“I lived on the streets with the other street kids, combed the markets for food”–Africa’s one hand photographer, Patience Dositha
Sometimes life’s ugly situations just sets one up to become a success in life, especially for ones like Patience Dositha, who become determined to take their lives into their own hands and chart the path to success, no matter the odds.
Patience Dositha was three months old when her left hand was chopped off during the First Congo War.
The conflict which culminated in the foreign invasion that replaced Zairean President Mobutu Sese Seko with the rebel leader Laurent-Désiré Kabila changed Dositha’s family lineage forever.
As the war intensifies, Dositha’s immediate family and many others were at the receiving end of the devastation that comes with every conflict.
Dositha’s family was among those annihilated. Every member of her household was murdered. But before her biological father departed this vicious world of murderers, he begged a fleeing family to take his three months old baby.
With Dositha’s mother lying dead a few steps away, dragging the three months old from the open and hid her under his armpit, Dositha’s father in his final moments, spotted a family fleeing to Rwanda
He beckoned them and begged them to save his daughter whose left limb had been slashed off. Dositha would be saved by a woman she would grow to call ‘mother’ despite protest from the woman’s husband.
“Call her Patience,” the dying father said. The three months old baby’s savior would later give her Dositha as the second.
Dositha’s unabated crying as a result of her amputated hand would lead to the death of her guardian angel’s husband who was never in support of saving her.
Dositha, her adopted mother and siblings settled in Rwanda. Blamed for the death of their father, Dositha was kicked out by her ‘siblings’ after finishing school and upon the death of the woman she grew to know as ‘mother’.
“They took my uniform, threw it on muddy ground and stepped on it. So I couldn’t go to school. I sat outside the gate and cried my heart out. Then their grandmother, a woman that I loved very much, who treated me like her own blood, saw me and called me into the house. She gave me some milk, then said, ‘It is time to know the truth.’ My heart sank,” Dositha said.
“You are now 18 years old,” the grandmother started. “There are things you must know. This is not your home. The woman that you called ‘mother’ is not your mother. Your siblings are not your biological siblings.”
Crushed and battered Dositha decided it was time to go and find her own destiny.
“I lost all hope. I remembered everything that I had gone through at the hands of my siblings. It took me more than a week to accept the truth,” Patience said. “I went up to Mount Rubavu every day for 10 days straight just to meditate. From my sitting spot, I could see the vastness of DRC. I told myself that I had to go home.”
Out in the wilderness with nowhere to go and no one to turn to, for four days Dositha combed markets for food and slept in the open. Help, however, came her way after the fourth day, ushering her into the next phase of her life.
Dositha arrived in Kenya thanks to help from a family friend and gave her $5 to start afresh. “I lived on the road with the other street kids. Most of them were good. “Some of the ones I knew who had developed bad habits I managed to talk to and get them to change,” Dositha who arrived in Kenya at the age of 20 said.
Dositha heard a man speaking Kinyarwanda on the phone and followed him, one day and waited for him to finish his call.
She introduced herself and asked if he could accommodate her which he did. Patience later called out to the International Rescue Committee (IRC). The IRC enrolled her into an institution where she studied photography.
“I studied at De-Capture Media Institute where I pursued a course in Photos and Videos,” she said, working there for about one year.
Dositha now runs Able Photography, whose clients are on Facebook and Instagram. During her work, Dositha said: “I have met some clients who refuse to let me photograph them because I am disabled,” but once they see her work, they agree to have her do it.
Dositha graduated from De-Capture Media Institute in 2018.
Despite her meager earning, Dositha gives back to society as and when she could, taking in street children.
“I looked for families for some of them. The ones who had problems with their families I would take them back home. There are some who I haven’t reached to help because they are like me, they don’t have anywhere to go.
“I am looking for a big house so they can come and live with me,” she said.