Oct 26 2015

Grandmother’s work as a potter sustains family

With three orphaned grandchildren left in her care, Serfina knew she needed a more reliable source of income than farming, which was susceptible to drought and crop failures. So she learned the art of making clay pots.

She molds her clay pots with strong hands weathered from years toiling in the farm fields of western Kenya.

The pots represent much in Serfina’s life — art, contentment, income, self-reliance. They’re a way for her to provide for three grandchildren in her care while creating something beautiful and useful. Besides being art pieces, the pots can be used for purposes such as holding water or grain.

“I am an old, illiterate woman and so I never got one of those well-paying jobs,” Serfina said. “I used to cultivate my farm and sell the produce for some money.”

It wasn’t always enough, though, when the rains failed to come and the crops didn’t do well.

“I had a neighbor who was making pots for sale and I decided to learn the art,” Serfina said. “With time, I really got good at it and enjoyed doing it. I decided to become a full-time potter.

“I am happy making pots.”

While Serfina, at age 70, finds happiness in her work, she’s experienced much sadness in her life.

She was married and had 12 children. Her husband and 10 of her children passed away, leaving her to raise three grandchildren — Bella, Jordan and Brian — on her own. All three are sponsored through Unbound.

“My neighbors saw me struggling to take care of my grandchildren and they told me about this organization that helps children,” Serfina said. “I went to the offices and shared with them my story. Social workers came to my home to visit me and they saw the situation we were living in.”

Things got easier after her grandchildren, who are now 16, 17 and 22, were sponsored. They could attend school without worry since their school fees were paid. Sponsorship also provided nutritional benefits and helped with needs such as beds and bedding.

Her grandchildren’s sponsorships also meant Serfina could be part of a support group made up of mothers of sponsored children.

“I am happy when I get to interact with the younger women and get to learn things from them,” Serfina said. “I was also able to save with the group and later took up a loan, which I used to boost my [pottery] business.”

Serfina’s willing to teach other women the art of making clay pots, if they’re inclined to learn. She said her grandchildren haven’t taken an interest in the art, but they do help her collect clay soil from a nearby river to use in making her pots.

Serfina has high hopes for her grandchildren. The oldest, Brian, is on a path to continue his studies in college.

“I pray that they successfully complete their education and have a better life than what I was able to offer them,” Serfina said. “Seeing them happy and comfortable gives me great joy.”

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