We encounter Jirmo Bokayo, a 58-year-old woman from the Dub Goba area of Marsabit County in Kenya, on a rainy afternoon. The Marsabit team of Sifa FM, a network of radio frequencies used by TWR Kenya, is visiting Dub Goba to distribute food. At first, Jirmo is shy and a bit reserved, but later she opens up to us and shares about events of years ago that still shape her life today.
Once, this widowed mother of eight children was a happily married housewife. She stayed home with the children and tended her small farm while her husband worked as a guard in Nairobi. He supplemented the little bit of income she made from farming with the earnings from his job. But nothing or no one could prepare her for the worst nightmare of her lifetime.
Early one morning 10 years ago, she received a phone call and was told that the father of her eight children had been attacked and killed by thugs while he was at work. She was now a widow, her children were orphaned and the primary breadwinner was no more. Life had come to something of a standstill.
Yet life had to continue – somehow. The eight children had to be schooled. They had to – and still have to – be fed. They have to be trained and guided to maturity. What a burden for a semiliterate single mother!
“I do menial jobs. I go to town where I look for jobs like washing people’s clothes,” says Jirmo. She also continues to till her small farm to supplement her earnings from those other jobs, but she adds that, “the farm is really small, and I can only get a few kilograms of maize and beans in a good season.”
Indeed, the seasons in Marsabit, where one of TWR Kenya’s Sifa FM stations is located, are not very reliable. Rain has become erratic and unpredictable. Crops have dried up prematurely on several occasions, and more and more residents are becoming pessimistic about crop production. Food security is a major issue.
This predicament of people like Jirmo is the reason the TWR team is visiting Dub Goba to distribute food made available to us by our kind supporters. We meet faces that are filled with joy and warmth not only because of the food but also because of the drizzle of rain that falls and the chance to be with some of their favorite radio presenters in person.
Jirmo is a faithful listener of Sifa FM Marsabit. “I listen through the phone,” she says, “… but the phone doesn’t keep power for long, so sometimes it is on and many times it goes off because I can’t charge it here.”
When Jirmo’s cellphone has no power, she has to walk 7 kilometers (more than 4 miles) to the town of Marsabit to have it charged. This makes listening to her favorite radio station very difficult.
But today she is in line for a blessing: We had one more radio receiver – a portable, windup one. To listen to Sifa FM, Jirmo and her family no longer have to have an electrical outlet. They can tune in after getting a bit of exercise winding the radio handle.
Late this evening, then, Jirmo is a proud mother of eight going home not only with some maize, beans and cooking oil but also with a simple, modern radio receiver. The Sifa FM Marsabit team prays that it will be a special portal bringing hope, advice and new life to her family.