Extending a helping hand to the elderly is Gabriella Malaika’s passion. Her inspiration dates back to her childhood.
“Living with my grandfather who took care of me in primary school but eventually went blind in Kenya, left me with thoughts in regard to how helpless the elderly people can be and how they could be helped.”
Malaika,38, a mother of one, says as time went by, they became each other’s caretakers because they were only two who lived at their ancestral home.
Later, Malaika moved to Uganda for her high school and university where she attained a Bachelor’s degree in accounting.
She worked as an accountant for World Vision Kenya, then, moved to Chloride Exide Uganda and finally Delard Security in Mutungo where she resigned after having her first child. The zeal to dedicate more time to her daughter and also look after the underprivileged elderly ate her up.
Quitting her job
Malaika, says she first visited the old while she was still working but after getting a child she found it hard to cope. She always worked Monday to Saturday and sometimes up to Sunday in case of an emergency.
Limiting time for both her child and the old people she took care of .“It took me time to make the decision and during that time, the boss kept on calling me and I gave her all sorts of excuses until one day I went and submitted my resignation letter,” says Malaika.
According to her, people think it is weird for someone to quit a well-paying job just in order to take care of old yet she too has a family that needs to be catered for. More so, she was a new mother thus more responsibilities.
She also had her husband to convince because on hearing her decision, he was not happy with the idea of her quitting her job but she persisted until he accepted because he trusts and believes in her.
“He is a humble, kind and caring man in that he has been supportive right from the start. He helps me take care of the child and when I need means of transport he drops me off at the venue and picks me up after I am done with duties,” she says.
Spotting the elderly
Just like a first time person in any field, Malaika sought help from others. She approached the LC chairpersons of the area who are more knowledgeable about the people in the area to give her leads.
“In 2015, I was taken to the first elderly person whom I took care of. I only had Shs1.5m from my savings and I bought a few necessities which I took along to visit her,” she recalls.
“On reaching there, her home needed to be fumigated. So, I asked my husband to fumigate as I told the old woman to be happy in her condition,” says Malaika.
She started with the elderly in her neighbourhood at Kasangati and Kitetikka who were helpless. Some needed extra care and were abandoned. She visited and left them at their homes. Some of them asked her to take them in.
Malaika visits them at least every month and in case she receives a call that one is sick, she rushes them to hospital.
How she gets funding
Where there is a will, there is a way. Malaika got well-wishers who helped with some necessities and some of them have volunteered to become caretakers. “About 29 people have taken in these vulnerable people,” she explains.
At the moment, individual support and people who fellowship at Malaika’s home on Friday for overnight prayers, and Sunday evening collect offertory which Malaika uses to fund the good cause.
“We cannot entirely depend on our personal income and the few individuals who help, so, we start up a poultry farm that will generate some income then we can also give them food,” she says.
At the moment, Malaika has about 20 acres of land that MP Suleiman Madada donated to her in Kayunga District. She hopes to put up the home of the elderly known as Jehovah Alive For Old Age (JAFOA).
“This will comprise a medical centre, women and male wing, school for the orphans, then an extra house/block for visitors and we are in the process of finalising the legal documents and also the launch in Kayunga in July where we shall be officially fundraising for the construction of the building.”
Why Uganda and not Kenya?
Malaika says much as she was inspired by the situation of her grandfather, she could not carry out the activity in Kenya because she is Ugandan by marriage. Even then, her grandfather has a caretaker and she pays him frequent visits.