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Category Archives: True Stories

#WATWB – ResqueBnB: Bringing Together Victims and Volunteers Amid Post-Poll Chaos in Kenya

#WATWB – ResqueBnB: Bringing Together Victims and Volunteers Amid Post-Poll Chaos in Kenya

The August 8th presidential elections turned out to be a fierce dynastic contest pitting the incumbent President Uhuru Kenyatta against his rival, formidable opposition leader and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga. The outcome, where the electoral commission declared Uhuru Kenyatta winner, led to pockets of protests across the opposition leader’s strongholds.

Police responded to the protests with deadly force, leading to an unknown number of deaths. Human rights groups put the number of deaths at twenty four while opposition leaders put the figure at over a hundred.

In the wake of this brutality, some families were forced to run away from their homes, citing cases where police broke into people’s houses to brutalize them. Those who ran from their dwellings were essentially stranded given that most did not have secondary residences.

While some chose to sit back and blame the victims for being ‘violent protesters,’ Kenyan developer Tevin Otieno and colleague Miss Nyawira came with ResqueBnB, a collaborative endeavor between social media users and humanitarian volunteers to connect stranded victims with willing hosts who can accommodate them for an unspecified period. The initiative has also overseen collection of cash and food donations. The groups activities are also coordinated via their Twitter handle @ResqueBnB. A more detailed description of the initiative can be found here.

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We Are the World Blogfest” seeks to promote positive news. There are many an oasis of love and light out there, stories that show compassion and the resilience of the human spirit. Sharing these stories increases our awareness of hope in our increasingly dark world.

This month’s co-hots are Simon Falk, Roshan Radhakrishnan, Inderpreet Uppal, Lynn Hallbrooks, Eric Lahti, and Mary J Giese,

For guidlines and how to join, click here

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Posted by on August 28, 2017 in Inspiration, Lifestyle, News, True Stories, Uncategorized

 

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#WATWB: The 100-year old Living Saint

Every end month, members of the ‘We Are The World Blogfest’ post uplifting and inspiring stories from news sites.

For my second #WATWB post, I’ve chosen to once again share the story of grandpa Dobri, which has a special place in my heart and is in fact one of the initial posts I did when I created this blog.

Grandpa Dobri is a 100-year-old beggar who is already celebrated as a saint in Bulgaria; a country ravaged by poverty and corruption. For over 20 years, Dobri Dobrev has been begging on the streets of Sofia, collecting alms worth lots of money. You would expect him to use the money to better his life, but that’s not what he does. The old begger gives all proceeds from his begging to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, making him the church’s largest private donor. 

Besides donating his collections to the church, Grandpa Dobri also shares food items given to him with other believers. According to a bishop from the church, Dobri gave them $24,900 in 2009 while he continued living a life deprivation. This is a considerably huge amount of money that can change a man’s life given the high poverty level  in Bulgaria; the poorest, if not one of the poorest, members of the EU. The bishop notes that the old man also donates to snaller churches around the area.

His selflessness and generosity hasn’t gone unnoticed despite his meekness and refusal to grant interviews to the media. He is is locally known as “The Living Saint from Baylovo” and graffiti artists painted a mural of him holding a candle on a 10-storey building in a Sofia neighbourhood. 

Grandpa Dobri Mural. Photo courtesy

Dobri is indeed an inspiration that any one can do good to others in society irrespective of financial standing. You can read the story in it’s entirety here.

For guidelines and how to join the #WATWB community click here

For further info, get in touch with this month’s cohosts Simon FalkRoshan RadhakrishnanIndepreet UppalSylvia Stein and Damyanti Biswas.

 
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Posted by on July 30, 2017 in Inspiration, Lifestyle, News, True Stories

 

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#WATWB: Raped and Stabbed on the Wedding Day

While crawling the blogosphere for daily tidbits, I came across a story about a group of writers who came up with the idea of shining some light to the darkness of negativity hogging social media. At the end of every month, members share uplifting stories on “We Are The World” Blogfest. Stories that show all is not lost and that there’s so much positivity in the world; people who go out of their way to make the world a better place or those who’ve been through heartrending ordeals but found the courage to rise up again. 

One such person is Terry Gobanga.

One beautiful day Terry was preparing for what she thought would be a memorable day ahead. Well, memorable it was but not in a way she anticipated. Terry was abducted on the morning of her wedding day, raped, stabbed and left for dead. All this happened while the groom, family and guests were already assembled in a church waiting for her anxiously.

During her hospitalisation, doctors told her she wouldn’t be able to have any children of her own because the stab wound she suffered on her stomach had penetrated her uterus. At this point it seemed the world was collapsing on her. 

