Grace Mugambi wipes a tear from her eye while looking through pictures of seven-year-old Ryan, four-year-old Kerri and nine-month-old Rubi Pauls.
“They were calling me ‘shosho,'” said Mugambi. “‘Shosho is here!’ It means ‘grandmother.'”
The three children, their 34-year-old mother, Carolyne Karanja and 60-year-old grandmother, Ann Kuranja, were on their way to Nairobi when the Ethiopian Airlines flight crashed Sunday, killing all 157 passengers on board.
“Carolyne was like my own daughter,” said Mugambi. “I loved Carolyne. She was a very, very kind lady.
“Every time she went to a supermarket or grocery store, and she was expecting [a baby] at that time, she would walk past here and ask me what I want, to buy me something.”
Mugambi said she got to know the family that lived a few stories above her in her Hamilton high-rise because she’s also Kenyan and speaks Swahili.
Early last year, Mugambi had just gotten surgery and wasn’t able to move around much, she said, so Carolyne and her kids would drop in and keep her company.
WATCH: These are the Canadian victims of Ethiopian Airlines flight 302
“I really loved them,” said Mugambi. “From the bottom of my heart, I really loved those people. They brought me food, fruits and everything.
“She had very, very nice children — very well mannered.”
Apondi Odhiambo, a secretary for the Kenyan Community of Ontario, said she’s been in touch with friends and family in Nairobi and adds that the children’s father works in the U.S., while their grandfather lives in Nairobi. She said the family was on their way to visit him when the crash of Ethiopian Airlines Flight 302 happened.
Odhiambo also said that Carolyn Karanja and her two eldest children were here as permanent residents, and newborn Rubi was the only Canadian citizen. She said that they had been in the country since 2014, while Rubi’s grandmother, Ann Karanja, had only arrived recently on a caregiver’s visa.
Grace Mugambi was a neighbour to 5 Kenyans from Hamilton killed in the crash.
Three of them are were children.
She took care of them and said they called her ‘shosho’ which means grandmother.
She shares their story on @globalnewsto at 5:30
— Kamil Karamali (@KamilKaramali) March 12, 2019
Odhiambo said Kenyans in Ontario are mourning, having lost a strong part of their community.
“I’m broken,” said Odhiambo. “I’m a broken woman. I have no words, I can’t express the pain. I don’t know how it feels to lose five family members.
“We have lost an individual whose future was bright, who was bound to give back to this community. We have lost a whole system, we have lost a whole institution, we have lost a community, we have lost a family.”
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