My name is Helen. I was born and raised in a little village in Kenya. With 50 tribes native to Kenya, the Maasai are most popular and well known for keeping and sustaining their traditions and cultural practices, such as the beautifully beaded dresses and accessories, widely worn by many. On the opposite are practices detrimental to human survival in the 21st Century. These practices include, but are not limited to, childhood engagement, early and forced marriages, lack of girl child education, lack of property ownership and inheritance rights among women, and a general widespread abject poverty. Raised and surrounded by such conditions, you are either a victim or an escapee, but either way, children watch helplessly as their mothers suffer beyond human comprehension.
With all these atrocities, people frequently ask, “how did you escape?” There are only two routes of escape: total commitment to faith and educated parents. I am blessed with both.
Moving to the United States was a daring decision as circumstances will later prove, and even in the midst of difficult and impossible situations, my faith was tested, strengthened and proven. But testing of them all was becoming homeless. The atmosphere of being trapped and locked up started to loom. It was at this point, I had to make the most crucial decision so far: whether to give up or keep fighting. But looking back at how much I had lost, sacrificed, I was way beyond the point of no return. Dead or alive I had to keep fighting!!
My will was tenacious. Even though being homeless was something I never thought of or imagined, destiny carved this road for me, and I chose to travel it with class and dignity. Deep down I knew that I needed some sort of stability.
Just as I thought this, a friend mentioned Elizabeth Gregory Home. (EGH). Early one morning, I walked in just as they opened. I calmly walked to the kitchen where I met a very hospitable lady. I sat at the corner of the dining table and keenly observed everyone and everything. This lady who managed the kitchen spoke softly, yet with so much authority, daring to say things directly to women that most people will only gossip about behind their backs. If someone did something wrong, she would correct them in a very constructive, yet kind and gentle manner. It was not long before I thought, finally I have found one. Someone who was my kind, but not in the way you might think, even though she, too, is a woman of color. But my kind because I immediately discerned her faith. By the end of the week, we had several conversations, including the important question I was dying to ask her: whether she was a minister. She acknowledged she was a pastor. I came to know her as Rev. Valerie. I felt like I finally found someone who understood what I was feeling, seeing and experiencing and saw beyond the pain of being homeless and recognized potential. Who knew a Kitchen Manager who is so soft-spoken could be used by God to let me know that I am not crazy?
With time, I found myself at home at EGH. I knew I could take a shower, do laundry twice a week, find something to eat or drink, and take advantage of other services I needed that were abundantly available. But more than that, it is the environment staff members build around this facility, that means a lot to me. It’s a place where you can do the impossible, achieve the unthinkable, and explore the inconceivable. Today I am so honored and proud to say that I have developed a very unique and special relationship with each one of the staff. Words will never do justice as to the weight and magnitude of my gratitude.
But most importantly, I thank the staff for humanizing us, because the conditions in which we find ourselves living entices most people to dehumanize us. When others look at us, all they see is the sum total of bad and poor decisions. I know Elizabeth Gregory Home will continue to debunk such popular theories. With their support, I will continue to fight to emancipate my community, my nation, and my world.