Kenyan Inspiration

His Inspiring Untold Story Exclusive

Bethuel Mbugua

By Bethuel Mbugua, 25 May, 2009

I don't know about you, but I remember the days when I used to go to the village (shags) to cucus-grandma's (R.I.P.) of my father's side to stay with her for weeks in some thatched-old-school mud house. For breakfast we had to drink black tea Turungi aka True Tea aka black tea. With the tea, she would peel me off a dome of a Duma (Yam) and Gwaci (Sweet-Potato) from lunch the day before and had to munch on that till I finished. Dumas are no joke because two bites and you are full. She would watch me with a hawk-eye till I was done. She was tough, a strong believer in Christ and the last of her generation whose faith was intertwined between her unquestionable faith and strict upbringing. She lived past her separation from my grandfather after a polygamous marriage, through raising six sons and one daughter, through the turmoil days of the Mau Maus, to the births of her grandchildren.

My father and I moved around a bit when I was young. We moved from Ol'kalou to Makutano, near Timboroa, on the way to Eldoret, stayed there with my uncles then after a few months then moved to Londiani. My father enrolled me into a nearby primary school but was only there for less than two years. My memories of that place are clouded with isolation from what seemed like the 'outside world' (outside Londiani) and the fact that I always remember myself as this one dirty (uchafu) boy. Such memories stick to my head based on the ironies that I found in the place. One of such is the fact that my father was a shoe maker I had no shoes. I used to walk bare feet which rarely ever touched water until my friends one day while inspecting my feet couldn't help but make fun of me because my feet were layered with a cake of dirt which started to make my skin break like cracks on a dry river. The cracks were so painful that blood would ooze out; they pitied me and offered to take me to the river that ran along the boundary of the school to scrub my feet.

I was always the smallest and the youngest in class, sometimes half the age of the youngest kid in class. Size does matter and it did when only weeks after enrolment, I messed with a girl almost twice my size. I teased her, I am not sure what I said, but she proceeded to pick me up off my feet and drop me head. I passed out only to find myself propped against the head teachers building. When lunchtime came I remember struggling to walk and throwing up. Someone took me home I think, I had a concussion, but I learned then never to play with the big girls.

Not long after Londiani, my father packed and off we went to Ol'kalou. While back to where I remember my first life's memories (I was born in Kericho), I remember my father enrolled me into a secondary school at the age of seven years old only to be kicked out one month later because other students and residents of the town started disrupting classes and students kept asking me to lecture them. This was a result of a time when students in the math class propped me up on top of a table and asked me to teach them something and without hesitation I proceeded top draw the different parts of the brain cerebellum, medulla oblongata etc. The local school council was not happy with what was happening at the school because of my disruptions and so I had to go.

One day I was with my best friend when I saw my old man. I ducked and lay flat on a grassy field hoping that he would not see me, but I overestimated the height of the grass. My friend just stood there and my old man seeing him automatically knew that I was within the vicinity. So, my father gave a holler - I didn't respond. Thinking that he had not seen me, I lay still only to hear his distinct whistle one he would use to get my attention when far. I didn't answer, he was pissed and he came and stood within meters of me and told me to get the hell up. At that moment, hearing his bass echo, I knew I had it coming - a can of whoop-arse. Yes indeed it came in all types and flavours. This one however turned ugly because on the way home, he took a small branch and in the midst of hitting me on the head, I sustained a cut. Blood started flowing down my face and without any expression on his face he told me to run home and clean it off. Well, the cut was bigger than I thought because the blood did not seem to stop flowing. This required a trip to the Ol'kalou District Hospital. My head had to be shaved and dressed. Returning back to our Rurii village with a bald spot on ma head overlaid with cotton and dressing tape, a rumour around the village had it that "the smart kid is so smart he had to be taken to the hospital to get some of his brains removed."

In the meantime, my father had heard about the lecture stint at the secondary school. So one day he asked the local headmaster if he could give me an hour to lecture to the form four students. I suppose even as raw and rough as the lecture was, it was good to impress. What followed became a period in my life where for two years my father and I toured around the country giving lectures and in between one time appearing on Voice of Kenya Television - the one and only TV channel in the country. The appearance created a lot of media buzz starting in 1988 and culminated in 1990 with the media circus that was developed between me and a chess whiz called Kangugi Karanja (KK).

