Milke Wambui is happy to see us. Though small in stature, she is robust and stands fully upright. Like many of the widows, she says she is 60 years old, but we suspect this is just an estimate. After she invites us to sit and we begin talking, she seems eager to give us a sense of her life history. Almost 20 years ago, her husband, who was a smoker, suddenly became ill with pneumonia and died two days later. She has been on her own since then. She has seven children – four sons and three daughters – but all have gone elsewhere or died. One daughter, a prostitute in Mahi Maihu whose husband died, has left her three children for Milke to raise: one is 13 years old and in Class 8, another is 6 and in Class 1, and the youngest is 4. Milke supports these children by growing maize, beans, and potatoes; she also raises chickens.
When the solar lights we have brought have been hung in her livingroom and bedroom and switched on, Milke raises her hands and does a little dance. She has burned candles for light and is glad that she and her grandchildren will stop breathing paraffin smoke. She is happy, too, to be able to charge her phone and to earn some money from others who can charge their phones from her battery pack. The life of this family has just become a little bit more secure.