Her groom, Harry, stood by her through the ordeal, insisting he still wanted to marry and take care of her. He kept his word and seven months later he walked her down the aisle in a wedding catered for by a rape survivor and her friends.

This is the point at which you’d probably think all is well that ends well. Not so, Terry lost her husband to carbon monoxide poisoning, almost dying along with him, after the jiko (charcoal stove) he had lit to keep them warm filled their bedroom with the toxic fumes.
Despite being a pastor, she felt God had forsaken her. People thought and said she was cursed. She swore she would never get married again. She was depressed.

Nevertheless, a friend of hers never gave up and kept visiting and comforting her. After a while he fell for her and told her he wanted them to be husband and wife. Terry tried to dissuade him in account of her dark past and inability to bear children but he had made up his mind. He married her and they miraculously had children.

Terry wrote a book about the ordeal, Crawling Out of Darkness, and started an organization, Kara Olmurani, that offers rape survivors support and counselling.
Read Terry’s full story here

This month’s We Are The World Blogfest cohosts Lynn HollbrooksSylvia SteinSylvia McGrath and Belinda witzenhausen welcome all to join and share uplifing stories via the #WATWB blogfest.

Click here to become part of the community

 
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Posted by on July 2, 2017 in Lifestyle, News, True Stories

 

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A Day as a Casual Laborer

If there are folks who are overworked and underappreciated, it’s got to be manual laborers. Everyone complains of being overworked and underpaid; from teachers to nurses, bank tellers to janitors. Nonetheless, laborers bear the brunt on a more grandiose scale.
Sometime back, a buddy of mine tipped me of an opening in Kisii Bottlers. The management at the Coca-Cola bottler was offering an opportunity for university students to make a coin alongside getting vital skills in a real-life business environment. Being the opportunist I am, I joined the group, along with my close friends Hassan and Mark, who I call Mnyitanga for his Luhya blood ties, physique and appetite to match. He calls me the same because of the jokes we make in Luhya accent.
On day one we had to get around the usual red tape characteristic of third-world corporate setups. At the gate, mean-looking ‘soldiers’ inquired why we were there, did we have an appointment bla bla fishcake. I lied that the HR manager was aware we were coming, if he could just give him a ring to confirm. Isn’t it amazing how mentioning a firm’s senior person’s name open doors for you? Just be sure to be confident about it though. I prayed that the damn guard wouldn’t go ahead and make the call. Hassan’s sharp dressing also made matters easier. Dude was dressed to the nines, must have thought we were reporting for an office job or something.
Hurdle one was cleared and we were led to the reception, where we were received by a middle aged lady who didn’t want to let go of her younger years. Thankfully, she was very kind and ready to assist. I explained we were there to join our colleagues from the university who had been recruited the previous week.
“Oh, the university students. Hold on a sec.” She said picking up a desk phone and punching some numbers.
After a few ‘ahs’ ’ohs’ and ‘oks’, she asked if we had the contact of the student who had been appointed group leader. Another stumbling block because the only student I knew was Milly, my cousin. I told her nay. She contemplated for a while then asked who else we knew. I told her there was a lady in the group called Milly. She was called and once she expressed familiarity we were let off the hook. Next we had to see some supervisor who would then assign us work. The old mzee, obviously working past retirement, told us to join some group that was in a different section.  We promptly headed there and found some familiar and unfamiliar faces. Most of the guys were not happy to see us and made a poor job of trying to hide their true dispositions. They were cleaning a warehouse floor, we looked at each other, grabbed moppers and joined them.
“So how do you guys work here and how are you remunerated?” Hassan asked no one in particular.
“Well, depends on what work is available. For instance we load sodas to trucks. Payment is calculated in accordance with the total number of packs loaded times 85 cents divided by the number of people.” Atuya volunteered.
People are still paid in cents in this century? I wondered.
“You guys will need to be in a reflector jackets though, get some gloves too” Willis, the group leader told us.
“Where do we get those?” I asked him.
“Go to Jane’s office, she’s a clerk in the HR’s office.” He replied.
“I think you should go get them the gear, given you are the leader.” Atuya was proving to be friendlier than the rest of the lot.
Willis agreed grudgingly but never went for them, giving this or that excuse. Atuya later confided to us that the reason for the cold shoulder treatment we were receiving is because we were increasing the group’s number, therefore decreasing the amount of money each individual would make. They tried several tactics to exclude us but we hanged on tight until a supervisor from another section of the plant came and asked for some guys. We happily left the group to form a new one.
In the course of the next few days we were tasked with various menial jobs, like breaking scuffed bottles into cullets, crating (getting new bottles from bales and placing them into crates) among others. Eventually we got used to other members of the casual workforce and life normalized.
One day, while seated under a shade waiting for an assignment, Mrefu, or Mgenge, as we used to refer to him, came over to us, all sweaty and panting.
“Hey guys, seems you don’t have any job today.” He remarked panting.
“Not yet, we are waiting for some trailers to bring some bottles for crating.” Hassan told him.
“Great, there’s a trailer that has just come in with some products and it needs to be offloaded. We are a bit short in manpower, mind lending a hand?”
“Not at all, we came here to work bwana.” Hassan said as he rose up and I followed suit.
We got to Sansora, the section of the plant where plastic bottle soft drinks and bottled water are kept. Indeed the trailer was already parked along the entrance of one of the warehouses and the guys were standing there clueless on how to proceed. They beamed on seeing us, especially Hassan, because he was stronger and bigger. We organized ourselves into a human chain and got ready to start offloading. I looked at Milly and wondered whether she would manage.
“Nini Edu?” She had obviously caught my eye.
“Hakuna, na si hii umaskini itatumaliza?” I joked.
“Wacha tu.” She remarked.
“Are you guys over there ready!?” Mnyitanga asked, to which we responded affirmatively.
