Surely the birth of a child brings joy to a family? Sadly, not always.
Seven years ago, when *Lizzie and *Viola were born they faced immediate rejection. Not only were they fatherless, born out of wedlock, bringing shame to the family, but they were twins.
In many cultures, superstition surrounds the birth of twins. They are believed to be a bad omen for a family, and can be shunned by the community.
Sadly, Lizzie and Viola were shunned by their own mother, *Kaila, who saw them only as an impediment to getting married – what man would want her with ‘bad luck’ twins?
Even though she remained living with them, she disowned the twins from birth, and taught them never to call her ‘mother’. They all lived with the twins’ grandmother, and her three other children, in a small shack in Kibera, Kenya, one of the largest slums in the world.
When the twins were three, Kaila became engaged to be married. But the neighbours had never been fooled by her deception, and eventually rumours about the twins’ parentage reached her fiance’s ears.
He gave her an ultimatum: “The girls or marriage to me.” Kaila had made that choice long ago, and she abandoned the girls to her mother’s care.
The twins’ grandmother was a widow with three children of her own to care for. Life was tough for the little family. The only source of income was from the grandmother’s work taking in other people’s washing. Finances were tight, and erratic. When the girls got older, their grandmother tried enrolling them in school on several occasions, but she couldn’t afford the fees, let alone two sets of uniform and learning materials. It was enough of a struggle just to put food on the table.
Eventually she heard of the work of Spurgeon’s Academy, a primary school supported by Global Care on the edge of Kibera. Places are free of charge, with uniform and books provided, as well as two healthy meals a day and access to medical and welfare support. Only the poorest, most vulnerable children are eligible, but the school’s social worker checked out the grandmother’s story, and the twins were enrolled at Spurgeons in early 2018, at the age of six.
For two girls who had known rejection and abandonment from their earliest days, Spurgeons offers love, acceptance, hope and a huge opportunity. They are now receiving a high quality primary education, healthy food, including occasional food baskets for the wider family, and counselling and welfare support as required. If there are no further family upheavals, and they are able to complete their primary education at Spurgeons, they will leave with every opportunity to continue to secondary education or vocational training, and hopefully to find work which pays a living wage, supporting themselves and their family into the future.
Funding a place at Spurgeons is a hand up, not a hand out. Will you help us change the story for more children like Lizzie and Viola?
*names have been changed to protect child identities