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Brotherly love

15 January 2020, Voices from the Field

Family ties

Twelve-year-old Leolida, eighteen-month old Lawrence and their mum Jennifer live in a remote area of northwestern Kenya. Here in Turkana County, there is little food, little infrastructure and little water. Every few kilometers you might see a brick building but mostly, simple mud huts dot the dusty land here and there. There is little opportunity to work because the nearest town is a day’s walk away. 

Jennifer makes brooms and sells them for 50 Kenyan shillings (about 72 cents) at the market, that’s about eight dollars a day – hardly enough to feed her family. But the small family are close – there’s nothing Leolida wouldn’t do for his little brother. 

A lifetime bond

There’s no hiding the love and adoration between the brothers. Leolida rushes home from school to see Lawrence, scooping him up in his arms as soon as he sees him.

“I hold him up, sometimes I carry him up and when I see he is happy, I put him down, then I clap my hands and he does the same. Those are really good games.” The feeling is mutual. Lawrence perks up when Leolida is around, smiling and laughing.

Leolida believes that playing helps to distract Lawrence from his hunger. “He is not hungry when you play with him, he is just happy,” says Leolida.

When Lawrence got sick

Recently, Lawrence fell ill with severe acute malnutrition. He had diarrhoea, a fever and weighed half what he should have. Leolida was worried. “He was crying a lot. I felt so bad and I asked God to have mercy on his little lamb and heal him.” 

Previously that would have meant a two hour walk to the nearest health clinic or a whole day to the nearest hospital.

But now, there is Mark.

Thanks to generous supporters, Mark has been trained as a Community Health Volunteer working with Save the Children. He goes door to door in the village visiting six households every evening. Within two weeks, he can cover the whole village. He was trained to identify malnourished children, and spotted Lawrence was at real risk of dying if not treated quickly.

“Malnutrition is a major problem in this area,” says Mark. “Whenever I meet a child who is severely malnourished, it hurts so bad and my strength wanes. I feel like a failure – it means this child could die and there is nothing I can do to prevent it. After all that I’ve done, it breaks my heart to see my neighbour’s child dying.”

Lawrence was given a 10-day antibiotic course to treat his infection and life-saving peanut paste helped him quickly put on weight.

Inspiration for the future 

Leolida is determined to have a more secure future for himself and his brother. For that, he knows he must stay at school and finish his education. “I like going to school because education is what will help me in the future. Education helps someone to have everything that they desire. You can buy the car you want, you can be whoever you want to be.”

Leolida doesn’t just have designs on a car, but on being a real help to his community. “When I grow up and finish my education, I want to be a doctor so that I can help my family at home. I would like to help everybody, including all those people in our village. I want to become a doctor so that I can help other young children like my younger brother Lawrence.”

One day soon, even little Lawrence will be able to flourish at school and have hopes and dreams like his older brother. 

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