Like many people do in their youth, and understandably so, 42-year-old Joyce Wanjiku left Kenya for far off lands in search of greener pastures. She was in her twenties at that time. As the years passed by, she went on to be a highflier abroad and sort of forgot about her home and her parents in Mweiga – Nyeri.
Then one day after many years of ups and downs in different countries abroad, the then Project Manager at Stanbic Bank South Africa resigned from her job, came home, and settled into a quiet purposeful life in the village taking care of the elderly. Joyce has always wanted to do humanitarian work and be of positive impact to society. With this calling, Joyce set up Purity Elderly Foundation and hit the ground running.
For her, the greatest daily push to taking care of the elderly is that she feels she did not take care of her late mother, especially in the last 6 months of her life before she lost the battle to cancer. Looking back, Joyce feels that she could have done more to accord her mother dignity in her last days. She could have quit work, come home, and looked for another job later. She could have hired round the clock professional help for her mum. She did not and this is something she lives with every day.
Purity Elderly Care Foundation which Joyce named in her mother’s honour is a Non-Governmental Organization that was registered in 2011 to advocate and champion for the rights of older people in Kenya and to support those who are suffering. To return dignity to the lives of our elderly mothers, grandmothers and even great grandmothers who are living in conditions anywhere from unfortunate to downright deplorable. The very name of the foundation is a stack reminder of her calling to serve, and is what gets her up and moving every morning.
She and her team are always on the move in the village to feed the elderly, clean and refurbish their houses and donate clothes, beddings, and beanie hats for the biting Nyeri cold. They also negotiate waivers for ambulances and medical expenses. Above all, they are there for these men and women so that the brunt of loneliness is minimized.
The truth is, too many of our elders are spending their sunset years in neglect, loneliness, and poverty. Like everything else, their circumstances have been heavily affected by Covid-19 because one, they are more vulnerable to infections and two, a ban on social gatherings meant that they could not even go out and mingle with other members of society. Isolation and the looming fear of catching Covid-19 increased their loneliness and helplessness tenfold.
Last week, my colleagues and I had the pleasure of visiting Purity Elderly Foundation courtesy of Mastercard Foundation who have partnered with Joyce for a Covid-19 awareness drive. The campaign whose launch we had gone to witness is a public awareness campaign to remind people, including the elderly, that Covid-19 is still with us, and we cannot let our guard down. Also, vaccines are here and a lot of encouragement is needed for our senior members of society to accept them. The campaign will be spearheaded by Joyce Wanjiku and will cover all of Kieni West with the help of Community Health Workers for two months starting November 1st.
One would be forgiven for thinking that an event with our grandparents would be old and boring. Far from it. Given a platform to be together in happy surroundings, older people have just as much fun as we do – in their own style of course. Music from their years brought them to the dance floor and just lit up their lives. The rest of us joined them to learn a few steps of the dances that punctuated our grandmothers’ fun times and ceremonies. It was such a happy and fulfilling day even for us and I can only imagine the joy that this simple gesture brought to their souls. It was also a clear example of the blessings and cheer that the Purity Foundation visits on the elderly week in week out.
It was heartwarming to spend time with Joyce and her aged friends, and one can easily see the bond and friendly banter she has with them. The love and trust they have for her as their daughter was evident and her ultimate dream is to build a home for the elderly and live with them there.
The work of Purity Elderly Foundation has gone unnoticed, and the foundation has an impressive awards including:
2014 – Humanitarian Award on International Women’s Day
2017 – Special Commendation Award on Aging Service from the Global Aging Network.
2018- Humanitarian award on International Women’s Day
2018 – Humanitarian ward on International Girl Child from Amani Foundation
2021 – Recognition award from DIAR
2021 Recognition award from National Gender and Equality Commission.
We here at Femmehub wish to laud Joyce for the very unique and crucial humanitarian path she has chosen, and we wish her all the very best.