Hi, my name is Monica Mwongeli and am a student at Kenyatta university pursing a degree in Nursing through the funding from Tuungane Community Foundation. Growing up, I remember visiting the local clinic on days medical officers from Nairobi would visit just to see the nurses. Back then, the simple white dresses with crisp rubber shoes the nurses wore symbolized the epitome of achievement and importance. I dreamt of one day becoming a nurse and working in a big hospital like Kenyatta National Hospital. At the time, things at home were okay and my dreams of becoming a nurse did not seem so farfetched. See, I am the second born in a family of five children between two living parents. In the first 8 years of my life, both my parents had stable sources of income with my mother working odd jobs in local farms and my father working for a huge factory. My parents were both very caring and I enjoyed spending time with my siblings after school. However, life happened and our family’s bubble was busted by one tragedy after another.
It all begun when my father had an argument at work with one of his colleagues. The argument escalated to the point of my father being attached with a machete. In the three months my father was admitted in hospital, our lives went from normal to total chaos. The stress of having to provide for five children and foot a continuously growing hospital bill sent my mother overboard. In her side of the family, mental illness had ravaged several women including my grandmother and it soon took hold of my dear mother. The African community is set up such that such cases of repeated mental health are considered witchcraft or a curse and my family fell victim of the same evil when my mother started experiencing “episodes.” Back then, my small worldview and lack of knowledge in mental health meant I too believed we were cursed and my mother’s ‘madness’ was a clear evidence of our family’s evil.
I am not sure at what point my father started drinking but I can remember the first incident which resulted from his drunken state. It was a rainy night and I had hardly fallen asleep when he came banging on the door drunk as one can possibly be without dying from dehydration. Pissed, my mother stormed out of their shared bedroom and went to open the door. Eventfully, a fight erupted which involved all of us. Such nights became a norm in our household. I cannot count the number of days and nights I spent worried that my dad was lying somewhere dead from excessive alcohol when he failed to come home for weeks but the saddest part was the fact that even when he would eventually show up, he would cause physical harm to all of us. On such days, I wished he would just disappear, albeit much shame and guilt of holding such thoughts against a man I so dearly love.
By the time I was finishing my primary education, my identity as a Monica Mwongeli had been replaced by a much hopeless image. I was the daughter of a ‘mad’ woman and drunkard who often showed up at my school to cause trouble. Although I had passed very well, my dreams of joining a secondary school seemed just that, dreams. At that particular point in my life, I felt cheated and dejected. I completely wrote off the idea of becoming a nurse. The best thing that I thought could happen was finding a kind man to marry me to at least take me away from the chaos that was my family. But God had other plans, plans to connect me with SOC and change my life and by extension, that of my family.
SOC has watered dreams I had left to die under the weight of family issues and poverty. By financing my high school education and now my university, the organization has given me a golden chance to redeem my story. The situation at home has barely improved since my parents are still battling with their individual struggles. Although sometimes the money I receive from the organization waters down to my younger siblings, I am grateful that when the need arises, I can send them money for a pair of shoes from my savings even if it means having to cut on my school needs. The money is great, but I am especially grateful for the additional emotional and psychological support the organization offers. Talking to the counselling team has helped me understand my mother better. I am also in a position to monitor my mental health since I understand what my mother suffers from might be genetic. I might never get the chance to meet all the people who made my dreams become a reality but I pray God will always remember what they have done for me and my family. Someday soon, I will wear my white nurse uniform and rubber shoes. Someday soon I will have enough money to get my parents the help they need. Someday soon, my family will usher in a new era of happiness, far from the pain and suffering we have endured in the past decade. Thanks SOC and the Tuungane Community Foundation, my path has been lighted with the warm ambers of hope and faith for a better tomorrow.