In Kenya’s north coast within Mombassa County, the area of Kongowea is home to over 100,000 people. Within Kongkowa lives Anastasia Waithira Johna, affectionately known by many as Mama. absolutely adorned and rightfully so. A five minute walk to the matatu stop is easily increased by ten minutes as everyone lovingly greets her with hugs and kisses on her way out.
Mama not only has an extremely silly sense of humor, but amazing fortitude and strength. She’s the mother of five, grandmother to three, and the first woman in her village to provide residents with affordable potable water– all this despite the loss of her beloved husband.
Despite the region being a cultural and economic hub, many communities lack effective water and sewer systems, electricity, and general infrastructure. Prior to Mama providing water, residents in the villages would walk over ten kilometers each day to fill their heavy containers with water – making it inaccessible by Western standards.Water is accessed right on her property, with villagers arriving as early as the chicken’s crow to late in the evening – she’s always open and turns nobody away.
With the sales made from the water, Mama reinvests it back to her community to improve access to education and quality housing, saying “I just want to help.”
Adjacent to her home, she’s opened Mee Bong Childcare and Nursery School. Mama seeks to make education affordable; young children learn in Swahili, their native tongue, as well as English. The opening to the nursery has also created jobs for young teaching professionals and allows parents in the village, the bandwidth to pursue their careers and maintain their economic stability during the day.
In this area, housing standards can be low and pricing uncontrolled, resulting in housing inequality. Many construction projects are deserted, as Kenya has very challenging financing laws that mostly favor foreign investors. To combat these challenges, Mama also invests funds in the construction of a multi-family apartment building. Still under development, the site sits right across from her home and is managed by her son Joseph.
Access to education and affordable housing supported by the availability of potable water. At the center of this economy is Mama.
Shameless beer plug, because it’s 95% water! When in Kenya you must enjoy a Tusker Beer, Kenya’s national brew.