Woman of passion: I’m 19 and I fight for the elderly

Yvette Bonareri, the founder of Ukongwe Bora, during Senior Care Bill Discussions at Intercontinental Hotel. PHOTO| POOL

What you need to know:

  • Yvette drafted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill of 2020.
  • The bill makes it mandatory for the government and kin to take care of the elderly.
  • Failure to do this earns one a jail term.

Some life stories can change our outlook towards the world; they unveil the power of a rippling empathetic gesture and prove that even one person can bring about a major remodelling of society irrespective of their age, position, or situation in life. Such is the story of 19-year-old Yvette Bonareri.

Love for the elderly

Affectionately known as The Speaker for Seniors, Yvette is a born fighter who owes her heavily compassionate spirit and accompanying success to her Utawala upbringing and the respect for the elderly it cultivated. “Growing up, my parents instilled in me the notion that the elderly are the most important part of the society especially because they are our source of blessings. As my favourite pastime, I visited my grandparents often and whenever I met an elderly person, I made sure to show them the respect they deserved. I truly believe that I have come this far because of the blessings of all the elderly people I have served all these years,” she divulges.

A call to serve

Yvette’s realisation that taking care of vulnerable elderly people gave her a deep purpose and satisfaction in life, started in high school. This led to her starting her now one-year-old journey as a social activist for the elderly. “In my first year of high school, I joined the Social Welfare Society, a club that majorly addressed the issues of elderly people in the society by visiting them every Sunday and performing tasks such as reading newspapers to them or cleaning their hostels; things that seemed menial to us but got huge loads off their backs, and they highly appreciated the favours,” she says. Being exceptionally passionate about helping any elderly person in need of love and care, Yvette soon shot to top rank. “As the chairlady, I organised and oversaw these small events, and as a final small token of affection, created an ‘Oldies Bash’ tradition that threw a modest party for them every end-of-term. They really enjoyed the parties, which happen to this day,” she says, beaming with confidence.

Starting Ukongwe Bora Welfare Society

In the midst of fruitful leadership and after finishing school a friend birthed an idea that was soon to grow mighty wings. “Towards the end of high school, my friend, suggested that I start my own welfare society that would allow me to continue my service towards the elderly. Honestly, while chairing the club, I had been battling with the thought that there were plenty of youth-led charities and initiatives that worked for the inclusion and aid of women, children, animals and the disabled but there were almost none for the elderly. Her suggestion gave me an idea that brought back hope into my life after school. Two weeks after clearing high school, I worked tirelessly to register Ukongwe Bora,” she recalls.


Drafting a parliamentary bill

Yvette is yet to graduate from university and her society is in its first year of operation, but as the executive director of Ukongwe Bora Welfare Society, Yvette drafted the Maintenance and Welfare of Parents and Senior Citizens Bill of 2020. “It seemed that elderly people in the society are not cared for as they should. I was then driven to draft a bill that would ensure they were well looked after. In the bill, I made it mandatory for the government and kin (who were eligible for inheritance) to take care of the elderly and provide for them in terms of food, shelter and clothing. Most importantly, they needed medical attention and a constant supply in their sunset years. Failure to do this earns one a jail term,” she adds. When questioned about the severe punishment, Yvette says: “In my line of work, I have witnessed many cases of parent or relative abandonment, and I believe the repercussions are fair, especially for children or relatives who show up to inherit land but had forgotten about their parents for years before to their deaths.”

Ukongwe Bora’s challenge

According to Yvette, running a young charity that is discouraged from associating with its beneficiaries has been among the top stumbling blocks to effective care for Ukongwe Bora in 2020. “Thankfully, on October 1, we were invited by the Ministry of Labour and Social Protection to the UN celebration for the International Day of The Older Person to represent the youth, which we did successfully by talking about our experience,” says Yvette.

For the mwananchi

She insists on giving as the only way to lead a wholesome life. “We are a charity that works based on pure donation. Due to this, people should give whatever they can, and when donating to children’s homes, to keep elderly homes in mind as well, she says.


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