As one of five siblings, growing up in a single-parent home, she was quick to learn that she needed to get things done by herself. This spirit of resilience and her passion for people carries her through each day when facing poverty in her community.
Then COVID arrived, quickly followed by panic. It was a terrible time. Ordinary things like shaking hands were taboo, a scary prospect for most. But she knew her unfailing positivity could help.
“It was a frightening time, but we had to take control. The best thing to do when the negativity comes is to look for the positivity in things and you will find it.”
COVID needed a creative approach because so many people could not afford even basic hygiene products. Kenya has four major languages and six dialects. But language barriers did not stop her, nor did limited resources and poverty.
She taught people to make their own sanitisers with supermarket ingredients and talked to parents, schools and anyone who would listen. Her efforts started to make a difference: people were not used to washing hands and wearing masks but they overcame their fear to keep everyone safe.
“It’s a bit tricky,
but we will get there eventually because I never give up. I don’t give up.”
What does she feel makes the biggest impact?
Striking a balance. Help the neediest, support the most vulnerable and then go forward from there. By making everyone’s lives a little better, you can improve the whole community. Being there for people as someone to lean on is what she does best.
For now, she strives to take life one step at a time and keeps hygiene at the forefront. Life for her is not about dwelling on the negative but seeing the positive and facing uncertainties with a smile.
is a community health volunteer in Kiambu County, Kenya. At the age of 62, after a lifetime spent caring for her fellow human beings, she is still committed and energised by her work. In her role as ‘village doctor’, her resilience is her message to the world: stay positive and keep investing in water. Without water, there is no life.
Gladys’s unfailing positivity is what got her through the pandemic each day. Studies have found that a positive attitude improves outcomes and life satisfaction when faced with various challenges.
In Kenya, there are four major languages and six dialects. Gladys could speak to many people in their own language, which helped to spread information quicker. Gladys speaks English, Kiswahili (national language) and her native Kikuyu dialect fluently.
litres of liquid soap
Gladys helped those stricken by poverty in her community to make sanitisers at home and also helped to supply liquid soap to schools. The liquid soap she made was poured into 500 ml plastic bottles and one litre packages. Gladys then sold these in her district.