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All is not gold that glitters

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By PATRICIA ODINDO
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Brenda was confident of her beauty. Her mirror said so, everyone said so.

“When you were a baby, total strangers would stop to tell me how you would blossom into a stunning beauty,” her mother told her.

In primary school, Brenda was the girl teachers chose to present flowers to important visitors when they came calling.

And so she started to believe that beauty was all she needed to make it in life. There was no need to exert herself. With her looks, all she needed was to be in the right place at the right time and good things were bound to happen for her.

When she was a teenager, men, some old enough to be her father, came asking for her hand in marriage.

“Me? Waste my beauty on a half-literate villager? No way.” She took their gifts but left them with only a bitter taste in their mouths.

After her poor performance in her O-levels, Brenda left home to live with Auntie Violet in Nairobi.

“Come back home, my child,” her mother pleaded. She wanted Brenda to go back to school, study harder and proceed to the university. “You wanted to be a doctor once, remember?”

But Brenda had changed her mind.

Why toil away over voluminous books in musty libraries with all this beauty, she reasoned.

Her idols on social media had not darkened the doors of a university yet they probably had more sleek cars, designers shoes and outfits than the average doctor. With a little luck, she would be able to make lots of money in a short time just like they had.

“I will repeat my exams through adult literacy programmes in the evenings,” she lied to her mother.

Nairobi was fascinating. She was awestruck by the tall buildings, sleek vehicles, people dressed in smart, trendy outfits.

Auntie Violet quickly gave her a makeover. Brenda now sported long glossy, blonde hair, and her aunt bought her tight, skimpy clothes.

Her dark skin was considered a hindrance so Brenda bleached out the coffee colour, and learned how to apply make-up like a pro.

Admirers flocked to her. Many were fresh graduates from the university but all they could offer were dingy bedsits, starting salaries and lofty ambitions.

There were also greying family men, looking for young girls to frolic with.

“Don’t succumb to the charms of mediocre middle-class people, Brenda. Aim for the fattest fish,” Aunt Violet advised.

To snag a fabulously wealthy person, her aunt told her what to look for. “Wealthy people invest in gold watches, genuine leather items like belts, wallets and shoes.

“And another thing, a rich man’s hands are always perfectly manicured.”

Her 23rd birthday came and went, but there was no rich man in sight.

One morning on her way to the beauty salon where she worked, she pondered over her lack of fortune. She was beautiful, that went without saying, so why hadn’t she snared a wealthy prince charming?

“Excuse me,” a soft baritone cut into her thoughts. She turned and saw a man driving a sleek, black Range Rover, speaking to her from the car window.

“Is Blue Span Mall in this vicinity?” he asked.

The sleek vehicle, expensive looking wristwatch, and designer sunglasses caught her attention.

“No, it’s not. You have to turn around, drive back to the rough road…”

“Would you please get into the car and show me the way?”

His smile lit up the morning. Brenda needed no second bidding.

“My name is Jean-Claude. Yours?”

She settled herself on the plush leather seats and fastened her seat belt.

“I am looking for some exotic plants for my garden, and I’ve been told they can be found somewhere near Blue Span Mall.”

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Brenda studied him through her lashes, noticing the subtle scent of an obviously expensive cologne, his genuine leather belt and shoes, mmh… potential.

“Thanks Brenda,” he said, when they arrived at the mall. “Allow me to call a taxi for you.”

The taxi came, and she got in.

“Would you like to have a drink with me some time?”

Brenda acquiesced with promptness. As he was giving her his phone number, she noticed that his hands were calloused, scarred, and his broken fingernails had dirt underneath.

A red light flickered in her gut.

“Unbelievable how my passion for gardening has absolutely ruined my hands,” he explained. “I’m actually an online businessman.”

“I have the perfect solution for you,” Brenda offered. “A manicure at the beauty salon.”

They laughed, and he promised to find time from his busy schedule to get one. Then he pressed a crisp one thousand shilling note in her hand and promised to call.

They went on a date the following week. It was soon followed by another and another.

Two weeks after their initial meeting, Jean-Claude picked her up from Auntie Violet’s saloon and drove her to his home.

It was two-storeys, painted pristine white, furnished with modern leather sofas, the latest electronic gadgets and appliances, and there were other cars, parked in the garage. Brenda could hardly contain her excitement.

“I live with my gardener, who is on leave at the moment,” he said.

He prepared a sumptuous meal that they ate on the balcony. Later, he showed her his well tended garden and she knew she had arrived.

It became routine for him to pick her from her workplace a few times a week and take her to his home. Brenda was sure that it was only a matter of time before a diamond ring graced her finger.

There were things about him that disturbed her though. The nature of his mysterious online business for instance, and his insistence that under no circumstances was she to come to his house on her own. And when she posted one of their selfies on Facebook, he was angry.

They were together one evening when his phone rang. A woman’s high pitched voice came from the other end.

“My mother,” he said with a nervous laugh. “Excuse me, I have to take this call privately.” He went out of the room.

“I have to visit to my mother in the village over the next three days,” he said when he got back. “Don’t bother to call, the network in our village is poor.”

He was unreachable for two weeks after that, and sensing that all was not well with her Prince Charming, Brenda decided to pay him a visit.

One morning, she wore her best clothes and rubbed her growing belly with a smile. The elusive ring was bound to appear once Jean-Claude heard her good news.

She took a taxi to the now familiar home. She rang the bell several times and finally an elderly man walked over and opened it.

His tattered, discoloured sweat shirt advertised a cough syrup, and his shorts were frayed at the edges. “How may I help you?”

So this was the gardener, back from his leave. He would be sacked once she formally became mistress of the house, and replaced by someone with better hearing.

“Why are you taking forever to open the gate?” She brushed past him in a huff, walked into the house, kicked off her shoes and sank gratefully into one of the leather seats.

“Get me a glass of cold apple juice,” she ordered the man. He had a perplexed expression but went to the kitchen and brought her the juice.

“And who, madam, may I ask, are you?”

“Jean-Claude hasn’t told you? I am the new madam of the house.”

“Jean-Claude? Who is that?”

“My fiancé,” she answered impatiently, “the owner of this house.” She whipped out her phone and showed him a picture of Jean-Claude.

“Oh,” said the man. “I see. And he told you he owns this house?”

He handed her the phone, sighed and said: “That’s my gardener. He had to travel upcountry because one of his five children is in hospital with pneumonia…”

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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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