By: Willow Welter with Isaac Ogila   |   Posted: January 07, 2020

A Kenyan mother of 14 finds reason to hope that her daughter’s future will be easier than her own.

Keeping Salama Out of the Quarry

A Kenyan mother of 14 finds reason to hope that her daughter’s future will be easier than her own.

Written by Willow Welter with Isaac Ogila
Photography by Isaac Ogila
Salama smiling standing next to a tree
The quarry workers toil under the hot Kenyan sun 10 hours a day, hammering rocks into smaller rocks. For each bag they fill with gravel, they earn 20 cents. The labor exposes them to particulates that can cause lung damage and respiratory illnesses. It’s backbreaking work, but someone has to do it — and in Muyeye, Kenya, “someone” means mostly women and children.

Quarry work hasn’t always been the best way to earn a living in this community, located on the outskirts of the coastal town of Malindi. Subsistence farming and fishing used to be the residents’ primary means of survival. But in recent years harvests have been failing. A lack of rain in 2016 left 1.3 million Kenyans needing food aid, reports the Kenyan government. And fish stocks have dwindled in some parts of Kenya. The government cites illegal overfishing and the monsoon weather pattern as causes. The World Bank says mining runoff is affecting fish stocks in some communities. Meanwhile, growing economies in larger Kenyan cities demand more construction materials.

In Muyeye, opportunities and hope have dried up along with the crops and fish populations. Men who can no longer provide for their families resort to a local palm liquor called mnazi. They see quarry work as demeaning. As the fathers of their children drink, the women of Muyeye work. Mothers often take their babies to the quarry. Older children, some as young as 6, join in the work of breaking rocks. Some kids attend school in the mornings and work at the quarry in the afternoons. Others don’t attend school at all. Their mothers know that they should, but their families need to eat. And school expenses keep education out of reach for many families anyway.

Getting kids out of the quarry and into school is a top priority for Compassion’s church partners in the area. Salama Jali Karisa, a 13-year-old girl in the sponsorship program, does not join her mother in the quarry. Instead, she attends school and a Compassion center, where she receives health checkups, food, tutoring and Bible education, and enjoys free time to play. Her mother, Kadzo, continues to work hard so her daughter can enjoy opportunities she never had.

A Kenyan Family gathered together in front of their house

Kadzo Marsha, 40, has 14 children ranging from 7 months to 14 years old. In the five years since her husband started abusing alcohol and stopped working, she has been the family’s only breadwinner by working at the quarry. The family lives in a home made of mud and wood in Muyeye. Kadzo never had the chance to get an education.

Early every morning Kadzo heads to the quarry with her youngest, Loice, strapped to her back. “I do not wish to bring her to the quarry with me,” says Kadzo, who can’t afford a baby sitter. “But if I miss a day, we all sleep hungry and that breaks my heart.” She begins each day by digging up limestone rocks and collecting them in a sack, and then she finds a spot to sit and break them into gravel. “I just hope and pray that God would protect us.”

Mom holding her infant child
A mom worrking the quarry with children around her

While Kadzo works and keeps an eye on her, Loice plays in the dust with other children, oblivious to the dangers. Kadzo’s hands are bruised and scarred, evidence of accidents that have sent her to the hospital. A slew of respiratory illnesses have required several doctor visits. For all her work, Kadzo earns just $12. “I work this hard so that my children do not have to suffer in the future,” she says.

Mom cooking while holding her infant
Bags of gravel from working the quarry

Quarry workers earn about 20 cents per full bag of gravel. Construction companies use the gravel to make cement and other building materials.


At about noon each day, Kadzo heads home to cook for her children who return from school to eat lunch. They usually eat vegetables and ugali, a cornmeal porridge. The family’s new goats supply nutritious milk for the children to drink. The goats are a few examples of how life has improved for this family since Salama joined Compassion’s program.

After lunch, Salama returns to her public primary school, about a 10-minute walk from home. A local church that partners with Compassion registered Salama in the sponsorship program in 2007. Since then, sponsorship has covered her school supplies, uniforms and most of her school fees. She has access to additional reading resources at her church-run Compassion center. And an extra financial gift from Salama’s sponsors made the family’s life easier.

Salama smiling while standing at the gate
Salama sitting on a stool new goats

About three years ago Salama’s family received a gift from her sponsors, Peter and Suzanne Hughes in the U.K. Kadzo used the money to buy a goat, which has since had three kids. Kadzo says that on top of providing her children with milk, the goats offer collateral and an emergency fund. “I don’t know what would have happened if Salama was not in the program,” says Kadzo, recalling a night a few years ago when their dilapidated home crumbled. Compassion program workers helped the family with accommodations, bedding and food for three months. They also supplied metal walls to help the family rebuild a home.

Salama reading a letter

The letters from her sponsors inspire Salama to work hard in school. “I cannot let them down after they have believed in me like this,” Salama says. “I want to become a teacher so that I can be a role model to the girls who are not as lucky as I am to have a role model in my project director, Everlyne Nzioka.”

Her mother believes that a better life is possible for her daughter. “I am happy that Salama is sponsored and doesn’t have to assist me in breaking rocks,” Kadzo says. “I desire that all my kids would have a good education and that their standards of living would improve. That is what drives me to keep me breaking rocks all day in the hot, scorching sun. It is hard work, but I know it is for a worthy cause.”