By Jade Cizeau-Zeenni, Wildlife Works Intern
Our profile this week is about Valentina, Wildlife Works Greenhouse worker.
Valentina Sera Mwakazi was thirteen years old when she had to leave school to take care of her ill mother. Born and raised in Marungu, Valentina did not have the opportunity to complete primary education. Very young, she got married to a man who was ten years older than her and gave birth to her first child when she turned sixteen. Her husband was working as a driver for the County Government and was able to provide for Valentina and the rapidly growing family of five children.
Sadly, Valentina’s world fell apart when her husband took his own life in 2007. Her two lastborn children were very young, and her other children were still in school.
“I was very sad that my husband passed away but I couldn’t help being resentful as he left me alone with no job and five children to provide for” explains Valentina. She suddenly had to provide for her family and had to keep her head high in the face of this life change. Valentina started to take on any work to earn enough to feed her children and afford school tuition. She would wash clothes for other families, do casual labor for other people’s farms, or even braid hair for other ladies. She led the hard life of a single mother, running from one place to another to find work opportunities, with the constant fear of not having enough for her children.
Luckily in 2016, Valentina met people who were working at Wildlife Works, and she was informed that there were job opportunities to work at the Greenhouse. She applied and was hired under a contract as a Greenhouse laborer. “I was relieved from a very heavy burden once I was employed at Wildlife Works” she says. Valentina’s face brightens up when she starts explaining how her life changed when she started working permanently. She then managed to get all her oldest children through high school, and her three first children benefited from Wildlife Works’ education bursaries. Now, Valentina is looking to send her children to college.
Working permanently keeps her mind busy from the grief that she still carries, and helps her to heal from the ten difficult years she has been through since her husband’s death.
Valentina is proud of the work she is accomplishing at the Greenhouse. She has mastered the art of grafting and has become an organic pest control expert. She has even managed to set enough money aside to build her own house on her parent’s land and has future plans of buying her own piece of land someday. We are grateful to have Valentina on the Wildlife Works team!