Born in the early 70s to Mr and Mrs Kairu in Nyeri, Joyce Wanjiku Kairu has lived to enjoy the world. An avid rugby fan, who would criss cross the world to attend rugby events around the world, has truly gone full circle.
The young lady after completing her high school education at Othaya Girls’ High School, went ahead to achieve a secretarial diploma that got her a job as a personal assistant for three years before leaving Kenya for the diaspora.
Her life abroad was definitely what we all dream of. Not only did she get to add to her academic qualifications by graduating from the Wits Business School, but she also got to work her way up the career ladder to become a Project Manager at a top firm in South Africa. At one point she even had to quit her job to take care of her ailing sister who lived in the US, but when that was done, she was able to jump back into the professional world.
Earning a salary many could only dream of, travelling the world at will and winning awards for her great job in Project Management, she had basically “reached”. Unfortunately, disaster struck and that’s when her mother was diagnosed with cancer. Too busy at the time, she made sure she sent money for her mother’s medication and care but she couldn’t make time to come and visit her ailing mother often enough albeit knowing she was a terminal case.
She went home for the funeral but remained unsettled the whole time after returning to her home which was based in South Africa at the time. She decided to quit her job and give back to the older people in society what she had been unable to give her own mother. She started helping older people in the Soweto slums.
On day during her morning jog, a lady was hit by a car before her very eyes. The lady died on the spot, Joyce was the first witness at the scene of crime. That was her final call to return home.
Bags packed, she returned to her hometown in Nyeri with one goal in mind, to help the older members of that community. For a while she was able to use her savings to sustain her project but when her well ran dry, she had to rethink her strategy. And that was the begining of her begging days.
She would walk from one shop or vendor to another, explain what she did and request for help. In the beginning many though apprehensive, would help but would go out to enquire who she was and whether she was legit or not.
Two years down the line, everyone in Nyeri knows her as the beggar, or as they fondly call her “Waakoro” (the one helping the older people). From vendors in the markets in Nyeri to the medium enterprises to corporates, all have come in to team up with her organization, Purity Elderly Care Foundation to help the elderly.
Together with Postbank Kenya, they recently organised an event to give blankets to the elderly in Nyeri. From contributions from the shops in Nyeri she supports more than 100 older people in Nyeri and has built seven homes, for those who were living in shacks.
Her single request to the community, “Take care of your ageing parents”. It seems many of the young people in Kenya today, although living amazing lives in Nairobi, they have abandoned their ageing parents in the rural areas.