THE WALLS OF her hair salon are a bright, glossy red. The towels that she throws over the shoulders of her clients as they get coiffed are the same color, without the gloss. You can tell Felistas has an eye for detail. Talking to her, you can tell she is passionate about this work and about her clients. What you cannot tell though, is that a few years before this, she never imagined she would run her own business.
She grew up in a slum, right here in Machakos, Kenya. As a child she came close to becoming a street kid and speaks about how she would go to primary school hungry and how she could not attend secondary school because her mother, a single parent could not afford it.
Her name is Felistas and she is the third born in a family of six. I photographed her as part of the volunteer work I was doing for the Jitegemee Children’s Program in Machakos.
“I was raised by a single mum,” she said in an interview. “She would do casual jobs to pay for us to go to school or to buy food or clothing. though we never joined the streets we came very close – many of our friends joined the streets. My mum was strict with us. She didn’t want us to join gangs or do drugs.”
“I went to school up to the end of primary school. Although primary schooling is free in Kenya, the school would still require KSH300 [around US$3] per school term, which was a struggle for my mum, and often we would get sent home because we couldn’t afford that amount…”
From such difficult beginnings Felistas now runs her own salon. You can download the Jitegemee 2016 Annual Report to read more about her journey to running her own hair salon.