Evelina is an adult literacy group teacher. She is also the one who taught the women in her adult literacy group how to crochet. It is because her dedication and desire to help her community of Kiumbe Village that this project thrives.
Written by Emma Weissner 2017
Evelina Kanyua grew up as the first born in a household of 5 girls and 3 boys. She helped her mother raise her 7 siblings, and would go with her to others’ shambas (gardens) to do work for money. They had their own shamba at home to take care of as well, and would sell their own grown food once in a while to buy clothes. They were able to afford two outfits a year. Their water source was 6-8km away and Evelina and her mother would go twice a day, which took 4 hours. Evelina and her siblings never had shoes growing up and sometimes they would go hungry. They also faced the reality of being thrown out of school when they couldn’t afford the fees. Evelina enjoyed farming when she was young as well as going to school where she went up to Class 8 before dropping out due to a lack of fees. December was the rainy season as well as a time when her family was together. They would go work on farms to get money for new clothes and maybe a special treat like chapati.
Today, Evelina has 2 boys and 2 girls of her own, although her husband passed away in 2005. They live in 2 mud houses, one for her sons and the other for her and the girls. They also have 1 outhouse and 1 kitchen, both made from mud. She has a bed that her girls sleep on with her when they are home for the holiday. One of her sons finished Form 4 (high school), and the other is in his third year at a private university. Her girls are in Form 3 and Class 7. She couldn’t get her eldest son to college or university because the rainy season was unproductive and she couldn’t afford the fees. He is currently helping her at home.* When her husband died, her in-laws took 6 acres and left her with 2. Here she grows green grams, millet, and raises chickens. She sells everything they produce for school fee money. Today, she travels 3 hours, back and forth, for water, twice a day. A day in Evelina’s life consists of waking up at 6am to go get water, coming back to make tea and breakfast, putting lunch on the fire, going to the farm to work, coming back at 1pm to eat what she put on the fire, going back to the farm at 3pm, coming back at 5pm, putting supper on the fire, going to the river, coming back for supper, and going to bed around 9pm.
Around 7-9pm, Evelina has some time to spend working on making baskets or viondos. When she is able to sell her viondos, she uses the money for, firstly, school fees, and secondly, food. Selling her viondos makes her feel very happy and hopeful that her trouble will be over soon if she makes enough for her children’s education. Evelina also owns a solar lamp that helps her be able to weave these viondos at night, lights her household at night, and helps her children to study at night. Her kids are doing better in school because of this extra study time made possible by the solar light.
Today, Evelina is happy to have a family since she is a widow. She is happy that through Aniceta’s program she gets a bit extra each month. She is happy that through making viondos she is able to get money to send to her son in university. But, she still dreams for more. Her biggest and most important dream is to see her children through their education and gain secure jobs in the government or a NGO. Her second dream is to have a business that will allow her to bring in a good income, so that she may build a good home, purchase clothes and her basic needs.
Hearing about Evelina’s life really opened my eyes to a different perspective and way of living other than my own. Hearing from her first hand was a great experience for me, and a very humbling one. One thing that surprised me was what she enjoyed doing at a young age, which included farming and going to school. When I was a kid, I would probably consider farming a chore and viewed school as something I had to do. For fun I liked riding my bike, hanging out with my friends, going swimming in the neighbor’s pool, playing sports and more. It is obvious to me that Evelina and I had very different experiences growing up. However, we aren’t as different as we seem. I too, enjoy spending time with my family during the holidays and I hope that my future family will have every opportunity for education and a steady job. I remember Evelina’s kind smile and her laughter from the short time we spoke. Even though she lives through many different difficulties each day, she is still smiling and laughing and working every day. I admire Evelina’s strength, drive, determination and love for her children. I hope someday to be as strong as she is.
* I’m not completely sure about this, it is either her oldest son never went or the son that did go to university is can’t continue because of a lack of fees.