By Phill Prendeville

Josie and her grandmotherJosie and her grandmother

Another amazing day with more indepth insights into people’s lives. With such tight timeframes there is little time for small talk when interviewing people about their lives. Within 5 minutes of meeting someone I find myself asking them about the deaths of their children and their own imminent demise. Even through their tears they are completely open, honest and generous with their answers. Like a grandmother telling us how she feels knowing that when she dies her grandchild will be left to fend for herself on the streets, a place where children scavenge for food, are raped,  murdered or forgotten. They tell their stories in the hope that they will be helped.

Josie’s story begins in Emali, a rural town on the Nairobi-Mombasa highway. Five-year-old Josie lives with her 85-year-old grandmother. Her mother died when Josie was born. Her family are Masaai and depend on cattle, but all their cattle have died because of the drought.  Life is very hard because her grandmother is too old to work the land and selling livestock is their only source of income. With no livestock her grandmother borrows food from neighbours.

Josie at the waterholeJosie at the waterhole

Besides food their biggest problem is access to clean safe water to drink. They have to walk a long way to a waterhole used by animals. The water is murky and not fit to drink but they have no choice. When there is no water here Josie walks further still to a dried up river bed where there are still some underground cachets remaining. It is the waterborne diseases that are killing the kids here. Josie often gets sick with stomach upsets and coughing. She also suffers malaria regularly.

Josie’s grandmother says that Josie was like a child that was thrown away and she needed to pick her up. She has picked Josie up as best she can and obviously loves her deeply. This elderly woman provides Josie with food when she can and emotional support. They live in a small hut made from cow dung in the middle of nowhere amidst a drought affected desert. I remember bits of a quote which was something like… they are children but they do not have a childhood. I look at Josie and think of my own girls at home and how I would feel as a parent having them go through this. But even with all this hardship, they still laugh loudly and smile broadly.

In the small rural town, another orphan Faith is helping her grandmother Elisabeth to prepare a meal – a porridge-like drink. There is no income and this is all they have. I ask Faith if she had one wish in the world what would she wish for… she says, to always be with her grandmother. Unfortunately Faith’s grandmother has cancer, she has had one breast removed already and there is little hope for her. I hope there will be someone to care for her when Elisabeth dies.

Faith - an orphanFaith - an orphan

The tenacity of the human spirit is amazing. People have incredible courage in the face of such adversity. What stands out most to me is the overwhelming, very apparent love they have for each other and how this overcomes the desperate situation they’re in.

During the day we work quickly, continually looking for opportunities to show the truth of people’s lives and getting the footage to illustrate it. It’s only when we stop at the end of the day that I have time to reflect how rewarding and humbling it has been. It’s only then that I realise just how much these amazing people have given us in such a short time. And that hopefully the work we are doing may give them something in return.

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