Nasinde was abandoned by her husband and scorned by her community when she couldn’t have children. In the Maasai culture in Kenya, much of a woman’s worth comes from her role as a mother. But at age 64, Nasinde became a mom—through her act of mercy to an abandoned baby.
On the parched earth of Maasai land, a middle-aged woman shuffles from shrub to shrub, breaking off dry twigs to use as firewood. Suddenly, a cry pierces through the bush, startling her. She flinches, afraid it may be a hyena. But she can’t resist her curiosity, and she tiptoes toward the cries.
On the ground she sees a brilliant red and blue blanket. Bundled inside is a newborn baby. Stunned, the woman darts to the nearest home for help.
Nasinde remembers that day like it was yesterday.
“I was putting away my utensils when my neighbour came into our yard yelling incoherently,” recalls Nasinde. “I wondered what could warrant such an outburst. Had my goats strayed into her farm and eaten her crops? But she continued to yell, beckoning me to follow her.”
Nasinde followed her neighbour into the bush. As they drew nearer, faint cries grew louder with every step. When Nasinde saw the baby bundled in the bushes, she was overcome by emotion.
“I ran and gently picked up the baby and cuddled him. I breathed a sigh of relief when I confirmed that he was physically intact,” she says.
Nasinde thought the baby must have been there for some time. He was dehydrated, and his umbilical cord was still attached. “He was hungry. He was nibbling his little fingers,” says Nasinde. “His eyes were swollen from crying.”
Nasinde took the baby home, cleaned him and gave him milk. “I knew that I did not have sufficient support to take care of him, but if I left him, what would happen to him?” Nasinde asks.
Though she was 64 and long past the years of motherhood, Nasinde wholeheartedly cared for the little one, with support from her brother and community. She named the boy Lenkai, which means “God’s son.” She would often sit in her one-room shack, humming and gently rocking Lenkai while he peacefully slept in her arms, amazed at the gift she found so late in life.
Nasinde herself had long wished for a child. She had been married once. But when she was unable to bear children, her husband chased her off. Being barren carries great shame in Maasai culture.
“Without children, we are nothing,” she says.
Nasinde moved to live with brother and his family. She eked out a living cultivating her brother’s farm and selling beaded ornaments at the local market. She barely made enough to survive, and it became even more difficult with a child to care for.
But with Nasinde’s care, Lenkai grew to be a healthy young boy. God’s protection continued to be upon him, and at the age of nine, Lenkai was enrolled in Compassion’s program at a local church. At the centre, Lenkai has had so many needs met, including education, health care, clothing, food and spiritual nourishment.
Hard work has stooped Nasinde, now age 75. The colourful beads that adorn her neck camouflage her frail frame. She is not able to work as much as she used to and depends on others for support.
Despite her poverty, Nasinde says, “I have never regretted my decision. I vowed to bring him up as a gift from God. I prayed to God to give me a child, but I did not expect it to come in this way.”
Lenkai would have certainly died had someone not heard his cry in the bush. But with the support of Nasinde, his community, his sponsor and his local church, Lenkai, now 11, can look bravely to the future.
This Mother’s Day, we want to honour the many women around the world who sacrifice so much to care for children—no matter what their story looks like.
You can ease the burden on mothers around the world by helping babies in poverty survive!
Story and photos by Isaac Ogila, Compassion Kenya