I derive joy in charity and philanthropy, reveals Winnie Augo

Tuesday, August 24th, 2021 00:00 |
Winnie Augo, when she visited renowned boxer Conjestina Achieng. Photo/PD/VIOLA KOSOME

When Winnie Augo, a 39-year-old single mother started helping the needy about a decade ago, she did not know that her small initiative would be a blessing to many.

Winnie, who had a tough childhood, which saw her become a young mother at 19 years old, knew what she would do with her life should she get a breakthrough - helping the needy.

Her mother was the seventh wife in a polygamous marriage. Life took a downturn after her father died two weeks before she was born. Meeting basic needs became a challenge for her mother.  

“After the death of my father, my mother would struggle to put food on the table.

We had to sell a portion of land my father had left us at a throwaway price in 1992 to make ends meet,” she recalls.

The family moved to a rental house where her mother could also not afford to pay rent and they were forced to stay with a relative for some time.

Winnie had to drop out of school in Class Eight to enable her mother pay fees for her elder siblings as she could not pay for all of them at ago.

The developments further worsened her situation as she was forced to stay at home idle for several years.  

Life of poverty

“I decided not to let the situation hurt my goals. I started learning hairdressing at a village salon,” she says.

In 2003, Winnie moved out of her mother’s house. She relocated to Kisumu from Eldoret and survived on casual labour.

She used to pay Sh200 house rent, but she would always have hard time raising the money.

She recalls how her mother fell sick, but she couldn’t afford to cater for her medical bills. She eventually lost her mother in February 2010 to Tuberculosis.

Still, life had to continue. Through KCB Tujiajiri, she was lucky to get sponsorship to study professional hairdressing in July 2017. After training, she secured a job at a local salon.

She would save 12 per cent of her earnings to help the needy. At times, she would volunteer to teach young girls and women hair dressing in her house during her off days.

Having known what it means to lack, Winnie who now operates a salon in Kisumu is always quick to extend a helping hand to the less fortunate.

She mobilises resources such as clothes, food and money from well-wishers, which she distributes to the needy.

She shares that in 2015, photos of her helping the less fortunate circulated online.

A lot of people reached out to her, many asking for ways they could support her and how their donations would get to her. 

“I’m fulfilled when I bring change to someone… when lives are transformed.

I am now a mother and a sister to many because I understand what it means to lack,” she says.

Lifting those who are down

Julie is happy to have once brought smile to the faces of iconic Luo Benga Musician Princess Jully and renowned boxer, Conjestina Achieng.

She says in 2016 she was shocked by the information that was circulating on social media claiming that Conjestina had died.

That was when she decided to personally go to Conjestina’s home only to find out that she wasn’t dead.

Seeing the poverty and misery surrounding the once great boxing hero broke the hairdresser’s heart. Winnie later took Conje’s son to her home in Kisumu.

 ‘’I took him with me to Kisumu so that he could revise for his final examination in the belief that he could barely give his best if he stayed with his mother and grandmother,” she says. 

Winnie would then frequently visit Conje to see how she was fairing and on various occasions supported her, in whatever ways she could. 

Few challenges 

As for Princess Jully, Winnie started a campaign to help the famous Benga artiste’s music get back to her feet. Princess Jully is one of the best musicians Kenya ever produced.

Her songs; Dunia Mbaya,  Wangni Wabiro and Aneno Lek dominated the local airwaves.

But after a few years, Princess Jully was nowhere to be heard. She had sunk into oblivion, languishing in abject poverty and moved from Nairobi to her rural home in Migori. 

Winnie says she would visit Princess Jully on several occasions, especially during her birthday to spend time with her.

Others who have benefitted from her charitable work are those who were displaced by the flooding waters of Lake Victoria last year. 

However, the journey has not been without challenges. In 2016, Winnie was cyber bullied with some individuals claiming that she was conning people. Winnie was distraught and even thought the unfounded news would bring her down.  

However, that did not happen as she was shocked to receive more donations from people whom she said believed in her kind work. She even received donations from outside the country —Uganda, Zanzibar, Tanzania, among others.

Her other challenge, she says, is lack of storage space. 

And with Covid-19 still ravaging the country, there has been a lot of calls for help from people who have been hard-hit by the hard economic times, some who are unable to fend for their families.

“It is fulfilling knowing that I have touched and changed lives of people who had given up,” she says. 

She adds, “ There is nothing too little to give because that which you think is small can change someone’s life.”

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