By Sarah Ooko and Susan Otieno, World Vision Communications Department, Kenya
Mirriam and Shadrach are jovial and bubbly children. Their warm smiles and animated personalities are endearing to many people that interact with them.
The two siblings - aged six and nine years respectively - fill their house with laughter and joy at all times.
Their proud mother, Petronila, holds them dear to her heart. The children are her 'life'. They are her source of joy and inspiration.
"I love reading, playing and doing summersaults. When I grow up,I would like to plait hair just like my mum. I already know how to do that," says six-year-old Mirriam as she caresses her doll's hair.
Petronila nods in affirmation while smiling. She then pulls Mirriam and Shadrach closer for a warm one-arm hug.
She lives for such moments of bliss and happiness with her loved ones. These are experiences that Petronila does not take for granted.
It has been two months since she came back home from a COVID-19 quarantine centre.
She was taken there by public health officials after coming into contact with people suspected to have the disease.
"Things happened so fast. I had to leave my home and children immediately. With no one else to take care of them, I asked my neighbour to take them in," she narrates.
Try as she may, Petronila was unable to stop the torrent of stressful and fearful thoughts that flooded her mind at that moment.She was scared of leaving her loved ones behind, wondering if she would ever see them again.
During this period, media world over were awash with sad and anguishing stories of people getting COVID-19 and dying alone in hospital without their loved ones. Petronila feared going through such an ordeal.
Her children were deeply affected too. They watched her go with great sadness, crying and wondering why their mother had to leave them so suddenly.
Petronila’s neighbour later reported the matter to the area chief and requested for support as she lacked sufficient resources to take care of the children.
The chief reached out to World Vision in Kenya’s Kajiado County, and asked for assistance. Thereafter, the organisation stepped in and bought food and other groceries to adequately support the children.
World Vision staff members were also able to counsel Mirriam and Shadrach. They helped them to understand what was going on and gave them hope that all would be well.
This helped the children to soldier on, and deal with the stigma that they faced from other community members.
"People used to tell us that you children of Petronila have Corona. I felt bad," recalls Shadrach.
The accusations were hurtful but he had to be strong for himself and his sister. Thanks to their prayers and faith in God, they both remained optimistic that all would be well eventually.
"When I missed mum, I used to say that she would come. And then she came back," says six-year-old Mirriam.
Indeed, Petronila was later discharged from the quarantine centre after the recommended fourteen days. She tested negative for the Coronavirus disease and was glad to learn that she was not infected with COVID-19.
"I am grateful to God and World Vision for supporting my children and helping them while I was away," she says with a breaking voice as her eyes fill up with tears.
Petronila’s house is located near Namanga - a town that borders Kenya and Tanzania in Kajiado County. It is one of the COVID-19 hotspots in Kenya.
World Vision is heightening awareness creation in the area on COVID-19 prevention strategies. The organisation is also enhancing the capacity of health facilities and workers to tackle the disease, while ensuring that children are protected from all forms of violence during this pandemic in Kajiado County.