Granny finds strength in raising grandkids after immense loss

By Evelyn Makena
Wednesday, September 16th, 2020
Despite her loss, Dorothy Kamonya wears an infectious smile. Photo/COURTESY
In summary

The ability to muster strength in the face of adversity is one of the attributes that most people that know Dorothy Kamonya Madamanu compliment her on.

At 62 years old, Dorothy, a retired social worker has endured immense loss in her life.

From enduring a difficult childhood, separating from her husband and losing her three children within a span of less than five years, Dorothy has been through a fair share of challenges. 

In Vigina village, Vihiga county where Dorothy was born and raised, she endured a traumatic childhood after losing her mother while in Form Three and putting up with an unsupportive step mother after her father remarried. 

Being the second born and the first girl in a family of 11, she took up the responsibility of taking care of her younger siblings. 

At a tender age of 19, she got married to escape the turbulence at home. “I had run away from home due to the hostility of my step-mother.

Then I fell into the arms of a man who treated me well,” she says.  

Though the marriage had its challenges, Dorothy says that her ex-husband had offered her a shoulder to cry on when she needed it most.

“The marriage broke on grounds of infidelity. We had been married for 20 years,” says the mother of three girls and twin boys. 

The union ended on a sour note, with her husband kicking her out of a house they had built jointly.

Dorothy with one of the grandchildren.

At the time of the separation, all her children were in secondary school.

“I struggled to educate the children. There were times when I almost gave up, but I kept fighting,” she remembers.

In 2011, Dorothy breathed a sigh of relief after successfully taking her five children through school with all of them gainfully employed.

With the responsibilities of paying school fees behind her, things were beginning to look up for her when tragedy struck.

In 2012, Dorothy lost her first-born daughter after a short bout of meningitis leaving behind three children.

“The youngest was one year at the time. Since my daughter was a single mother, the responsibility of taking care of my grandchildren fell squarely on me,” she says.

They were just getting over the devastating loss, when tragedy struck again. In 2015, one of her youngest twin sons was shot dead by thugs in South B while heading to work.

In the next three years Dorothy was thrown into deeper throes of grief after losing her father in 2016, and her step mother in 2017.

Dorothy with her late son, Moses Mukunza and daughter, Josephine Miroyo. Photo/COURTESY

Then in 2018, her other twin son died after his pancreas burst while on his way from work. 

Now, she has been left with the huge responsibility of taking care of her four grandchildren — three who belonged to her late daughter and the fourth one belonging to her second born daughter who she lives with) while struggling to complete her retirement home in Kangundo road, Machakos county.  

Before her son’s death, Dorothy and her children had mobilised resources and bought the piece of land and were in the process of putting up a family home.

But with the incapacitating loss and the financial strain of taking care of her grandchildren, the project has stalled.

“My earnings dwindled after I retired from the civil service two years ago. My sons were supporting me to complete the house, but they are no longer here,” she says. 

Not an easy task

The family has been putting up in the unfinished house. Taking care of her grandchildren, Dorothy says, has not been easy.

The small-scale poultry farmer has been splitting her earnings between fees for her grandchildren with the eldest being a student at Multimedia University and the youngest a Grade Three pupil, and buying her medication.

Dorothy who suffers from blood pressure and heart complications adds that her deteriorating health has made it difficult to help the family meet basics such as food on a regular basis.

This year, she had plans to open a groceries shop to augment the family’s income, but the disruptions caused by Covid-19 have put those plans on hold.

She acknowledges how tough it has been to get through the loss of her children, but the desire to see her grandchildren well taken care of to the best of her ability keeps her going. 

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