A few months prior to the visit to the hospital, In 1987, my father thought it a great idea for me sneak into seeing the President and ask him to help me because a Psychiatrist and a Psychologist at Nakuru Provincial Hospital had suggested that I be helped to attend a special school for gifted kids - which Kenya or Africa had. So one day as President Moi held a Harambee in Kijabe, about a three-hour drive from Ol'kalou, we made the move to Kijabe. I had a speech memorised to perfection, I was ready. In Kijabe Hospital grounds, Moi gave his speech and sat back in his seat. Money had been collected and while in between speakers my father nudged me (the signal) and off and I went, it was do or die.

I crawled below the string that marked the boundary between the dais and the people, past the police keeping people from encroaching the dais, straight to the steps that led to the podium, and up to President Moi. When I got to the steps, the CIA came rushing from both sides ready to nab me. In the great remembrance about this whole thing was Mr. Kibaki, the VP then, seated next to Moi telling the CIA "no let the kid come, he probably brought some Mchango." They backed off and without loosing a step; I was stepping all over Moi's shoes as I tried to reach his ear.

The picture of Moi leaning over with his hand on my back, my neck outstretched and on my toes trying to reach his ears became a national picture which became a symbol of his love for children. It became somewhat synonymous with Moi and his love for future generations.

The Moi event didn't materialise into anything at all, visiting politicians after that only guaranteed a minute of their time or a promise for a next visit, sometime next week, as they would say. This happened repeatedly for a good month or so until my father was convinced that they were not going to do anything to help his son get proper education. The lecturing continued and by the end of it, we had visited over 300 schools countrywide. It took about a year and a half to get around the entire country, and by then the interest of reporters and that of the general Mwananchi had already begun to spin what would be the next cycle of events in my young life.

It was late 1990 when a smart chess kid and his father, a Kenyan and a professor in New York, came to Kenya as father and son duo to visit the country and do some chess related tours. The father, after reading a story in the papers regarding this young boy who was being given special permission to observe minor heart operations at Kenyatta National Hospital, expressed interest through the newspapers of getting to meet with me. This was in the intent of helping me go to the US. When I look back at the meeting and how things worked out between the 'meeting' and the media circus and events that followed, I can say without any reservations that it was all but a show, a promotion of his cause to parade his son in Kenya, and as a means to justify his ends - whatever they were. Funny enough because my father and KK's father were so alike that I think both men played out the situation and used the opportunity to advance whatever motives they had in regards to their son. It was nothing more than a media ploy in both parties - he KK's father had no intention of helping me. Both men generated garbage in the name of media coverage, and at the end I used to look at this fat American kid and wonder what the hell - he looked as confused as I was being paraded around like a clown.

Any-ways, the endpoint of this arranged and manipulative relationship came to an end abruptly - another calculated move. KK's father suggested that I be subjected to an IQ test so that he could determine if I was 'smart' enough for him to invest his money and take a risk by taking me along. The IQ drama was so hyped in the media because people would finally see just how genius this genius kid really is. The climax of the awaited drama unfolded a week later, after I took the test, when the results were published in a magazine whose editor was the psychiatrist that administered the IQ test - and according to the results and his interpretation of the results, his conclusion was that I was nothing more than above average. It was crazy because it seemed to me that everyone was trying to get a piece of the pie, me, and he too banked on the media blitz for I believe now that it was not his intention to help me... his intention rather for this matter was to promote his own cause, his magazine, and I became the means to justify that end. It was no more than a week later when I heard that KK and his father had left the country and that was the end of that. The whole media blitz died off, the politicians stopped urging, through the newspapers, that I be removed from my father and be placed back to primary school with kids my age, no more letters to the editor by people, no more cartoons by MADD... it was silent.

My father realising that help would have to be sought from outside, we boarded a bus and off to Dar Es Salaam we went. The plan was to go to the American embassy there. Crossing the border illegally via Namanga and making it all the way to Dar Es Salaam, and one thing began to dawn on me. I was turning 12 and for once I began to think about my future. I began to think about the events that had taken place in the few years of my life, and I began to realise that indeed I was getting older for I was not that 7 yr. old boy who impressed people because of his science knowledge and age. I started to worry what if the critics were right all along when they were suggesting that I go back to primary school. It was 6 years since I last attended a class and I feared that soon I would be forgotten and I would grow up in the village as a 'had been'.

