Tuesday, October 12, 2021
I arrived at the airport in Kisumu, Western Kenya, greeted by Sister Paul, Sister Damaris, and Charles who drove me to their convent in the town of Ahero, which means “I love” in the Luo language. The Franciscan sisters, along with many volunteers (including Charles who volunteers full time), operate the Sponsor a Grandparent program and are the de facto seniors services agency for the region. Although they support 115 sponsored grandparents, they care for well over 600 destitute older people and manage the seniors’ community cooperative bank (will post soon). The grandparents we visited suffer from a number of ailments: blindness, paralysis, and many health issues.
Without exception, they expressed their gratitude to HelpAge Canada who is their sole beneficiary. Through our program, the grans receive needed food, medication, psycho-social support, cash assistance, and funeral arrangements for those who have no remaining children (coffin, burial). Many of the grandparents who are not living with disabilities work as casual laborers or sell at the local market. It is difficult to put into words the overwhelming feeling of sorrow for their suffering, but great humility and inspiration by their sense of joy and thankfulness.
In the video here, grandparent Benta Allaro who is 65 years of age and was the beneficiary of a new home following the flooding, pulls herself with crutches as she has not walked since the age of 12. She explains how she always keeps a smile on her face.