What started off as a rescue centre for kids whose parents died of HIV/Aids-related complications has now turned into a fully fledged home, thanks to Martin Miriti
Sylvia Wakhisi @PeopleDailyKE
Former US president John F Kennedy’s saying: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you but rather what you can do for your country’, rings true of Pastor Martin Miriti’s life.
At 37, the husband and father of four has dedicated his life to giving selfless service to children in Isiolo county: children who have suffered rejection and have no place to call home.
He is the founder of Victors Homestead, a refuge for destitute children. Located in Burat, ward, Isiolo North constituency, it began in 2012 as a rescue centre for children whose parents succumbed to HIV/Aids-related illnesses.
The community had rejected and disowned the young ones out of fear and stigma associated with the disease. Consequently, many of them were rescued as they took refuge on their parents’ grave and from town streets and bushes, to where they had run. Once rescued and rehabilitated, the youngsters were not allowed to go back to their abusive abodes and relatives, hence the rescue centre ended up as a children’s home.
In Miriti, the children found a father. He takes time to share meals with them, clean, have devotion sessions and even hang out with them after school.
“I know where I started and I know where I’m now. It has been a tough journey but I keep pressing on. I don’t give up easily,” says Miriti.
Born in Isiolo, he grew up in a family of six siblings- three boys and three girls. “We grew up in Bulapesa, which is more of a ghetto. Our parents were not well off, and struggled to provide for us. Life was not easy, but we survived,” he says.
Miriti attended Hekima Primary School, proceeded to Isiolo Boys High School before joining Kabete Technical Training Institute, where he graduated with a diploma in pharmaceutical/medical laboratory in 2002.
As much as his father wanted him to pursue a course in medicine, Miriti had set his eyes on theology and missionary work. “After completing my diploma, I got opportunities to work in different hospitals until December 2003 when I returned to Isiolo upon the request of the late Bishop Luigi Locati, the then apostolic vicar of Isiolo to work in hospitals in Kambi Garba under which he served,” he says.
He resigned in 2010 and entered into a partnership with Aphia Plus, where he was in charge of psychosocial groups of people living with HIV/Aids in the county.
“I was exposed to the challenges they faced. They trusted and believed in me such that some would tell me that when they die, I should look after their children. Those words pierced my heart and I felt a deep awakening,” he offers.
Miriti says whenever he walked around Isiolo town, he would meet children roaming around the streets and upon inquiring, they would tell him they had been abandoned by relatives after their parents died.
“Some were already infected by the virus, looked malnourished and were exposed to opportunistic infections. In the streets, danger loomed because they were being sexually molested. They were undergoing a lot of psychological and physical torture,” says Miriti.
From that moment, Miriti embarked on a rescue mission.
“All I wanted was to resuscitate and take them to children’s homes that would accommodate them,” he says, adding that he faced myriad challenges, including rejection of the children by some organisations because of their condition.
“I was trying to fight stigmatisation and rejection. I wanted all the children to be mentally healed. It took us about six months to fully settle down after all the children had been screened for tuberculosis and HIV/Aids. This was repeated in an interval of three months and to our surprise, most of them turned out negative, which was a great reprieve. However, some died because the virus had greatly advanced,” explains Miriti.
Today, Victors Homestead is home to about 126 children, 40 of whom are in kindergarten, 68 in primary and 18 in secondary schools. For those in kindergarten, their matrons also happen to be their teachers so that in case one falls ill, their case is handled fast.
“Some of the children have lost parents as a result of tribal clashes. Others have watched their parents being brutally murdered or raped. This greatly affected them. No child comes to Victors Homestead in their right state of mind, but we strive to offer them the best care we possibly can so that they can find meaning in their lives,’ he says.
Miriti adds that they solely depend on well wishers to run the facility, and thus face challenges such as inadequate food and school fees. “We are grateful for organisations and individuals who have offered us support in one way or another. We still need all the help we can get so these children can have a bright future,” he says.
Miriti says what has kept him going despite all the challenges are hope and the fear of God.
“I must admit there was a time I tried to silently leave because the burden was too much, but when I think about the transformation these kids have undergone, I find new energy to continue carrying out this noble venture,” adds Miriti.