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I found my mother through Google

By Jaqueline Mahugu | 1 year ago | 6 min read

 Margaret Wambui reunited with her son George Njoroge after 23 years (Photo: Edward Kiplimo/Standard)

For Margaret Wambui, a diminutive woman of fair complexion, the pleasures and joys experienced by mothers have all been but a distant rumour for the past two decades.

Brooding from one Christmas to the other, one Easter to the other, grief has swung from one end of her life to the other like a pendulum and bears a near-permanent imprint in her face.

For 23 years, she has had no respite, gnawed from within by the pain of losing her child in circumstances most bizarre and in the hands of those she trusted.

Her story begins in the annus horribilis (horrible year) 1997. As the El Nino rains pounded the country, leaving in their wake destruction and death, Wambui was losing her five-year-old son, George Njoroge.

It would take another horrible year, 2020, with Covid-19 shutting down the country, to recover him. In between is a period littered in ceaseless prayer, petitions, searches and begging to no avail.

It all begins when she left her son in her sister’s care, after she fell ill. One thing led to another and he was given away to a children’s home, adopted by foster parents – all as the mother looked for him.

When The Standard caught up with both of them in Thika, their resemblance was uncanny, and personality similar despite their many years of being apart. For instance, both can talk your ear off, and can tell any story in intricate detail.

Njoroge is now a 28-year-old man, a licensing officer with the Kiambu County Government. But with the way she looks at him lovingly while he talks, he might as well still be the five-year-old boy she lost.

“When we are not together even for a short time, I feel like he will disappear again,” Wambui says.

For the two decades, she cried every night in despair. She remembers how one time a matatu driver stopped the car and asked the women passengers to find out what was wrong with her.

“In church, every time there were special prayers for everyone to say during Mass, people would wonder if I was always the constant feature, interceding for my lost son,” she says.

Njoroge says he had a tough life growing up. He thought his mother had abandoned him after he was carted off in circumstances most controversial to a children’s home, after which he was adopted by a new family.

Series of miracles

Through sheer determination to live and a series of miracles, Njoroge ended up in Chania High School, living with a good Samaritan and having his school fees paid by then MP and later on governor, William Kabogo.

In May 2017, he met with his adoptive father, who he refers to as “that man” as he began his hunt for his real parents.

“I had left his place in 2009. I’m sure he didn’t expect me to have made it as far as I had. I asked him where he had gotten me from. He said I had been a street boy in Nyeri. I also had memories of being in a place called Gatunguru. So I went to three different places in Nyeri, Murang’a and Thika to look for my family,” he says.

Later on, he convinced his adoptive father to give him his adoption documents, where he learned that his real name was John Japhet Githiori. He had vague memories of being referred to as JJ but did not know what it stood for.

This year, out of desperation, he googled his name and the first result (which comes up even now) was an article done by The Standard on December 28, 2011 with the headline, ‘Give me back my son, woman tells sister’.

“All this time I thought my mother had abandoned me, yet here was an article showing she had been looking for me all along,” says Njoroge.

The story had talked about a case in a Mombasa children’s court, where his mother was demanding that her sister, Jane Mugure, reveal the whereabouts of her son.

“I went to Tononoka, to that court, but since I am not an advocate of the court but just a party of interest, they told me they could not help me. So I called The Standard. They checked their archives but found that the writer no longer worked there,” he says.

When he researched further he came across another story by Kameme TV, where Wambui had gone to tell her story, in search of him.

“That is where I saw that that was clearly my mother talking. It was so unbelievable, I had to stop watching for a while to take it in. It was at night. Then I listened to the story keenly and learned where I was really from,” says Njoroge.

“Memories came back, and I remembered how people used to call her ‘Maggie’. I learned her full name was Margaret Wambui Githiori. I went to Facebook and found her but she wasn’t responding to my messages.”

 Margaret Wambui holds a copy of the newspaper (Photo: Edward Kiplimo/Standard)

He had learned from the TV story that she had a brother called Dr Githiori, so he called the presenter and told him that he was the son the woman he had interviewed was looking for. He gave him their contacts.

“We first met with the doctor and went to his place,” he says.

In an ironic twist of fate, the gate of the estate he lives in, where we did the interview, is directly opposite the estate where his uncle, the doctor, has lived since the 1970s. The gates are about five metres away from each other.

Njoroge has lived in that estate for five years, looking for his family, not knowing that his mother’s brother was his neighbour, living a stone’s throw away.

“I asked him to call my brother Patrick Gitau, who is 18 years older, and tell him that I was alive and well, but not to call my mother. I didn’t want the doctor to take credit for finding me,” he says.

“I remembered my brother because I never forgot the fish soup he used to make me as a child and if anyone teased me I would tell him that I was going to tell on them to my brother Gitau. He would keep taking pictures of me which he took by stealing some coins from my mother, but she really appreciated those photographs now. They were the ones that helped her look for me.”

Unmistakable resemblance

When Gitau called Njoroge via WhatsApp video, the resemblance was unmistakable.

In shock, Gitau told their mother that he had really found him, but Wambui was too shocked to believe it. She went to the bedroom and prayed for hours and was only able to talk to him the next day.

“I couldn’t sleep that day. I sent her a picture taken the first December I was away. We waited for two months, waiting for the president to open up travel. I travelled to Coast, to Mariakani, to meet my mother,” Njoroge says.

Wambui sent his brother to pick him up from the bus stop. The meeting, 23 years overdue, was a pool of happy tears, relief and disbelief.

“We met and hugged and cried many tears. None of us could believe it. I would wake up several times and tell myself, ‘Maybe this isn’t real.’ I kept confirming that it was!” says Njoroge, laughing.

“What pained me the most was how long we had both suffered,” he says.

They have been spending as much time as possible together now. When he went to Mariakani to visit her, he came back with her to Thika. It has been four weeks now.

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