NASHUA – Two communities are rallying around a local couple who are battling cancer.
One community is made up of Kenyan immigrants from northern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire, where Stanley Nguyaii Wa-Mbarii, 51, and his wife, Teresia Wa-Nguyaii, 47, have been well-known members for more than a decade.
The second community is formed of parents, students, faculty and staff at Infant Jesus School, where the couple’s 9-year-old son, Wilson, is a student.
An account at Citizens Bank has been established to help the family. In the meantime, the Kenyan community raised money at an event last week in a Lowell, Mass., church, and Infant Jesus is hosting a series of fundraisers and has already raised close to $8,000.
Among the fundraisers: Students bought $2 tickets for a day, $10 for the week, that allowed them to not wear school uniforms from June 14-18, the last week of school. An end-of-the-school-year cookout and a spaghetti dinner for Infant Jesus families are also helping to raise money in addition to two public fundraisers.
Teresia was diagnosed in January with cervical cancer and had to step aside from her job as a nurse with Palm Manor in Lowell to undergo daily treatments at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston.
Stanley was laid off last July from a job as an accountant with a company in Londonderry. He took his wife to Boston for her daily cancer treatments until a physical in March revealed that he has leukemia.
He was hospitalized for five weeks at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston for aggressive radiation and chemotherapy treatment. He needs a bone marrow transplant, and doctors are scrambling to contact his siblings and other relatives in Kenya to see if they can find a match.
Family friends still reeling from news about Teresia were devastated to learn that Stanley also suffered from a type of cancer.“I was shocked. I had to go upstairs to cry,” said Jerusha Mangera, supportive housing coordinator of Southern New Hampshire Services’ Mary’s House shelter for abused women and mother of one of Wilson Nguyaii’s classmates at Infant Jesus.
Mangera, her husband and their three children have taken Wilson in to live with them while his parents are undergoing cancer treatment.She had to break the news to Wilson that his father was going to be in the hospital.“I just had to tell him he was going to stay with us for a while. What do you tell a kid?” Mangera said.
Stanley has a 21-year-old daughter, Rebecca, from a previous relationship. She’s attending the University of North Texas.
Friends say the Nguyaiis are well known and liked among area residents with ties to Kenya.The couple have been married for about 10 years, said Kariuki Kimungu, chairman of the Nguyaii Family Fundraising Committee, a sponsor of the fundraising efforts at St. Stephen Church in Lowell.
Teresia emceed events in the Kenyan community, Kimungu said. She is outgoing and al-ways willing to help others, he said. Besides working as an accountant, Stanley has also been a citizen photojournalist for AjabuAfrica.com, Kimungu said.
When Teresia was attending Rivier College, she lived with Lee Karugu and his wife, said Karugu, a district manager for The Telegraph’s circulation department. She has been in living Nashua for a long time, Karugu said.“She is very, very outgoing. She’s one of the best people you’d want to meet. He is a little more quiet,” Karugu said, adding, “Both are good friends of mine.”Teresia was working to bring her sister and brother to the U.S., Karugu said.“That’s something she did well – to take care of her family,” he said.
People were shocked when they learned of Stanley’s illness, Karugu said.“I’ve never seen anything like this happen to two people at the same time,” he said.
Despite not working and facing mounting medical bills, the family has been reluctant to ask for financial help, said two women tied to fundraising efforts at Infant Jesus School.“If they didn’t need help, they wouldn’t be asking,” said Maryse Wirbal, chief executive officer of Nashua Pastoral Care Center and mother of an Infant Jesus student.
The Nguyaiis have enough to worry about, added Mary Ellen Gould, a nurse with Foundation Oncology and an Infant Jesus parent.“If we just take the weight of finances off of them,” Gould said.
Wirbal and Gould said the various fundraising efforts will continue, as the family faces a long road ahead.“This is going to be an ongoing need they’re going to have,” Wirbal said.