Anxiety has gripped the family of Diana Chepkemoi, who is stuck in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, having allegedly been abused by her employer, who also allegedly denied her medication after she fell ill.
Mrs Clara Maritim, the girl’s mother, revealed that despite the government’s assurance that her daughter had been rescued and taken to a hospital ahead of her repatriation to Kenya, the family had not spoken to her in the last one week.
With expected arrival of their loved one back to the country, the family members have been facilitated to travel to Nairobi by the County Government of Bomet.
"We are on our way to Nairobi as we have been told that Chepkemoi is expected to jet in," Ms Maritim, the mother to the young Kenyan girl told the Nation on Tuesday morning.
She travelled along with her children and some family members with Chepkemoi expected to jet in today according to Kenyan consulate in Riyadh.
“Though hopeful that she will reunite with us, we have not had any direct communication with our daughter,” Ms Maritim said.
“We are appealing to the government and all those involved in this case to enable us to have a telephone or video call with her … so as to ease the increasing tension on her well-being.”
She said her daughter had repeatedly expressed her desire to return home but did not share the details of the suffering she was enduring.
Ms Maritim said her daughter had no history of medical problems. “She was always jubilant and enjoyed good health. The photos shared of her latest condition are shocking and very disturbing, to say the least,” she said.
Ms Chepkemoi has become the latest poster girl for the tribulations Kenyans working in the Middle East undergo. Her case has thrown a spotlight on her otherwise sleepy Kapnandi village in Konoin constituency, Bomet County.
The family spoke by video link with Labour Cabinet Secretary Simon Chelugui and Bomet Governor Hillary Barchok on Saturday and the two assured them that the government would help bring Ms Chepkemoi back home.
“We do not have the latest report, but we were assured that after her health stabilised she will be flown back to Kenya between Monday and Wednesday this week,” Mrs Maritim stated.
Ms Chepkemoi was working to help educate her siblings – Mercy Chepkirui, who is awaiting to graduate from Kenyatta University, Loraine Cheptoo, a second-year student at Tom Mboya University, Martin Kipkirui, a second-year student at Moi University and Sammy Kiprono, a Form One student.
Her father, Richard Maritim, who was the pillar of the family, fell ill and died in 2011.
“Chepkemoi made an independent decision to defer her education and sacrifice her time to work in Saudi Arabia so her siblings could get a decent education and a better life. She wanted our humble status changed to a decent one,” Mrs Maritim said.
Without the help of their sister, her siblings are now staring at the possibility of dropping out of school.
“She is so passionate about education that she planned to re-enroll in the university once the other children were settled,” Mrs Maritim said.
“With the current situation, the dreams of the family beacon seem shattered and we are appealing for support from anyone who can lend a hand.”
Claims that she was rude and lacked discipline have baffled the family, who described her as a focused, honest and straightforward person who understood what she wanted and went for it.
Mr Kipkirui, her younger brother, said in an interview that the two communicated via the internet early last week and that he could not reach her on Friday.
“I sent her messages as usual, but she did not respond. None of us in the family has been in touch with her since and we are worried about her well-being,” Mr Kipkirui said.
Ms Cheptoo, Ms Chepkemoi’s elder sister, said: “She is ambitious, hardworking and a person who keeps to herself and that is why we understand the fact that she did not reveal much details of what she was going through.”
Mr Enock Sigei, a cousin of Ms Chepkemoi, said: “We are grateful to the government and all those concerned for the effort put in so far … We wish to also commend the media for highlighting the issue.
“The claim that she is stubborn and ungrateful is not true at all. We know how she grew up, the struggle she underwent, the discipline and focused person that she is. All those claims are meant to tarnish her name.”
Ms Chepkemoi, the second-born in a family of five children, attended Chemalal, Kitaima, Emanuel Academy, Kiplokyi Central and Chemogok primary schools before joining Ndaraweta Girls and later Chagaik secondary schools. She then joined Meru University but dropped out in her second year to take up the job in Saudi Arabia.
Before leaving Kenya, she had lived at home for a year as she processed travel documents.
The family is not aware of any debts she might have incurred while working in Saudi Arabia, whether her employer or agency had paid for her travel and medical insurance expenses.
Her employer claimed she had unspecified debts that she needed to pay and which Ms Chepkemoi seemed not to have been aware of.
“All we are aware of is that she acquired a passport in 2014 while in Form Two in anticipation of an exchange educational trip to the United Kingdom, which did not materialise. We were not billed for her air ticket,” Mrs Maritim said.
Mzee Joseph Soi, the girl’s grandfather, said the family was hoping to be united with her.
“We are praying to God that she gets home well. I understand she has been struggling with ill-health. As you can see, we are from a poor background and only God can change our status,” Mzee Soi said.
At the family’s homestead, relatives and neighbours dropped in to inquire about the latest developments in the case, with three wooden benches placed outside the two housing units – the main house a small timber-walled structure and an even smaller flat roofed kitchen adjacent to it.
Mr Dancun Kirui, a mason, was busy constructing a pit latrine and a bathroom.
A mud-walled house that functioned as a kitchen and main house was half-demolished, its roof and doors brought down, before the new structures were put up.
The roof of a granary at the entrance to the compound was removed but the structure still stands, sticking out like a stubborn stone that has defied erosion in a river.
All the activities signifying improvements to the living conditions of the family were halted after the news broke about Ms Chepkemoi’s condition in the Middle East.
In the orchard, bananas at various stages of maturity and avocado trees stand. Vegetables including sukuma wiki, spinach and pumpkin dot the garden.
The family has had to adjust in the last two days to requests for interviews from newshounds.