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Mary Njeri: I Saved Sh750,000 Working as a Maid … then Mum Squandered it

She sent her earnings to her mother since she had no bank account back home and it was not safe to keep the money with her

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Before Mary Njeri left for Saudi, she was living a dog’s life. So, like many Kenyans, she decided to leave for the Gulf in search of greener pastures after hearing an agent’s advert on the radio.

Mary Njeri, a mother of one, was born in Nakuru county in Weburu area in a family of 10 children. Born into a humble family, Njeri recalls the tough upbringing: “Life back home was all about schooling and farming,” she says. “We were really struggling to keep up with life. In fact, I had to end my education at Class 8.”

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After dropping out of school, Njeri was forced to falsify her age to acquire an identification document to secure a work position at a flower farm in Naivasha. “Since I wasn’t going to school, I had to look for a job in the flower farm. However, you need to be over 18 years old to work in a flower farm, so I had to lie to get the document because I needed the job.”

Njeri secured the job and two years later got married. She had a child, but unfortunately, the marriage didn’t work out for her. She quit and moved to Narok, where her elder sister was living. “By God’s grace, I the job and two years later got married and gave birth to a boy. The marriage didn’t work out as I anticipated. Both parents tried to intervene, but it wasn’t fruitful, so I quit and went to live with my sister in Narok.”

Njeri says she worked in a stall (kibanda) in Narok, selling vegetables, but the income was too low. She could only afford daily bread and could not save any money. She heard the advert on radio about house jobs in the Gulf. Although Njeri did not have the required documents, the agent helped her obtain them and off she left for Saudi Arabia. “One morning, I heard a radio advert about a house job in Saudi. I had no birth certificate or passport. The agent helped me get them, and I left for Saudi.”

Njeri says in an interview that she was lucky to have met a good boss in Saudi, and moreover, she was working with other Kenyans in the same mansion. Njeri’s tenure was supposed to last for two years before going back to Kenya, but her boss requested her to extend a little longer until he found a replacement.

During this entire time, Njeri sent all her earnings to her mother since she had no bank account back home and it was not safe to keep the money with her. Njeri’s mum agreed to keep the money for her daughter, but little did she know that was a big mistake.

“I look back and feel that the only person I trusted was my mum, so I asked her to open an account using her credentials and save the money for me. Every time I sent her my three months’ salary, I would give her a portion to support her since she was raising my child,” Njeri recalls.

When Njeri returned home, her mother was not at the airport. When she inquired, she was told her mother was back home preparing meals for them. Two days later, Njeri opened her own bank account ready to transfer Ksh750,000, but her mother had no money. The only money in the account was Ksh5,000, and her mum had no explanation.

“At the airport, I met my sister, dad, and my son,” she says. “My mum was not there, but I was told she was back home preparing meals for us. Two days later, I opened the account, but she had nothing apart from Ksh5,000. When I told my dad to intervene, he said he knew nothing about such agreements and didn’t want to meddle in our issues.”

Njeri left home with her child, feeling helpless, and went to start a fresh life in Narok. She advises ladies working in the Gulf to keep the money for themselves to avoid disappointments. “I was betrayed by my own mother. I have come to terms that you can’t trust anyone with money. Please keep the money with you. In the Gulf, you toil hard to earn it.”

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Steve Wambugu is a journalist based in Nairobi.
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