Upon reaching Dar Es Salaam, the American embassy could not do anything but suggested instead that we try UNHCR. There we found a whole lot of Kenyans who too were trying to get out of Africa - my understanding was that those who made it out were relocated to Sweden. The young men were seeking political asylum stating persecution by Moi's regime, others were riding on the same band wagon, and others were from other African countries either stuck in Tanzania or for any other reason necessitating intervention of UNHCR. As for our case, well, my father made a case to them that we were seeking education asylum because the government of Kenya had refused to help me go to the right school abroad. UNHCR did not buy the story, but it was a good try though.

After staying for a couple of weeks with the Kenyan asylum seekers, we moved to a rental place close to University of Dar Es Salaam. At the University, we met up with a computer science Professor who was looking to establish a "Kijiji" Institution of Technology. He hailed that it would be the 1st of its kind in all of Africa and he was very eager to include me once it is started. There came a time that the professor expressed some interest of me giving a lecture at the University of Dar Es Salaam. It was planned and posters were put up around campus - all students and the public were invited. On the day of the event, a very large crowd showed up, but I really enjoyed giving that lecture - people were so in tuned and into it, laughing, applauding and just having a good time. What followed were newspapers articles, and just like Kenya people would follow me whenever we went to the city - people on the streets asking me for my autograph, taking pictures etc.

On one occasion, I was invited to give a speech at their "Uhuru" park in Dar Es Salaam city for the African Child Day. I was attached to the minister of health entourage. My speech was to be about "End Apartheid" for my fellow children in SA where they were suffering - FREE SOWETO! The day culminated with a lunch at the 'state house' with President Mwinyi and guests. It was there that we were formally introduced, took some snapshots and walked around the garden - it was the place I first ever saw a peacock.

Having appeared in the newspapers severally and talking about the incompetence of the Kenyan government ands its inability to guarantee that its children attain their educational rights, it was all that the Kenya High Commission needed to summon us through the University to the consulate. Well, they took it personal. At the consulate, asked to produce our travel papers which we didn't have, we were provided with some to return back to Kenya. We were given a week or risk being jailed for being a high profile illegal Kenyans in Tanzania causing mayhem and talking badly about the Kenyan government. A few days later, we boarded a bus and headed home.

Coming back to Kenya, my father had me stay with a friend of his at Kenyatta University. My father returned to the village in Limuru to tend to his small plot and I suppose also take a break from all the travelling. At Kenyatta University, I continued to wonder even more than before what will my future hold given that I have never had a formal type of schooling. The thoughts of growing up and wandering around the village were killing me - I am sure my father was also worried.

My father's pal at Kenyatta University was able to get into the math department learning how to use computers for lotus 123. I still recall the boxy shaped computer that had 5-inch floppies and no mouse. A few weeks later, the math department was provided the task of organising an international math conference in Nairobi. When it took place in August, I was invited to attend with the rest of the staff. Prof. Saitoti was the then the finance minister and was there for the inauguration. At a picture taken of participants, I was standing next to Lenore, a woman whom in a few days would be my guardian angel. Little did I know that she would take a very risky step that drastically and dramatically changed the course of my life forever.

Toward the last two days of the conference, an interview of me published in the Standard Newspaper. It was within those days that Lenore approached me and asked me what I was doing at the math conference. Given that my age was younger than that of the two high school Olympiads for the high school math competition, and took in a big breath and lay all the above down for her.

At the end of it, she asked how she could talk to my father. The following day I went home in Limuru to the decrepit old mud house on my father's plot of land - this house that he been built back in the 1970s. It had holes in the walls and leaned awkwardly to one side and when it got cold in Limuru, sleep didn't come easy.

In Limuru I spoke to my old man and I told him bout what Lenore had said, that she might be able to help me, but looking at his face, he was sceptical and doubtful. I was actually excited, but I could understand where his doubt came from.

