A 23-year-old woman in Dagoretti North, Nairobi County, is pleading for help in locating her relatives in Mombasa County with whom she lost contact when she was eight years old.
Currently married with two children, the woman has, by fate, had two names in her life.
One is Mary Njeri, the name on her identity card, Kenya Certificate of Primary Education Exams certificate and other official documents. Most Barianjiku village and Dagoretti Market residents, also know her as Njeri.
But her other name, which she rarely uses is Sabina Adam. This, she says, is the name she had when she was still living at her ancestral home in Mikindani.
She wandered away from her home in 2002 in what she says was a fit of rage after her grandmother gave her elder sister a necklace but overlooked her.
“I went to my grandmother with my sister called Hadija,” she recalls. “She gave her a necklace and I got angry and left. I just found myself here [in Dagoretti]. I don’t know how I came. I found myself at the Dagoretti Centre, and slept at some woman’s place for three days. She had a hotel. Then she gave me out to a madman.”
In the 15 years she has lived away from home, 11 were spent in the home of her guardian Nelly Wanjiku, a woman who rescued her near Dagoretti Market in 2002 as she was being led away by a madman.
WORKING IN A FARM
“We were going home after working in a farm. I was with five women. Then we met a man who told us, “You’ve left that girl and she is running away as she doesn’t know her home. And the one she’s gone with is a mad man,’” narrates Ms Wanjiku, 75.
“He told two young men to run and get hold of the girl. She was grabbed from him (the mad man) and brought to us. On hearing that she was a lost child, we sat on grass with her. One woman was the boss who had employed us in her farm. She stays in Karen. She refused to take the child. Everyone else said she didn’t want the child. The girl grabbed my hand and said, ‘Now I’m yours.”
Ms Wanjiku, a mother of 10, who could barely provide for her family, took in the young girl to her home.
“I said to myself, “This child is like my own. When she leaves my home, she may get a Good Samaritan to help her,” Ms Wanjiku narrated.
Ms Wanjiku took the girl to the police and after recording a statement, she took her in. One of the first decisions she took was to change the girl’s name.
“When I asked what her name was, she replied: ‘Sabina Adam.’ I said I wouldn’t use the name because I didn’t know about Adam, so I called her Njeri and that was it,” she says Ms Wanjiku who recalls that the young girl spoke only Kiswahili.
“When I came here I was speaking the Kiswahili spoken in Mombasa. I didn’t know any language. Then I stayed here for almost 15 years then I knew the language of this place [Kikuyu] and forgot the language of my home people,” Ms Njeri says.
GRAPPLE WITH HUNGER
She schooled at Kirigu Primary School, often having to grapple with hunger pangs because Ms Wanjiku’s household barely had enough food for all.
She did not go to secondary school after sitting her KCPE in 2011 and two years later, she moved in with a man.
But her marriage has been hardly blissful, given that her husband is orphaned and jobless.
Ms Njeri’s lack of a home to turn to puts her in an awkward situation, according to Ms Hellen Wanjiku, the couple’s neighbour.
“I would be happy if Njeri got her people. We feel bad that during festivities, there is nowhere to go to. If she has her people, she can go there,” Hellen told the Nation.
It has been a bumpy life for Ms Njeri, who says there have been times she contemplated suicide.
“People often tell me maybe there was a reason. But I never know that reason,” she says.
She recalls that her sisters were Hadija, Toto and Fatuma and that when she left home, one of her sisters was pregnant.
“I’ve forgotten my mother; but my father is called Adam… I recall that I loved my dad a lot. I really loved him. I could slip from my bed to go sleep with my dad because I loved him. And from my recollection, it is like my mother died. I remember so, though much has faded in memory,” she says.
In 2012, a man showed up claiming to be Ms Njeri’s father. The matter ended up at the children’s court in Nairobi. That is when Ms Njeri’s age was medically assessed to be 18 years in March 2012. The man lost the case.
Ms Njeri’s constant hope is that one day she can reunite with her people.
“I will be very. I will thank God. It’s what I’ve been waiting. When I differ with my husband, where will I go?” she posed.
Njeri, who has never gone to Mikindani since her rescue, says that if someone takes her there on a trip, perhaps she can recall their home.
“Our house was a storey building and next to it was my grandmother’s,” she says, recalling that there used to be palm trees in the area.
And Ms Wanjiku, her guardian, has a message for her relatives: “I will not give her out without seeing them eye-to-eye so they can tell me how she left home and why such a child could leave. I must seek answers. I will want to know why they never looked for her.”