The most comforting bit of Smile community center is that it’s captain is a lady filled with vigor to help as many kids as possible .Margaret Nekesa is the lady behind the wheel and as they say you just don’t start something and wait for it to blossom.She is a spiritual lady who believes that there’s always a reason behind everything and anything. For Margaret it didn’t just pop up, it was a build up of life events she encountered from childhood up to some of her adulthood.
First she comes from a very humble background with three kids. Being first born in a family of girls meant that the mantle of leadership will always be in her hands. In every hurdle they have had to face she was in the lead to take them through.
Growing up she encountered her first family break through her parent’s separation because of violence and the fact that her mother was unable to conceive a boy child. This led to them, the three sisters, being sent to the village to their grandfather’s farm where they turned into herds looking after cattle. She struggled to go to school to study. Interestingly, she bought her first pair of shoes, ngoma rubber shoes after primary school, a depiction of “maisha kuwa ngoma” , meaning life becoming a dance.
Life moved on swiftly and she landed on her first marriage which didn’t last for long when her husband died of a car accident in 1991, after sometime she got into her second marriage. The marriage brought joy in the form of kids, a boy and a girl, unfortunately, it could not work out together when an event that changed her life completely took place. She was a tea picker working in farms and one day her back pain escalated to severe spinal cord bend and doctors said she would not manage to recover .She was bedridden from 1996 to 2003 with three kids to look after.
They stayed in a single room and the kids would go out to look for a meal. Since her kids were technically street kids, whatever they got served them and they were generous to involve other street kids in their activities and often they would come back home with them. This all experience created a desire to help and her prayers were always to get out of bed in order to help these kids live a better life. At some point she was given a wheelchair but she refused and said she believes God will wake her up from the bed.
Her prayers worked, she stood up , walked in small steps and recovered.She started serving in the community and finally got out with a mission to serve God through helping children. To start a Smile Community Centre children’s home. And her goal was to get orphaned,destitute and vulnerable kids to live a better life.
Through her interactions with head teachers from within her local area, she would enroll the kids, sometimes without paying a dime. Actually the home started in her house where she would share her kids clothes and bedding with the street kids but it did not work effectively due to space,she had to start from the iron sheet home then reclaimed an abandoned dumpsite which is leased at the moment)
Over the years they’ve seen progress and now they have children on campus and others are yet to join. She now has 52 children under full time care. The youngest being a three year old who was left on the street. The centre also runs a feeding program that helps over 300+ children in Soweto Slums.
The most impressive bit about this is that her kids through their networks come together to help her achieve the goal of making Smile Community centre better. Dalai Lama said, “A simple smile. That’s the start of opening your heart and being compassionate to others. “ and that’s what Margaret believes in. That her smile combined with other aspects of life can change the world.
Written by : Billy Isiye