So we made it to Nairobi the following day and met with Lenore. She informed my father that she had actually called her husband in San Francisco asking him how he would feel if she was to bring back with her an African boy. Sounds funny but sometimes I imagine the phone conversation; "yea Hun, I hope you do not mind, but I am bringing you something from Africa. Oh dear, how nice of you, what is it? Oh, just something I picked up along the way, it's an African boy!" Am sure that's not how the conversation went, but I am damn sure that Lenore's husband was shocked on hearing of her plans to bring take me along with her to the States.

My father did not mind of hearing her plans and was in fact more than eager to get the process started. Lenore's husband (Manuel), she said, was not sure, but left it to her to decide. The next few days before Lenore left, my dad and her submitted a letter to the American embassy authorising her to be my guardian while I would be in the United States. The stay was to be for three months on a visitor's visa leaving in October and coming back in December 1991. Getting a passport back then would take more than a month. However, Lenore took us to see Saitoti and on that same day received the passport. As for tickets, Lenore had offered to pay half way from London to San Francisco and back to London again. For the other half trip, Nairobi to London and back was provided for by Kenya Airways as per a request made from Saitoti's office. Picking up the tickets from the Airport was the first time that I saw a commercial plane, and within 3 months I was in one flying over Kenya.

Lenore had communicated with Shem Ochuodho, a former MP, in London. He was a student at the time and was supposed to see me at Heathrow just to verify that my African arse made it to the plane okay. When I got on the plane, all I could think of was what fools in my village (Limuru) had told me - that I will hurl during take-off - none of that happened. Arriving in London in the morning wearing my "unaccompanied minor tags," I had forgotten all about Shem, I was now free to just run around for 8 hours. I had with me $200 USD, which $100 went to one of those handheld games. I played the game until it ran out of battery. The whole way from Nairobi to San Francisco, I never slept.

I arrived in San Francisco at around midday and the stewardess escorted me to the arrival gate where I saw Lenore rushing to give me a hug. Obviously it was not something I was used to, I figured it was "an American thing." On the way to Oakland, I had never seen roads so wide, it was my first "freeway" experience, and it reminded me of Chuck Norris movies. We made it across the Bay bridge to the left was San Francisco, went through the tunnel to Oakland and into Berkeley. For a day or so I couldn't sleep - my head was spinning from a lack of it and my mind would not let me rest. When I finally slept, I was conked out for almost 24 hours.

I spent a week and in Berkeley. Lenore showed me around San Francisco, and visited a boarding school outside Berkeley near Mt Diablo. Visiting Berkeley public high school was a “welcome to America” experience. As we entered the school we passed couple cops arresting a student in the hallways. Lenore had spoken to someone there who happened to be planning a class trip to Kenya. She was teaching the students basic Swahili, they asked me to say hello. I felt shy, well; I was after all standing in front of Americans with my terrible Kenyan accent.

Backtracking a bit; when we came back from Tanzania, my father and I had approached the American embassy and received a list of schools in the states, preps and gifted schools, then Lenore came and then went back, right before I was to leave. Imagine we received a letter (only 1 reply out of like 20) from a school in Los Angeles California (same state as Lenore) indicating that they would be willing to give me a scholarship but it was a day school. So we got in contact with Lenore and she then communicated with the school the week before I left Kenya. A family in Los Angeles had been arranged for me to stay with for the academic yr. October 1991 to May 1992. So when we were leaving San Francisco, we were going to Los Angeles to meet the founders of the school and also to meet the family. It was a Saturday, and we arrived there in the evening and met the founders of the school and got my school uniform, physical education clothes, a cap etc. Sunday I spent the day at the founder's home in Bel-Air swimming and getting a taste of foods I had never seen before. In the evening we went to meet my new family, they had a son a year older than me and a girl half my age. The son was in the 9th grade at a Junior High School. The girl and I both attended the Mirman School. It was a black family, next day; Lenore was back to San Francisco.

First day of school was hell; they gave me a test to see which level to place me. I remember I couldn't add 1/4 + 1/3. I mean, I had advanced in sciences but I was useless in math and other subjects. The good thing about the Mirman's system was that they have ways of placing you in different levels so as to help develop where you are lacking. My Physical Education teacher was both my Spanish and math teacher and I had to take English 1 and 2. What made the first year even harder was that Kids used to make fun of my accent, calling me some obvious racist terms, which of course I never knew what they meant. I remember one day I was talking to a bigger kid and he was like, “would you like a job?” And as naïve as I was I said yes. Then he asked me to go to the bathroom and ask whomever I see first in there if they would like a blow job. Well, I knew something was up and declined, but that was the kinds of instances I had to deal with. It was in my 6th month that the Los Angeles Riots took place, it was chaotic. When the riots began, we were ushered out of class right after lunch to the pick up area where parents had been waiting - school was closed for almost a week.

