A single father in Kenya is determined to ensure the safety and wellbeing of his children

Wednesday, June 19, 2024
single father in Kenya is determined to ensure the safety and wellbeing of his children

Antony has been through many troubles. Every time he raises his head above water, another challenge arises. But the father of two is determined to keep fighting for the sake of his children. 


In 2021, Antony was newly enrolled in the SOS Children’s Villages Family Strengthening Program in Nairobi. He was a single father, alone to raise his children after his wife left them, but was committed to raising his young children, Wangui*, who was three years old at the time, and Njuguna*, who was two.


Antony says that as the children grew older, he began to feel the strain of conflicting demands -- the pressing need to earn a living and childcare responsibilities.  


“I had to work, clothes needed cleaning, housekeeping chores, cooking, bathing the children… I could not cope.” 


With no relatives willing or able to help him, Antony remarried in 2022. He was excited to have found a partner and a mother figure for his children. She had two children of her own, and Antony’s family grew from three members to six.   


But the bliss was short-lived.  


A few months into the union, Antony discovered his new wife was abusing and neglecting Wangui and Njuguna. They were visibly afraid of her. Antony’s two children spent their time outside when their father was at work to protect themselves from their unkind stepmother. 


For the safety and wellbeing of his children, Antony had to let her go. 


A struggling business


While dealing with marriage trouble, Antony’s shoe business also had problems due to low sales. He used his daily income to buy food for his large family until no money was left to restock his supplies. As business prospects dwindled, the father of two found himself in trouble with his creditors.  


“My landlord threw me out of my house and sold my household items for failing to pay rent. We were homeless for three days. They took our TV, bed, cupboard, tabletop gas cooker, and even our pots and pans. They also sold what was left of my business. We lost everything. We moved into this house with nothing.”  


Antony rented a tiny one-room house and started all over again. He says that the support he received from SOS Children’s Villages kept him sane.  


He was trained in entrepreneurship and introduced to the Village Savings and Loan Association (VSLA), where he learned financial management. As a member of the association, he could save and borrow money to invest. Antony says the learnings and the opportunity to access cash inspired him to open his shoe business again. 


These days, he sits in the open air in a shop corridor and repairs his customers’ shoes. Neatly arranged beside him are the wares for sale. Behind him, well written on a piece of wood and hanging on a wall, is the signage “fundi wa viatu” in Kiswahili, which translates to shoe repairman.  


On a good day, Antony earns 200 Kenyan Shillings ($2 CAD) and saves 150 Kenyan Shillings ($1.60 CAD) weekly. 


“I borrow often to equip my business,” says Antony as he polishes a white sneaker. “I buy shoe polish, dye, and brushes, and I also stock cheap second-hand shoes, which I replenish and sell. I can say my business is doing much better. It feeds us daily, and I pay 4800 Kenyan Shillings (40 CAD) in school fees for Njuguna per term.”  


SOS Children's Villages Kenya covers Wangui’s school fees and supplies, which is a great relief for Antony. With his limited earnings, he says educating both children would be impossible. Wangui has grown rapidly. She has already lost her front teeth and is now six years old. She is in her second and final year of kindergarten. Her brother Njuguna is five and in his first year of school. 


To supplement his income, Antony looks for odd jobs around the neighbourhood. “We buy food with the money I make daily. If I do not make anything, then we have nothing to eat.” 


“My plan is to get enough capital to buy good quality second-hand shoes that I can sell in this area and in the neighbouring estates. And I will make money. The shoes I have in stock right now are low quality and are not worth marketing. But good shoes will attract many customers.”   


The interest from his savings at the VLSA enabled him to furnish his house. He bought a tabletop gas cooker, chairs, a bed, tables, and other items. His home is no longer empty.  


Parenting fatigue


Antony admits that he contemplated giving up his children during his low moments.


He felt exhausted and thought of handing the children over to their mother. However, the parenting training he received from SOS Children’s Villages was very timely and made him change his mind. 


“That training opened my eyes about good parenting. It gave me new insights about how to handle my children and how to talk to them. I was so encouraged. I felt guilty that I could even think of giving my children away.”


Married again


Last July, Antony remarried, and he says that this time it is working.  


“My children love Jane, my new wife. She is warm and affectionate. They have bonded with her and like to call her mum. Wangui and Njuguna look good and healthy, and I am happy to see them like that.” 


“I love my children very much. They make me feel brave and fulfilled. I like how they run to me after school; both of them must first see me before removing their school uniform. In the morning, Wangui will not allow anyone else to take her to school or pick her up in the evening. I love my children. They are my world.”

Canadians wishing to help vulnerable children are encouraged to sponsor a child, sponsor an SOS Village or make a one-time donation. Your support will change the lives of orphaned, abandoned and other vulnerable children. Please help today.