ready to divulge much about his two children.

As the world celebrates Father’s Day, Mzee Peter vividly remembers the important role he has played in ensuring that his family never misses a meal and other essential commodities in life.

He says that due to various challenges, he will not be able to be reunited with his family on this auspicious day. He is looking forward to being called by his children to be wished happiness.

"I refused to be employed and ventured into self-employment for all my life. My advice to fathers, is do what gives you joy because," he said.

Mzee Mbwika's special message to all Fathers is to ensure that they live up to their billing as family heads and help in whatever possible way to keep their families together. He states, however, that the advent of the internet has affected newspaper sales today.

“When we started 40 years ago, business was good. My clients were mostly people going to work at the Port of Mombasa. They would either drive by or walk to my newspaper stand and get a copy of their dailies,'' he said.

He said loyal customers were old, and that young do not like to read or do not believe in keeping newspapers at home for future reference.

Mbwika, now widowed, said that when he left his home in Kangundo, present-day Machakos County, he did not know what awaited him in Mombasa.

''Being a village fellow, nothing prepared me for the bustling urban life. I thought of trying my luck to work at the Port of Mombasa where work was available, but on second thought, I ventured into newspaper sales,'' he said.

Refusing to disclose his daily earnings, Mzee Mbwika insisted that business was good, enabling him to educate his kids.

"While I took up residence in Bahati estate, Changamwe constituency, my family stayed in my rural home where my wife took charge,'' he said.

He insisted that he has braved good and bad times selling his prized wares on the same spot since he joined the business.

When a group of Bishops prayed for one of their colleague at the Milimani Law Court. [File, Standard]

"You can all recall that before the advent of multi-party politics in Kenya, street protests occasioned by the outlawed Islamic Party of Kenya (IPK) and several other street demonstrations. These were well covered and in leading newspapers the following day,'' he said.

Among the popular brands he stocks include The Standard Newspaper, Daily Nation, and the Nairobian.

He also used to sell foreign newspapers like Uganda New Vision, Monitor, and some United Kingdom tabloids, which he no longer stocks.

Some fathers claimed they will not feel bad even if their children failed to celebrate them but maintained that their success is what matters.

Rodgers Ombayo, 74, is not worried, that his sons and daughters fail to celebrate him every third Sunday of June.

The peasant farmer notes that societal norms and African culture has shunned the aspect of making people close to their children.

"Honestly, the Father's Day celebrations look like a Western world thing that Africans are finding hard to cope with. An African father has for long been known as a no-nonsense individual whose demand for respect has depicted fathers as ‘dictators’ who are often shunned by their children," said Ombayo.

We caught up with Ombayo's son, Moses Mirikau who acknowledges that his father’s sentiments were correct as many children, him included, don’t pause from their busy schedules to pay tribute and acknowledge the vital role dads play in shaping societies.

"I rarely celebrate my father on this day as compared to my mother who on their day I send him some cash and goodwill messages," said Mirikau.

Mirikau who is also a young father, wishes that his child grows up to appreciate the role male figures play in society.

Anna Khaemba, a marketing professional from Bungoma, fondly recalls her father as a silent protector.

"Growing up, he worked two jobs to ensure we had everything we needed. Despite his exhaustion, he never missed any school activity that required his presence. His sacrifices and hard work taught me the value of perseverance and dedication. Now, as an adult, I realize how much he did for us without ever seeking recognition."

Michael Wesonga, 35, an engineer, reflected on his father's quiet strength:

"He’s always been there, not with grand gestures, but with consistent support. Whether it was teaching me to ride a bike or helping me with my math homework, he did it all with patience and love. Fathers often don’t get the same emotional recognition as mothers, but their impact is profound."

Sophia, a college student, noted the lessons her father imparted through his dedication:

From the father's perspective, David Otieno, a teacher, expressed his thoughts on his role.

Marcus Khaemba, a software developer, spoke about the challenges and rewards of balancing work and family life.

"Balancing work and family life is a challenge for any parent. It’s a difficult role, and sometimes our efforts go unnoticed. I’ve learned to cherish the small moments with my kids – the late-night talks, the weekend outings. Those are the times when I feel truly connected and appreciated."

In Kisumu, a number of fishermen who dice with death every day in the treacherous and unforgiving waters of Lake Victoria are the heroes of their family.

They are the lot that have seen their colleagues die after their boats capsized but still manage to go out in the lake every night to fish.

Maurice Owino, a fisherman, said that he learned the trade from his late father who introduced him to the business to help him survive.

"I have been taking good care of my family every day as a result of the venture that others fear. We do not earn much but I am able to buy food every day for my family," he says.

[Reporting by Martin Ndiema, Philip Mwakio, Harold Odhiambo, Juliet Omelo and Brian Kisanji]