A few months ago, I made my way back home to Kenya after having been away at uni for a year. Having a massive family has always just been the norm for me and to be honest, I’ve never really given it much thought. It’s only when one of my friends from uni told me she only has ONE cousin that I realised a.) how large my family really is and b.) just what a privilege that is.

I come from a family that at one point or another has been spread between Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, England, the USA, China, Romania, New Zealand and Australia. I have over 14 cousins and 13 aunts and uncles. I come from a family of incredibly strong women and men who have suffered loss and felt joy together. A family that has always loved and protected me and most importantly, always made me laugh.


Of my grandparents, I’ve been fortunate enough to meet 3/4 of them, all of whom are strong, resilient and have raised 11 children between them. My grandfather, the only grandfather I ever met, was one of a kind. Always making it his mission to make everyone around him laugh and feel loved. We lost him 4 years ago but I always like to think of him as my guardian angel watching over me.

I was named after BOTH my great grandmothers (how odd is it that both my parents’ grandmothers were named Debra? Well, actually their name’s were Deborah but my parents switched it up a little). I love the idea of being named after someone in my family. I’m here because of those two women and I live the life I do as a result of the sacrifices and choices they made. Being named after two strong women gives me a lot to live up to and I’m more than ready to step up to the challenge.


Having a large family means that there’s always someone having a baby, getting in to some sort of trouble/some sort of drama and someone being mad at someone else. It also means that there’s inspiration at every turn. People who are hustling hard everyday at their jobs, working hard towards university degrees, starting their own businesses and just generally killing it at life.

Family is everything and I’m so grateful for mine. Family molds who you are and mine is a constant part of my ever changing identity. My family has given me everything from my last name to the bed I sleep in and I can only hope that I make them proud; both those who are still with us and those who are watching from above.

I am an African, I am a Kenyan, I am a Luo, I am an Onyango and an Olum, I am Nyar Gem.

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