Kenya: Somali widower counsels community despite caring for five children
25 November 2010

Hassan, a 65-year old widower is a counselor for JRS. He holds his 5-month old baby who was born the same day his wife died. (Sophie Vodvarka/JRS)
I like working with people with disabilities. I make friends with them, I drink tea with them. I work and I become free.

In May 2010 my wife Foos passed away and left me five children, all underage, while I am at the retired age of 64 years and have no other person who can take care of them if I today pass away. 

I am a member of the Somali oppressed society known as the Midgan, which means impure.  Our people have no particular town, religion or even a small village for their own interest. We are not allowed to attend or participate in the governmental high positions, we are only allowed sweeping, shoe-making, barbering, etc. Some people only live on begging. 

We are not allowed to marry someone from the other tribes. If one of us attempts to marry one of the other people, he is shouted at or sent to jail without sentence. Our people are discriminated against and live under restrictions, and have remained in that situation for centuries in my home country Somalia.

I came to Kakuma [refugee camp in northwest Kenya] in 2008 after working in Mogadishu. Once I was here I thought: ‘Where can I go to increase my knowledge?’ Then I heard of JRS. In August 2009 I started working with JRS. I attended counsellor training courses and worked three to four months as a volunteer. Then I was interviewed and became a staff member. Now I am a counsellor, working with people with disabilities and emotional distress. 

The work energised me, I have a keen interest and I am very skilful in what I do. I like working with people with disabilities. I make friends with them, I drink tea with them. I work and I become free. But the problem of the children cannot be forgotten.