Charles, a.k.a ‘ the User’ (the story of how he got the nickname is as hilarious as it can get but I’d have to bribe him to tell it) had already peeled the tarpaulin from the trailer’s body. The amount of packs in the trailer was daunting. 2-liter packs were the most. I swallowed hard and told myself ‘mwanaume ni effort.’ Within no time User had thrown the first pack to Mnyitanga. The ease with which he did it only encouraged me; you see, User was the slender, bony type. Mark threw the pack to the next in line and in no time it was sent flying my way. I hadn’t anticipated how heavy it would be and the weight nearly knocked me off balance. Not that am weak but this is a six-pack of 2-liter bottles of Coca-Cola we are talking about. I heaved it and threw it over to the next guy in line who nearly dropped it; protesting that I hadn’t thrown it properly.
“Mnyitanga, hii kitu unashikeko hifi, alafu unarusheko namna hifi.” Mnyitanga demonstrated as he sent the pack flying with deceiving ease.  Soon I got the ropes of the game and we continued without incident. People started getting tired after a while of catching and sending the packs flying.
“Stop throwing that pack like a woman bwana!” Hassan growled, going after a pack that had slipped from his grasp while dodging another that almost bashed his skull.
“Hey, hey! Stop right there! Don’t’ ruin the product or you will pay for it.” The old man supervising us shouted from his high stool.
Rawson took advantage of the momentary lapse, dodged behind a pallet full of Fanta Orange crates. Psssst! Went the sound of escaping gas and in about 10 seconds he tossed an empty 500ml bottle back into a crate and was back in line, wiping his mouth and looking around innocently.
“Leteni maji bwana!” He shouted, obviously replenished. I waited for an opportunity to quench my thirst as well but none forth came. The hawk-eyed old man was now observing us more keenly, perhaps suspecting some truancy.
I looked over at the trailer to see if we had made any progress; we were not even a quarter way and my chest was already burning. I cursed and got back into line. We continued working like an old machine that needed service; occasional drops here, a click or curse there. Someone farted and sent us all laughing derisively. Some packs were dropped, someone shrieked in pain after being hit with an oncoming missile. Paying attention in this setup was mandatory. I took advantage of the momentary lapse and tried to look around for water; I found none. What an irony, I wondered as I licked my dry lips. My stomach growled from the sight of thousands of stacks of bottled water.
“Wewe, ebu rudini line, nobody wants to sleep here.” Willis remarked.
It was now 3pm, 1hour 30 minutes since we started offloading the trailer, and we were only approaching the half mark. I sighed and got back in line. Another episode of rocking back and forth, catching and throwing and panting like tired asses. Douglas, the guy before me, sent a pack the wrong way and it painfully hit my chest.
“Dougy bana!” I growled at him, red-eyed and spitting venom. He mumbled a barely audible ‘sorry’ as he wiped sweat from his brow. Milly was tired beyond redemption and had switched positions. She was now arranging the packs, another demanding task but which she managed nonetheless. It got to a point where I could no longer work with Douglas, so positions were switched and someone else assumed his place.
Guys were now so tired that everyone had gone silent. With a quarter of the load to go, my chest was burning. My saliva was thick and tasted of blood and I would get occasional cramps in my stomach. My biceps were sore and my legs were threatening not to support my weight any more. User kept going like he had just started, I wondered where he got the strength. Willis now had a blank, haunted stare. Mnyitanga got so tired that he dropped off the line, sat on a crate and hang his head resignedly. Milly was nowhere to be seen. Hassan was all drenched in sweat but kept going, am sure he felt like giving up but couldn’t because it would be embarrassing given his size and apparent strength. I wanted to drop off too but hanged on stubbornly, against my tired bones’ will. I wanted to prove wrong those who thought I was too weak for the job.
“Bichana chikaseni bwana, mko karibu kumarisa.” The old man encouraged.
We toiled along. I was now working on auto-pilot; arms swinging back and forth mechanically. We were now offloading half-liter packs of Dasani but the fatigue made them heavy nonetheless. I silently thanked User for starting with the 2 liters because I would have bowed out were they still in line to be offloaded. The last pack was thrown and placed in the stack meticulously. Everyone picked their belongings and made for the exit. It was now 5pm.
“An invoice has just come in, there is a truck to be loaded. Will you guys manage? The supervisor asked.
I looked at him with murderous eyes, luckily the question wasn’t directed at me.
“Sure, give us five minutes to catch a breath.” User replied.
I dragged my feet to a nearby tap, put my skull under the jet of cold water and got myself properly drenched. Hassan caught up with me.
“We were looking for work, we have now found it.” He joked.
I smiled at him sickly, too weak to even laugh.
“Are you going to load that truck?” I asked him.
“Sure, I’ll just pick my bag and head back” He said sarcastically.
We made our way towards the gate but the old man spotted us.
“Hey, you two. Where are you headed? Get back here, it’s not yet time.” He commanded
“The HR manager wants to see us, we’ll be back in a moment.” I told him with a straight face.
I winked at a guard whom we had befriended earlier and he corroborated the story. The old man told us to get back quick and we headed down to the main section of the plant. We wanted to leave immediately but could not sign out because it was about an hour too early. We made our way to the main production factory which also doubled as a warehouse. We dodged the CCTV cameras and made our way to a secluded spot among stacks of pallets loaded with crates of empty bottles. Hassan pulled two bottles of soda from a dark recess where we had hidden them earlier. I cleared the contents in my bottle in an instant and lied back to regain some energy. Hassan was barely halfway with his.
“Stop drinking that soda as if you are in a kiosk, we may get caught.” I told Hassan. He laughed uncontrollably then tried to gulp quickly; almost getting choked. You see, it was illegal to take soda within the factory premises. If you thirsted for some you had to go to the discounted canteen. Willis tried to call us later on but we lied that we had been assigned some task. There was no way I was going to do any more work that day.
I calculated the amount each of us had made offloading those 4,000 packs from the trailer (we were ten). Going by Atuya’s information, each would pocket about 340 shillings. 340 from all that back-breaking work. I sighed in exasperation. We lay in that hiding spot until it was six. Getting up to leave was a mountainous task. All muscles were now sore and any movement hurt like hell. We laboriously headed for the gate, picked our ID cards, signed out and trudged off the plant premises. We barely spoke on the way, just occasional observations and one-word replies or grunts. We got to the junction on the main road and said our byes. Hassan boarded a matatu and I took a boda boda as I lived nearby. Once in my crib, I only took my jacket off and sank into bed, socks and shoes still on. This is one of the moments I wished I could employ the services of a masseuse. I cursed my forefathers.
I will live to fight another day, I encouraged myself and drifted off to sleep. Supper will be taken care of at whatever hour I wake.
   

