A lady called ‘Ruth’ came to me in May, 2013, I was at the close of a small project to rescue 40 women who were victims of Human Trafficking (one male was in the group, he went on to do well selling secondhand shoes). At that stage my resources were appallingly low but still I asked the question ‘What would help you now’? She said “if I had another flask, I could make more tea for the men in the evening” The poverty of her statement gripped me like a choke on my throat. She was referring to the men going on night duty as security guards.
I enquired to know a little more of her story? “My husband just walked out of our marriage, it was a heavy blow to take” I could see she was profoundly depressed. “Imagine just then, my best friend suggested she could get me a great job in Mombasa, it sounded good. I left my three children with my mother, I knew I would be able to send her money home to feed them”
Amid copious tears she told me “I was plunged into a highly secure brothel (it traded as gym & massage), we were 11 women and each of us ‘serviced’ more than ten men in each 24/7period’ There seemed to be no escape route at all, I became dead inside After eight months, one man there, we called him Mr. Ali (but he was an Italian) told me to pack my bags for 6pm. I was ready with one small plastic bag, it was all I had. He drove dangerously through a maze of small narrow streets and I was scared – my mind raced to my children and my mother. Till that moment none of us were ever given a single coin that I could send home. Suddenly we were surrounded by robbers and he was hauled out – it was my moment to escape. I just ran faster and faster, suddenly I stopped and I realized I was free. I knew that only God could do such a miracle”.
My only thoughts were: how can I get to my children in Mukuru (2nd largest slum in Nairobi). I waved down one ‘matatu’ (local transport), please, please, help me to reach the Nairobi bus station and he just waved to me, “it’s just past those lights, turn right” But I had no fare, I just pleaded and begged the ticket man and he said give me KShs 600/- I had nothing, but a kind man in the queue behind me paid it. “That was the second miracle in less than an hour” I was on my way and reached home next morning. When I saw my children I knew immediately that they were malnourished”. Then my mother handed me a note from the class teacher. I opened and read it, “Your children are sleeping in class, please come and explain yourself” I knew that they were sleeping due to malnutrition.
‘Ruth’ did her utmost to make her hot tea business a success and she had paid a small deposit towards school fees of her eldest daughter. But she could not afford any text books to keep the girl in Form One secondary school. As I learned later she had many struggles and worst of all was a persistent cough, I prevailed on her to visit a clinic. She stayed in a corner at the back during the next time I was meeting with this amazing group of victims. She waited for me and as she approached she just blurted out ‘Habari sio nzuri’ it meant the news is not good. Ruth had just learned that she was HIV positive and worse still they were testing her for TB. It felt like ‘the end of the road’ for this brave woman. I received this terrible news with a determination that her bravery would not be in vain.
We did a lot of ‘walking together’ for a long time. A seed was sown in my heart and unbelievably one brave woman from my parish had sent a donation to Medical Missionaries of Mary for Christmas for my work. This was now the third miracle for Ruth. I could not wait to share my Joy with a woman who was courageous beyond words. From that moment onwards I knew that faith and hope would see ‘Mwende’ through her secondary education. A long Hug held both of us together in a ‘Mary & Elizabeth’ embrace. I knew very deeply now that my ministry of Healing was enchained to the ancient faith of Islam. We remained locked in awe at this infusion of Joy. For me Jesus and Allah were one as time stood still and in that moment my mission and ministry was reborn in a new and deeper way. It was a moment of standing on the threshold of eternity, I knew that no matter the cost - nothing and nobody could hold me back from this pursuit of Rescue, Restoration, Reintegration and Repatriation of Victims no matter when or where I would meet them.
‘Mwende’ came top of her class with a B+ in her Form Four year. In October, 2022, this young woman graduated from the University of Nairobi with a degree in Counseling Psychology. She is now in her first job and in a position to educate three younger siblings.
Sr. Mary O’ Malley, MMM