Life for Naima Dido started out anything but secure. She was born in Kariobungi, Kenya – a densely populated area in western Nairobi – where even today, nearly 40 percent of families live in poverty. Naima says that hunger was a chronic issue throughout her early childhood in Kenya. In fact, when Naima was an infant, her mother was so stricken with hunger that she once blacked out while feeding her. “She actually checked herself into a hospital because she knew that she could get food there,” Dido said. “There was no food in the house. My mother sold everything in the house to buy food. The only items left were the bed and a plate.”
Feed the Children began offering school lunches at Valley Bridge primary school where Naima was a student in 1986. She said this simple act changed her life as well the lives of many other students.
“Being able to eat at school changed a lot for many of us,” she told us, reflecting on this challenging time in her life.
Internationally, Feed the Children strives to improve children’s school performance. The organization seeks to reduce barriers and add incentives to ensure children enroll and stay in school so they can reach their full potential. With this goal in mind, regular nutritious school meals are provided to school-aged children like Naima.
Naima, along with her parents and four brothers, came to America when she was 10 as part of the U.S. Refugee Resettlement Program. “My parents lived in limbo for a long time before we moved to the United States because they couldn’t work as refugees in Kenya – it was the same as being an illegal immigrant in America,” Naima said. “My parents had to get creative on how to support a family.”
Naima has never forgotten the struggles of her home country and how one organization can make a difference in the lives of many. Today, Naima is the program director for Seed Programs International where her work supports underprivileged communities in Asia, Africa and Latin America.
“These children don’t have much; I was one of those kids not too long ago,” Naima said. “The idea that this is still happening today motivates me to keep doing what I’m doing.”
Today, Naima is proud of both her heritage and of the future she’s built with her family: husband and two kids. To help her stay connected with her roots, and to help her children better understand their roots, she visits Kenya when possible. She’s even reconnected with a teacher she knew when she was in the Feed the Children program all those years ago.