Maggie 5 yrs
Maggie Dec 2012

Joanna Maggie Aluso was orphaned at a very young age and left in the care of her desperately poor grandparents. When her grandpa died, grandma couldn’t manage and arranged for Maggie to stay with a teacher, a young single mother, to help her around the home and with the baby – in exchange for food and 300 shillings ($4/£2.50) per month, payable to grandma. Maggie was 5 years old. Her days were spent doing chores – washing utensils, sweeping, fetching water (1½ litres at a time) and looking after the baby Smartee. Teacher went to work every morning, leaving Smartee with Maggie, coming home at 3pm. One of Maggie’s chores was to light a fire (the 3 stone cooking fire) and cook maize porridge for Smartee at midday. Later she would be sent to pick vegetables and chop them ready for cooking in the evening.

Maggie was living like this for over a year until a neighbour, who had earlier thought she was a close relative to the teacher, realized that she was not and was in fact being used as a domestic helper and not going to school, and so reported to the local chief. The chief alerted the children’s department and Maggie was returned to her destitute grandmother, and the case referred to Vumilia. When Rose and Maureen went to investigate they found the old lady living in a flea-infested mud hovel, in a terrible state. She begged them to look after the young girl because she had no means. And so Maggie was brought to the girls home.

When she arrived she was severely malnourished, but unusually bright and talkative. She spoke of Smartee all the time, and clearly missed him badly. She kept asking if she could go and get him to come and stay with her, and she cried for him. It took her some time to adjust to life in our home. Some of the food she had never seen before – like rice and beans – and wouldn’t touch it at first. And she naturally assumed her duties were to clean and fetch water, wash clothes and sweep – so when the others went to class or play she would do that, and some weeks went by before she accepted that she was not required to work or look after babies.

A year has gone by now. Maggie is 7 years old. She has not forgotten baby Smartee – her attachment to him was so strong – but she is now fully assimilated into the Vumilia family. She is very intelligent, inquisitive, and assertive and takes a leading role in her group. She can be a bit bossy. She reads very well, and throws herself into all her classwork and other activities with great energy and enthusiasm. She has a very strong attachment to mama Rose, and it is a great joy for us to see her happiness and her continued development. We are blessed to have her with us.