Interview: From street beggar to pharmacy assistant
By Kelvin Kamau | May 1st 2020
Your parents divorced when you were only two years old...
I was born in a family of five in Kitanga village, Mua hills. My parents had a nasty break-up when I was still a toddler, forcing us to relocate to Mbooni to live with my uncles. Things were a bit difficult for us because the living conditions were different. For instance, snakes used to crawl at night, something that we had not experienced before. We used to sleep on the floor and some of our close relatives would mock my mother telling her to come and pick her ‘small dogs’. When the situation got out of hand, mother could not stomach the humiliation and that’s when we moved out of Mbooni.
Where did you go to?
We moved to the outskirts of Lavington where my mother used to hustle as a hawker. Most of the times we would sleep on shelves without anything to cover us. We later moved to Huruma where my mother was lucky to get an abandoned mabati structure on the road side which became our home. Many nights we never slept because thieves would lean on the wall as they divided their loot. We feared losing our lives because they had guns and whenever we heard we them, we would hide under the bed and keep silent. We had two wooden stools and one rubber bed which accomodated the four of us.
I remember one night when the bed sunk in and made sounds which prompted the thugs to come for us, fearing that we had heard them and were going to report them. They gave us a dog’s beating.
How did you get out of the streets ?
My mother tried all she could to make sure that we attended school. I was enrolled at St. Joseph primary school and later to Mother Theresa home in Kiamaiko which was a home for street children. It had reached a point where my mother could not bear seeing us sleep hungry. At least in the home we could have a meal.
Was life difficult in the children’s home?
No. I blended well with other children and I used to top my class, something that earned me a full scholarship. I was transferred to Huruma primary school by a nun who kept encouraging me that I was destined for greatness.
If things were easing up for you, how did you end up becoming a beggar?
Well, life brought me another twist. My brother was schooling at Comina primary school back then and he was on the verge of being expelled because of fee arrears. The headmaster had grown impatient with my mother’s empty promises of clearing the balance. Mother always valued education, it’s just that she had no means of keeping us in school. One day the city askaris took her goods and she was left without a cent in her pocket. I was forced to become a begger in the streets of Nairobi to get some money. I would wear my brother’s school uniform and lie on a sack with a written fake medical plea saying that my mother was admitted in hospital. My mother would sit watching from a distance and collect any money left by well-wishers.
Did anyone realise that you were an impostor?
Education officials and the director of Comima primary school heard that there was a child that was pleading for help in the streets wearing their school uniform. A few days later they located me. They were furious.
When my mum saw that I was cornered, she came out of her hiding place. The officers called the media and before we knew it, cameras were clicking as I stood next to my mother carrying my gunia. We were in the dailies the following day.
How did your sponsors take this news?
They were shocked. It also affected my performance greatly and eventually I went back to the streets. I felt this was where I belonged, a life with neither classes nor discrimination. I became a hawker at the age of 12.
When did your life change?
I met a well wisher who took me back to school. I later joined high school and became the chairman of the Christian union. Luck was on my side again because after high school I was enroled in college where I became the first student president and later graduated with a diploma in pharmaceutical training.
Are you proud of the man that you have turned out to be despite all the hardships ?
Yes. I am blessed with a family and currently I am the manager of an Athritis treatment brand called Jointfix under Kinetic resources limited, and operating in Machakos, Makueni and Kitui regions.
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