    

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2016 in Humor, Lifestyle, Short Stories, True Stories

 

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Grandpa Dobri: The 100 year-old Beggar Considered a Living Saint

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A 100-year-old beggar in a threadbare coat,”Grandpa”Dobri, is already celebrated as a saint in Bulgaria—a symbol of goodness in a country ravaged by poverty and corruption. For over 20 years,Dobri Dobrev has been begging on the streets of Sofia, collecting alms worth tens of thousands of euros. And he has given it all to the Bulgarian Orthodox Church. This has made him the largest private donor of the golden-domed Alexander Nevski cathedral even as he maintains an ascetic lifestyle.
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Posted by on May 25, 2014 in Lifestyle, True Stories

 

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Alex Owumi: I Almost Lost My Life Playing Basketball For Gaddafi’s Team

_72596610_ao_closeup_976When US basketball player Alex Owumi signed a contract to play for a team in Benghazi, Libya, he had no idea that his employer was the the most feared man in the country. Nor did he guess the country was about to descend into war. Here he tells his story, parts of which some readers may find distressing.
It was a beautiful flat. Everything was state of the art and it was spacious, too. It had two big living rooms, three big bedrooms, flat screens everywhere. The couches had gold trim and were so big and heavy they were impossible to move. The door to the apartment was reinforced steel, like on a bank vault. Read the rest of this entry »

 
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Posted by on May 24, 2014 in Lifestyle, True Stories

 

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