They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but some random pictures, taken purely by chance, become more than just that.
One such photo, taken by a motorist on Friday somewhere at the edge of Kamotony Forest in Kapsowar, Elgeyo Marakwet, lit up the social media for its humorous innocence and tinge of horror put together.
Faith Jepchirchir, 13, had accompanied her grandmother, Lilian Kobilo, 75, to the forest four kilometres away from their home to fetch firewood.
Kobilo has been raising Jepchirchir and her two siblings, since their mother left sometime back. Her only source of income is the proceeds from selling firewood.
On a good day, the girl and her grandmother have been making Sh100. So when Jepchirchir skipped school to accompany her grandmother to the forest on Friday morning, it was just another inconspicuous routine.
It turned out to be more than that at the end of the day, as an image of her sharing the pillion of a moving motorcycle with the firewood she had collected began to trend online.
The teenager was captured perched precariously atop a pile of the firewood, on a motorbike. A Good Samaritan had apparently offered to help her and the grandmother ferry the load home.
For the last three days social media has been awash with Jepchirchir’s photos, generating mixed reactions.
The Standard team later caught up with Jepchirchir at her Kapsowar home. She innocently narrated how a trip to and from the forest ended up on social media.
After collecting a pile of firewood, the girl and her grandmother realised the load was too heavy for them to carry on their backs, and trek four kilometres.
Then lady luck came riding by.
“We had walked out of the forest to the roadside. Luckily, a boda boda operator I knew accepted to help us ferry the load for free,” said Kobilo.
After securing the entire bundle at the back of the motorcycle, the rider noticed that Jepchirchir was limping. Her feet had blisters. She had been trekking in the forest barefoot, the load of firewood on her back.
She showed the rider the blisters on her foot and asked for another favour; a ride home.
“I felt a lot of pain on my feet due to the blisters. I asked him if I could ride on top of the firewood. He said it was alright,” she said.
The girl then lay protectively over the load of firewood, while at the same time clinging on the rider in front and struggling to maintain a foothold behind her.
Her grandmother followed on foot.
Unaware that what she was doing was an offence, and a risk that could have cost her life, Jepchirchir was even less aware that her bizarre riding position was drawing the attention of motorists on the road.
“A matatu passed by and stopped a few meters from us. I thought they were good Samaritans who wanted to offer help. But when we passed them, I heard them laugh,” she said.
One of the passengers in the matatu took photos and a video of her still on the motorcycle and shared it on Facebook.
Within minutes, the video and photos were shared hundreds of times on different social media platforms.
Some social media users did not realise the person on the picture was a 13-year-old pupil.
“A middle aged woman spotted clutched to a boda boda rider ferrying firewood. It’s a sight to behold,” one user tweeted.
Unlike some girls of her age in well-to-do families, Jepchirchir does not own a phone, and has no idea how Facebook and Twitter work. As such, she had no idea that pictures of her perched on her pile of firewood on a motorcycle pillion were trending online.
When The Standard team showed her the images Jepchirchir covered her mouth in surprise. She said she did not think her bizarre motorcycle ride was a big deal. All she could think about was that the rider saved her from walking four kilometres barefoot and with a load of firewood on her back.
For Kobilo, news that pictures of her granddaughter and the firewood had been seen generated panic at first.
“I thought of running away. I thought police were coming to arrest me and my granddaughter,” said the widow.
When she grows up, Jepchirchir would like to be a doctor. And when she gets there, she says, part of her first salary will go to buying shoes, 100 pairs, which she will share with children so they do not walk barefoot.
“I don’t want people to suffer sore feet in future like I am right now,” she told The Standard.