The ‘saint’ of Gioto dumpsite gives hope to needy families

Rotary Club of Nakuru members Rani Ramchandani (left) and Ms Elizabeth Ndung’u (right) hand over a gift to Ms Allys Brown from the United Kingdom in a past event. 

Photo credit: Francis Mureithi | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Ms Ramchandani in her early 40s has spent a great deal of her time with streetchildren since she arrived in Kenya in 2000 from Vadodara in Gujarat, India.
  • Ms Ramchandani revealed that she has been mobilising the Hindu Council Women Wing and other stakeholders to help the elderly, street children and the poor in the community through her organisation, Helping Hands.

If you are visiting Gioto dumpsite on the outskirts of Nakuru town for the first time, two things are likely to catch your attention as you walk deep into the landfill.

The level of cleanliness at the site that was an eyesore to motorists and pedestrians on Nakuru-Kabarnet road has tremendously improved.

The county government has planted trees and created an embankment to ensure a good working environment and good solid waste management for all users of the site.

However, that is not the only attraction.

As you enter the dumpsite, particularly on weekends, there is a regular visitor who spends time with more than 150 families who rely on it to earn a living.

As she skips rope with children in tattered clothes and cracks jokes with women feeding their babies as they scavenge with their bare hands, she looks misplaced at the garbage dump.

Mother Teresa of Gioto

Meet Ms Rani Ramchandani who spends her time with the poor at the 42-acre dumpsite and is fondly referred to as "Rani the Mother Teresa of Gioto”.

The philanthropist in her early 40s has spent a great deal of her time with streetchildren since she arrived in Kenya in 2000 from Vadodara in Gujarat, India.

"I love working with people who are neglected. I just love mingling and having the pleasure of working with children, youth, and women who are on the verge of losing hope in life and giving them a smile and a piece of bread to eat. I am inspired by Mother Teresa of Calcutta to share some of my time working with people on the brink of losing hope in life," said Ms Ramchandani, who is also the president of Lions Club of Menengai.

"Accepting an individual as they are, and helping them cope with their environment rather than trying to remove them from their environment makes me happy," added the mother of three teenagers, two girls and a boy. "One thing I love about working with people on the dumpsite is how genuine our interactions can be. I've noticed that most families I've met in such a difficult environment have a wonderful straightforwardness that is a breath of fresh air!"

Mr John Kimari, 26, has been living at the dumpsite since he was nine, and does not know any other home. “I found myself at the dumpsite and I have been earning a living by scavenging here. I would rather do it here instead of stealing. Life here has not been easy, like it used to be 10 years ago. The families at the dumpsite have increased, including others who come from outside. I thank Ms Rani. She does not wait when there is a national celebration to come and give us food. Since the Covid-19 outbreak, she has been a permanent visitor on weekends giving us masks and soap,” he said.

Nakuru County Environment, Water, Energy and Natural Resources Chief Officer Kiogora Muriithi said the county has embraced a waste recovery project for valuable waste.

“The waste management project spearheaded by the county government and other partners has a resettlement plan for the families at the dumpsite as we shall consider the benefits the families were getting at the dumpsite,” said Mr Muriithi.

Donating cash

Ms Ramchandani revealed that she has been mobilising the Hindu Council Women Wing and other stakeholders to help the elderly, street children and the poor in the community through her organisation, Helping Hands.

“I literally go begging and knocking on doors of my friends, I also use the social media platforms to appeal for help and members of the Rotary Club of Nakuru, Lions Club of Menengai and Hindu Council women have all been supportive by donating cash or in kind and this has kept me going,” she added.

If she is not joining members of the Rotary Club of Nakuru in charitable work at Gioto dumpsite, she is likely to be spending her weekend in Baringo giving poor girls sanitary towels and engaging them in a mentorship programme. At other times she is at Alms House in Nakuru with the elderly, smiling as they chat and walk down memory lane.

"Poor girls exchanging sex for sanitary towels is the saddest news for me … This is robbing young girls of their dignity," said Ms Rani.

She also empowers the needy to uplift their living standards by starting income-generating ventures such as soap and hand sanitiser-making, and food kiosks, among others.

However, it has not been a walk in the park. Sometimes she is forced to dig deep in her pockets to bail out the poor in Nakuru and Baringo counties.

fmureithi@ke.nationmedia.com