Forgotten No Longer

How two Kenyan sisters are walking in hope after years of painful neglect

A little girl with cartoons on her capris and a blue jean skirt slightly ripped at the bottom toddles around the muddy yard of Agape Hope Children’s Home. With a grin on her face, there is a sweet curiosity in her dark, Kenyan eyes. Her skirt is a little damp on the edges and it’s clear she’s been playing in the puddles that have formed after an afternoon shower. She is four years old, but her body appears much younger. Her name is Monica.

Before coming to Agape, Monica’s six-year-old sister Esther was her primary caregiver. Esther was the only reason Monica was able to survive the severe neglect of their alcoholic mother.

Alcoholism runs rampant in cities like Nairobi. In the worst areas of the city, as many as 54% of women and 23% of men lack a reliable source of income. The cheap brew, chang’aa, provides a welcome relief from the suffering of poverty in these places.

Unfortunately, it is children that often suffer the most.

On days when Monica and Esther’s mother would retreat to the local bar, the girls were locked in the house alone for hours at a time. Monica’s sister would often have to climb out the window and walk to the local trash dump in search for food. When she returned to the house, Esther would toss her findings back through the open window, climb up into the house, and feed her sister the only meal they would eat that day. Forgotten and alone, this is how the two little girls survived for many months.

But all of that changed one fateful night in December 2012. Monica and Esther’s mother went out again into the night, leaving her two little girls at home alone and uncared for. This time, however, she wouldn’t return. In the early hours of the morning, a few neighbors found Monica and Esther’s mother dead in the street. She had publicly hung herself in a drunken stupor.

Maggie and Oliver Chiraba, the directors at Agape, vividly remember when Monica and Esther were brought to them by local police. No more than a week before that, they were having serious discussions about the growth of the children’s home. They knew that resources were limited, so they had decided to not take in any more children for awhile.

All it took was one phone call for that to change.

When she answered the phone the morning Monica and Esther were tragically orphaned, Maggie felt in her spirit that she could not say no. That morning, the girls became a part of the family at Agape Hope Children’s Home.

Monica was three years old then, but weighed only a little more than seven pounds. She could not walk or talk. Her little belly was swollen from severe malnutrition and Maggie recalls that her dark, Kenyan eyes were wide as she clung to her sister in fear.

Since that day, the road to healing has been a long, difficult process for the girls and their caregivers. But the joy of watching their restoration has been immeasurable.

Esther & Monica

The greatest moment of joy so far came in the spring of 2014. Maggie was in the office, trudging through the endless paperwork that comes with running a ministry like Agape, when she heard shouting and cheering. Assuming it was just a game the children were playing, she continued her work. But as the noise grew louder, a small child ran into the room and beckoned her to come outside. Upon following her, she realized that the entire orphanage was surrounding little Monica. She had finally taken her first steps with the help of a couple of older girls and caregivers. Tears flowed down the faces of those in the yard as laughter danced in the air.

Monica, 3rd from the left, giggles with other children her age.

Maggie often says that day may have been the greatest moment of her ministry so far.

Since then, Monica has continued to heal in other ways, too. Her swollen belly has finally returned to normal. She now chatters little phrases in Swahili, as one her age should do. She toddles around the muddy yard, giggling and laughing with the other children.

Most importantly, she now smiles and her dark, Kenyan eyes are wide with joy, instead of fear. She is forgotten no longer.

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