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Rising above tough times: Kenyan in US supports society back home


Twenty-four years ago, Mwangi Mukami, played idly alone outside their house as his peers were in school due to poverty. His family eked a living through hawking fruits and vegetables, and they lived in a tiny room in Kawangware slums.

Despite his tough early years, Mwangi now aged 38, is remitting in excess of Sh10 million annually, through MLIFE Foundation to assist the community through improved livelihood and education.

"At my former school, Kawangare Primary, we have a computer laboratory fully equipped with the internet, supporting the learners and teachers in research and other areas of collaboration," said Mwangi.

In 2015, he founded Mwangi-Mukami Low-Income Families Endowment (MLIFE) to help children in the slums to read and write, the youth lead and thrive, and families in despair meet their most basic needs.

 At Kawangare primary school. Photo:Boniface Gikandi

Mwangi says he has embarked on a digital literacy programme (LEAP) in primary schools to ease the learning for students.

"I started a partnership with The Standard NIE program that impacted the learners positively where they improved their standards and got admitted to national and extra county schools," said Mwangi who regularly visits the LEAP program funded by his foundation in Kawangare, Mathare, and Kilifi.

Mwangi recounts how in 2002 he attained a D+ in his KCSE examination, which means he couldn't join the university.


"My friends and peers ridiculed me as I insisted on being a policymaker," said the President of MLIFE Foundation.

Mrs Grace Githogori, a teacher at Kawangare primary school, says the NIE and the IT program initiated by the foundation have transformed the school into a center of excellence as the pupils have perfected their communication skills and discipline.

"The learners can now research on their own, and our CBC classes are doing very well," she said, adding that they are awaiting to be connected with schools in California in the US for exchange programs.

In last year's examination, Kawangare primary school was ranked the most improved in Dagoretti sub-county after it registered a mean of 257.29 up from 245.55.

 MLIFE foundation officials and teachers at Kawangare primary school admiring a page in the Standard

In Kinoo, Kiambu County, the foundation opened a health centre that holds free medical camps targeting lower middle-income earners.

Juma Mwendo, a health worker, says he did a feasibility study of the health centre and the foundation facilitated its setting up.

"This facility opened on March 1 and has assisted hundreds of the residents, it has all the necessary equipment like ultrasound and a functioning laboratory," said Juma.

According to Mwangi Ndegwa, Chair of the MLIFE's Executive Board of Kenya, when the Covid-19 pandemic broke out they assisted families in Majajani and Nzombere areas in Kilifi county through their RAPID Program with each family getting a monthly stipend of Sh5,000 to enable them to buy food among other necessities.

"In Nakuru, through the MLIFE Foundation, we are working with the county government to digitise land records," says Ndegwa.

He adds that the digitalised system would reduce the time spent seeking building approvals from the county authorities.

Two months ago, the foundation team that included Ndegwa and Kayte Mukami toured Murang'a for talks with Deputy Governor Stephen Munania and Kahumbu ward MCA Isaac Njoroge on possible collaboration in the digitalisation marketing of coffee and upgrading polytechnics.

Mwangi holds a master's degree in Public Affairs from the Goldman School of Public Policy at the University of California, Berkeley, and a graduate in Political Science and International Relations from San Francisco State University.

His entry into secondary school was not a bed of roses as in 1999, he joined Ruthimitu High School through the goodwill of the then principal Mr Githinji who offered to help him in his education.

"A year later he transferred to Nairobi Milimani secondary school to follow Mr Githinji," said Ndegwa.

While in Form Three the young Mwangi joined the Children's Cabinet as its spokesperson and was elected its junior vice-president that November.

In 2004, Mwangi founded the National Youth Parliament of Kenya and served as its youth president after the inauguration by the then Vice-President Moody Awori.

In this role, in the Children Cabinet he championed the enactment of the National Youth Policy, the creation of the Ministry of Youth Affairs, and the launch of the National Marshall Plan for Youth by the then President Mwai Kibaki.

Mwangi relocated to the US in 2009, upon receiving death threats in Kenya, after his house and motorcade were attacked.

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