Sunday, April 21, 2024

Touching Story:Kenyan immigrant served up kindness to family and strangers

Rose Oudia emigrated to the United States from Kenya when she was 10 years old. As one of four children being raised by a single mother, older daughter Oudia naturally took on the role as caregiver to her family.

Her mother, Suzanna Oudia, said her husband had been abusive and that she came to America on a student visa determined to make a better life for them all. Within a few years, Oudia’s mother was working as a cab driver, with hours that kept her away from home well into the evening.

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Young Oudia made sure her siblings were fed, bathed and finished with their homework. Oudia encouraged them to pray to God, to study hard and to be grateful for the lives they were carving out for themselves as Americans.

Oudia died last month at 33. She had struggled with many health problems, particularly during the last few years of her life. But her desire to take care of others only strengthened, her family says, marveling.

Her aunt, Jamie Carr, said the family often wondered when Oudia would rebel – but she never did. Long after she and her siblings were grown, she continued to serve as a caregiver to family and strangers alike, packaging meals for the homeless and making the rounds of Raleigh to distribute them with her mother. Oudia called it their “Ministry of Hope.”

“It’s almost like she knew she was never going to have a long life, and she knew she needed to be there for her mother and her siblings as much as possible,” Carr said.

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Positive despite illnesses

“Rose had been plagued with one illness after another since birth,” said her sister, Jacqueline Oudia.

As an infant Oudia survived a number of seizures. Then a spinal injury crippled her ability to walk for some time. A fall at work found her in need of intense physical therapy and steroid injections.But many of Oudia’s most serious health problems began after she survived a car accident about five years ago, her mother said. After breaking her ribs, she dealt with serious blood clots.

“Ultimately her death was a result of a cardiac arrest from the pulmonary embolism,” her sister said.

Oudia struggled with standing or sitting for long periods. This made it difficult to work, and she was forced to leave the career she’d developed as a corporate personal assistant in the Boston area.

Yet her outlook remained positive.

“She just thanked God for keeping her alive because she could have died in the accident,” Suzanna Oudia said.

Oudia had always enjoyed cooking and was known for her traditional Kenyan fare. Braised oxtails, goat stew and chapati, a flatbread, were among her favorite dishes to prepare. After she became ill, she occasionally took on private catering jobs and founded her own cupcake business, Cupcake Rosey.

But her cooking talents most often went toward feeding the homeless. She packaged and distributed grilled chicken, potatoes, sometimes broccoli and always water bottles to the destitute throughout downtown Raleigh.

“I’d tease her. I’d tell her, ‘Geez, Rose, when I grow up I want to be just like you,’ ” her aunt said.

‘She served perfectly’

Oudia’s desire to be of service to others was often directed toward her faith. She was an active member of Faith Harvest Church in Wake Forest and was chosen to be service coordinator for Sunday services.

That role required a special personality, Pastor Brad Wiggs said – someone with the qualities of being peaceful, joyful, likeable, communicative and capable of handling stress with grace. And Oudia demonstrated them all.

“She served perfectly in that role,” Wiggs said.

Her loved ones stress the degree to which Oudia was selfless and loving.

“She spoiled me and showed me the love I never had before,” Suzanna Oudia said. “I was grateful to be her mom.”

“Even with her last breath, literally, she asked me, ‘Did you wish Mama happy birthday?’ That’s the Rose I remember,” her sister said at Oudia’s memorial service. “And that’s the Rose I will never forget.”



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