Why I’ve spent my life caring for the elderly

Wednesday, September 9th, 2020 00:00 |
Elvina Mzungu, 57, a senior welfare officer and social worker at the Alms House, popularly known as Nyumba ya Wazee, in Tudor area of Mombasa county, has spent over three decades doing community work. Photo/PD/Bonface Msangi

At Alms House, famously known as Nyumba ya Wazee in Tudor, Mombasa, the frail cries of sick elderly people are often a distraction to visitors.

For Elvina Mzungu, 57, a senior welfare officer and social worker at the home , this is a normal occurence in her line of duty. 

She calmly moves to where the groans are coming from and tries to bring some comfort to the elderly person in pain.

As the officer in charge of the Tudor Alms house that hosts about 21 elderly people ––17 men and four women––Mzungu’s life as a social worker is not a walk in the park.

“They can get sick anytime. Some come here with existing health conditions and it’s upon you to monitor them constantly. Some are too old that you have to feed them like babies.

This work needs devotion,” says Mzungu who has worked in  the home for 14 years.


She has practiced community work for over three decades now, and her passion for serving the community was put to the test during this Covid-19 period where she was tasked with ensuring the elderly do not contract the disease.

“Most of them have health issues, others have been abandoned by their families. 

The good thing is that the county government of Mombasa has sponsored all their upkeep including medical bills,” Mzungu told People Daily.

 When growing up, Mzungu saw how elderly people in her village in Kilifi County, were mistreated.

They were killed over claims they were practicing witchcraft. This really touched her and she aspired to become an advocate for the rights of the elderly.

Her career in social work began in the late 1980s when she was first employed as a cleaner at the Treasury Square, the then headquarters of the defunct Municipal council of Mombasa in 1987 after completing her Form Four studies. 

“I had passion for helping street children and elderly so I began activism work while I was still under the Mombasa municipality,” says Mzungu.

Her passion to help others pushed her to change gears to a community health volunteer. 

“I was so passionate about community work and I  enrolled for community development and social work  course at the Government Training Institute in Embu,” she adds.

She was later promoted to a social welfare officer in 2000. 


As a veteran social worker, she urges those who are venturing into community work to do so from their heart and not to be driven by greed because commitment is what keeps social workers going.

 “Since I was employed in Mombasa as a community health worker it’s now 34 years and I have never changed departments, if someone could test my blood, I guess it could test positive for the love of community work,” she added.

But the most challenging thing, she says, is balancing career with family affairs. 

She is a mother of three, two daughters and one boy, who are now above 18 years old.

She says her work to serve the community is paying off as her family has remained intact and in peace.

 “I was so passionate about offering services to the community and that pushed me to be a community worker.

Until today, I still feel good doing what I love most. I know there is a reward for what I do from God,” she adds.

Constant care

Like any other job taking care of the elderly has its fair share of challenges. 

At times, she says they are like babies who need constant care and protection.

She is now urging young people who intend to study the course to brace for tough challenges handling community affairs.

She says one of her achievements is that she helped several street boys to become police officers and meaningful community members.

“My biggest achievement is that I have seen lives change after my intervention. 

It is so humbling to see people I nurtured earning their living from the help I gave them through my activism work.

Some call me ‘Mama’  because I picked them from the streets,” she says.

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