Maryanne Kariuki is a Sales Professional at an IT firm in Nairobi. She is also mother to three children –a girl aged three years and a set of twins aged eleven months. Besides her full-time job, Maryanne has another passion –that of working with less advantaged children in our communities. This she does through an initiative she founded, called A & J initiative.
It all began with the premature birth of her twins. I had a chat with Maryanne about her journey into this personal initiative.
Mummy Tales: What is the A & J Initiative all about?
Maryanne: It is an initiative that is biased towards children, where I rally volunteers to give back to the community by donating clothes, toys, and their time. We do this to add a smile to children who are less advantaged. The A & J Initiative targets orphanages and hospitals where we play and have quality time with the children.
Mummy Tales: What led to the formation of A & J Initiative?
Maryanne: A & J’s journey began last year during my second pregnancy. I was carrying twins, and my pregnancy was classified as “high risk”. This pregnancy was a difficult one right from the very beginning, as I had so many issues ranging from bleeding, cramps, an open cervix… actually at some point the doctors told me that most likely I would miscarry. This was not good.
However, one of the doctors advised that we could do a McDonald (cervical) stitch, which he thought would help my womb hold the weight of the babies. I decided to take his advice and did the procedure and miraculously, I carried the babies till 6 months and gave birth naturally to 1kg preterm babies –my son Avie and daughter Jamie Mwanyota. It is from this experience that I made a pact with God that I would do something to benefit other children because he had helped my children. Thus the A & J Initiative.
Mummy Tales: What activities have you undertaken so far?
Maryanne: We have visited 2 children homes – Compassionate Hands for the Disabled Foundation in Ruai, and Light School and Orphanage in Rongai. We have also visited the Kenyatta National Hospital Children’s Cancer ward. In all these places, we have donated food, clothes and money.
Our greatest contribution to these lovely children though is spending time with them. We aim to provide a great experience and provide a feeling of belonging for them.
We have also adopted 1 children home called ‘Compassionate Hands Children’s Home’ in Ruai. We intend to be visiting them every Christmas and spend time with the children.
Mummy Tales: You are a mother of three. How was your life before the babies came?
Maryanne: Avie and Jamie are my 2nd and 3rd borns (35 minutes apart). I have a daughter who is 3 years old, and her name is Samree Mwanyota. My life before the babies was full of myself. Babies refocus ones attention and priorities. I am more empathetic and responsible now because I believe children look up to their parents for direction in life.
Mummy Tales: What is the one thing you love most about being a mom?
Maryanne: I love the fact that my children love me unconditionally. Motherhood has been challenging BUT very fulfilling. Women are very strong and can almost overcome everything. Being a mum makes you more grounded and focussed in life because you know your children depend on you.
I would never trade motherhood for anything. It gives me pride and joy that I am a mum.
Mummy Tales: Were you ever involved in any philanthropic work or any personal initiatives before they came?
Maryanne: Yes, I have always loved to give back to the community in my personal small ways. I have always visited children homes with my family, run marathons for a good cause and I am also involved in mentoring young girls. I guess I learnt all this from my mum because she is a community social worker and is heavily involved in the community.
So for me, it was never a matter of if I would ever start a personal initiative, but when.
Mummy Tales: What is the one lesson you have learnt that stands out since you started the A & J Initiative?
Maryanne: I have learnt that there are good people out there. There are many people who are wiilling to help, but they don’t know how to. A & J Initiative therefore provides the facilitation for them to make a contribution to society. I have also learnt that it starts with ME. For us to make a mark then we have to do it ourselves and not expect someone else to make the first step. It all starts with you.
Mummy Tales: If people want to get involved in A & J Initiative’s activities, how can they do so?
Maryanne: I can be reached through our Facebook page called A & J initiative. I am open to suggestions on homes to visit and other ways we can help children. I also use the Facebook page to rally volunteers whenever we have activities.
I can also be reached on 0721 806 134 and via the email address AJ_initiative@yahoo.com
Mummy Tales: One last thing before you go -being a mom to a premature baby can be tough. Avie and Jamie were born at six months only. What words of encouragement would you give to a new mom with a pre-term baby?
Maryanne: My twin babies were due on 20th July 2013, but they came early on 29th April 2013. I must say that there is a lot of financial and emotional stress that comes from having a preterm child. A good support network from family and friends is necessary for coping. Also patience with the baby because they will not always be meeting milestones like the full term ones. Most importantly, accepting help in caring for the baby is key, the babies are usually stronger than you would think. Taking time to relax also ensures you care for your baby well.
Mummy Tales: Thank you Maryanne for sharing your story and for the good work you do. God bless you as you continue to pay it forward.