SOS Mother Buru Buru SOS Children’s Villages in Kenya
Giving the best to the child
My journey to SOS in 1992
My name is Nancy Gacheri Gicheru, from SOS Children’s Villages Nairobi. My calling and journey as an SOS mother started in January 1992, having worked as a nursery (kindergarten) teacher in one of the community grammar schools in my rural home in Kenya. After my training, I was assigned as a caregiver - mother of house 7, SOS Children’s Village Nairobi.
I started with five children: three of them were orphans and the other two my biological children. The youngest of the three orphans, Muthini, was only two years of age and could neither walk nor talk due to malnutrition, to the extent that some medics had recommended that she be taken to a disabled children’s facility. However, having raised two children by myself, I was not convinced. It was also around this time that SOS mothers were required by the then village director to have an official title linked to a child’s name, so I duly chose to be referred to as “Mama Faith”. Mama is a Swahili word meaning mother whereas Faith is the name I gave to Muthini, who in my view would only recuperate to the level of a normally functioning 2-year old in size and health through God’s faith.
I started the arduous journey of visiting different doctors with Faith and was given various diet and therapy recommendations. Initially, though this was traumatising for me, I gained courage from the help of older SOS mothers and from my dear mother who, through constant telephone conversations, would encourage me. During this time my two biological daughters, Ruth and Mercy, also played a key role in making it easier for me to take care of the little, fragile Faith by encouraging and playing with her siblings, Janet and Hermann. This relieved them of the stress of worrying about their sister’s survival and consequently, the stress for me as the caregiver of the four traumatised children.
While pursuing ongoing therapy with Faith, I was blessed with seven more children, for a full house of twelve. The transition was smooth because I had got used to seeing other mothers handling more than my five children. In addition, this was done progressively, making sure I had time to interact with the children as more came on board. However, I spent most of my initial period as an SOS mother at the physiotherapist’s with Faith. As time went on I also realised that Ruth, now the oldest of twelve, had by default stepped up into the role of the first born and led the other children in adjusting to our routine chores and activities. On the other hand, Mercy became overwhelmed somewhere along the way and had started asking questions as to why I was taking on more children, as expected of a last born. As a result, I would sit her down and explain that my other kids also needed a caregiver; and that they had lost key people in their lives and so who better to give them support than me? Knowing her love of playing only too well, I would encourage her to look on the brighter side now that she had more friends to play with and not just her commandeering sister. This would always lighten up her mood and to date this still makes me giggle.
After about six months of consistent therapy, our Faith started marking major milestones, quite an impressive feat. It was a miracle that a two-year-old who had never uttered a single word or taken a step could now crawl and stand up on her own. For that, and every time I remember this, I give God the Glory. Over time, she progressed and her first word was “maa----am”. It didn’t take long for me to get praise from my colleagues and the officials at SOS Kenya for the progress that Faith had made. My beautiful daughter had changed the narrative to the surprise of everyone, especially the medics who had wanted her relegated to a disabled children’s facility.
Faith, now a 27-year-old mother of one, has grown to be an outgoing cheerful young lady. Ironically, she is also passionate about children. She successfully graduated with a Diploma in Childhood Education and is currently an SOS Children’s Villages kindergarten teacher/educator, a profession she dearly loves.
Each of my other children is also unique in their special way and they have gone on to pursue diverse interests. While it was hard initially for every child to adjust to the idea of living with another mother, family, children and even the general SOS community, with time they coped well. As they say, children adapt easily. I am a strong believer in this as they adjusted pretty easily and grew up well. I am proud of each one of them, being aware of the fact that they are all different and faced different challenges in life: this is the essence of life. As for challenges that I faced during my time in SOS, these varied from getting lost in Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, as I used public transport to take Faith to therapy amongst other things. I was fresh and new to the city when I came to SOS and, like any other mother, I was required to familiarise myself with places so as to be able to source food as well as other services required by my children. Leaving all my children with a mother assistant during the official leave days was also hard for me as I worried about how they would fair under someone else’s care, especially the children who longed for constant attention. On some occasions the children would hug me tightly after my break and ask me not to leave for such a long time ever again (two weeks). This would make me laugh, but I also think it was important to teach them that it is okay to be independent, if anything were to happen to me - but of course this never went down well with any of them.
Faith indeed brought me this far and blessed me with a special family. I appreciate Ruth and Mercy for allowing me to take care of Faith as the youngest in the family and “making them overly independent at such a young age” (in their words). Further special appreciation goes to the rest of my children for allowing me to be their mum, loving me despite our differing opinions on some issues, and for growing up to be successful young men and women in society, full of respect and constantly keeping tabs on me and the current generation of children. You are my family and always will be. I will continue loving and cherishing each of you dearly.
“It is indeed possible with faith” – Mama Faith©
Nancy Gacheri Gicheru
SOS Mother at SOS Children’s Village Buru Buru, Nairobi, Kenya.
Nancy has been an SOS mother since 1992.
Her passion for caregiving, especially to orphaned children, led her to join SOS Children’s Villages. She has raised 25 children: 10 boys and 15 girls. She derives satisfaction from working on community development projects with her SOS colleagues and seeing how life for young people improves.
Nancy was born into a large loving family and feels the same sentiment towards her SOS family. She keeps up strong relationships with family members. In her leisure time, she likes to travel and visit family. She is also a cultural dance enthusiast and leads a lot of cultural marriage celebrations with her singing and dancing.
Nancy was born in a rural town in the south-western part of Kenya. She now lives in Nairobi, the lively capital of Kenya. Kenya is known as a popular tourist destination. There is a great diversity of flora and fauna and impressive landscapes like the Rift Valley, natural lakes and rivers, and a variety of animal species.