When Form Four leaver Millicent Minayo went to Ms Sarah Kimani’s house looking for work several years ago, she did not know what was in store for her.
On Saturday, she walked from Ms Kimani’s house after a celebratory luncheon, confident and assured with a diploma she obtained from Mater Hospital Nursing School.
The luncheon in South C estate, Nairobi was the climax of a heart-warming tale of a woman who went out of her way to nurture the potential of a poor girl.
“I cried. It was moving. I felt a sense of achievement,” Ms Kimani said.
“It was clear that we had broken the cycle of poverty in her home.”
It all started in 2012. Ms Kimani, a journalist, had been left to her own devices by a househelp who took off without notice, leaving her the tough task of raising her four-year-old daughter Audrey.
Her job requires a lot of travelling so Ms Kimani had to get an assistant, and fast.
A friend then informed her that she had two nannies and needed to know if she would want one.
“I said, ‘Yes, I don’t have a choice.’ I didn’t even have time to interview her on the phone. I just picked the girl from my friend. We actually negotiated her salary in the car because I was desperate. I had to go to work the following day,” the journalist said.
That was the start of Ms Minayo’s stay at Ms Kimani’s house in South C as she awaited the release of the 2011 Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education examination results.
“I accepted to be a maid when I came to Nairobi in 2012. It was my first job,” Ms Minayo said.
She was not paid much, owing to her inexperience.
Ms Kimani promised her better salary.
Weeks later, the Kenya National Examination Council released the KCSE test results. Ms Minayo had scored a mean grade of B-.
“I was excited but she didn’t look happy. My househelp said she expected to get a better grade; most likely a B+,” Ms Kimani said on Saturday.
WRITING AN ESSAY
That year, the grade could not secure her a place at a public university so she had to look for an alternative.
A private university advertised chances in its law school and the journalist encouraged her househelp to apply.
Part of the application involved writing an essay and Ms Minayo did so, giving reasons why she deserved a chance.
Ms Kimani said she was moved to tears on reading it.
“She wrote a very good essay,” the journalist said.
“It was then that she opened up about living with her sister in Kawangware, not having food and having to wash clothes for neighbours after school or on Saturdays in order get some cash.”
Despite the good essay, Ms Minayo was not admitted to the university. Fortunately, her employer had identified her strengths.
“If my daughter became sick and began vomiting, I would also throw up. Millicent would wipe her and it came naturally. That is when I suggested that she takes up nursing. Her grades spoke volumes and she would definitely make it,’” Ms Kimani said.
By a stroke of “luck”, Ms Minayo fell sick and was treated at Mater Hospital.
That is when she found out that the hospital had a nursing school.
In September 2012, Ms Kimani encouraged her employee to apply for the course.
She got an admission letter but there was a big problem. Ms Minayo could not raise the college fees.
Even those who wanted a scholarship were told to pay a year’s fees to be considered for the remaining years.
Ms Kimani ran out of options so her employee’s course had to be deferred for a year.
The two agreed that Ms Kimani would pay her Sh10,000 every month between September 2012 and September 2013.
Ms Minayo would save as much as she could. Her employer would then see if she could top up on what she had saved.
“She saved Sh65,000. I gave her the money and bought books for her. My father and brother helped us,” Ms Kimani said.
That secured Ms Minayo’s admission to the Mater Hospital Catherine McAuley School of Nursing and Midwifery.
In the first year, she was a student and househelp.
Ms Minayo would wake up early to perform her duties, which she would continue in the evening.
Her good performance saw her earn scholarships in the subsequent years.
Later, Ms Minayo left Ms Kimani house to live in the college till her graduation on Friday.
“I felt good. It was a huge step I had made. I want to go for further studies. My goal is to save as many lives as possible,” the 24-year-old said.
“I want to help the less fortunate members of the society acquire education.”
And she had all the kind words for Ms Kimani.
PLAYED BIG ROLE
“Ms Kimani played a very big role in my life. She was like a mother. I’m not sure I would be where I am were it not been for her,” she said.
Ms Minayo’s mother Esther Khadambi, 64, could not hide her joy.
“Sarah has placed me where most Kenyan parents only dream of,” the elderly woman said.
Audrey, now 10, thanked Ms Minayo “for the many times she helped me with homework”.
“I wish she gets a good job soon,” the girl said.