The first year I barely made it through - I struggle to make top grades, but the second year I began to get the hang on things. I repeated an English class but found myself on par in math with other kids my age. I had made some friends and had actually started feeling as though I was settling in. It was in the second year that I switched families and lived with a Welsh family. They had a daughter my age and lived in Brentwood and I was very free in terms of going to the park and having my new friends around.

In 1993, I was accepted to Harvard-Westlake School, a prestigious private college preparatory School. I was given a scholarship to attend there after Lenore pleaded my case with the school. Together her and I in Berkeley in the Summer before I attended the school, we sent out as many letters as we could to parents whose boys attended the school that were my age. In return we received a phone call from a family who expressed interest in putting me up for the 8th grade academic year. The family had four kids a girl who was six at the time, a boy my age at fourteen, an older girl that was attending college, and the eldest brother who had already finished graduation from college and working on his doctorate in Chicago. Mostly the family was comprised of the three of us plus the mother.

When the academic year came to an end the mother asked me what I thought about the family. I remember thinking about how at home at home I felt and also about what the young brother had taught me about music, graffiti, sneaking out the house - basically the teenage stuff. I guess I did not have to say much as it was obvious. The mother told me that she had spoken to the family and they were open to let me stay with them so long as I wish and with that, they became my family.

In the summer of 1994, I went to see my father in Kenya after three years in the states. Reaching Kenya, I was greeted by what seemed to be all my relatives. I had forgotten Kikuyu, my mother tongue, and Kiswahili. I was embarrassed when asked to greet the people in the parking lot and as much as I tried to say something in my native language, words failed me. Three weeks I was in Kenya and during that time, I saw my grandparents from my father's side and had a chance to see my mother after pushing my dad to take me to see her. The meeting was nerve wrecking and the conversation between us was no more than five words. Nonetheless, I saw her, but questions and feelings of isolation from her still lingered if not increased.

Going through high school I was already en-cultured and intertwined with (old school) hip hop and mostly identified myself with underground hip hop music and artistes. I grew dreads and was a fanatic of basketball. But American football was my forte, which like an art I complemented my game with my style and drawing. I played football until my senior year in high school and received the MVP trophy in 10th grade. At the last home game of my senior year I busted my knee by snapping my collateral ligaments. This happened on the kick-off where a team mate after making a tackle rolled into my knee. The pain was so intense I almost vomited. I remember just lying there in pain until the team doctor came and basically knew my knee was gone. I remember I tried getting up only to see my knee buckle inwards. I suppose that was one way of graduating the sport I loved.

I graduated in 1998 and was blessed that my father was able to come for two weeks to see my graduation and me. I remember showing him around and to his amazement of seeing a whole new side to this universe; he asked me if he could stay. To him he saw things the same way that I did when I first experienced America; the middle-class family I lived with, the garage sales, Magic Mountain-Six Flags park, shopping malls, Beverly Hills, and the clean look of it all and the shine, glitter and glamour. All he saw represented more than what he ever imagined America would look like. It was much more so because it was Los Angeles.

I applied to a bunch of colleges and got accepted to most, but given that I was a foreigner, I could not secure any financial aid. However, I did receive a partial scholarship from Macalester College in St Paul Minnesota. One of my high school team-mates parents had sent the highlight tape of my senior year to Macalester's football coach, and I suppose he was impressed and actually brought me to the school prior to graduation from high school as part of recruitment. Frankly I didn't care much about football anymore given that I was immediately sceptical about my size once I saw the average build of the football team, which was mostly composed of husky Midwesterners.

I joined Macalester in 1998 and graduated in 2002. During those years I fell in love, got my heart broken, tasted the good and bad side of wine, and in my second year fall semester almost franked out of school during a depressive phase following the break up. But at that time when I started looking back at my life in Kenya, I realised it would be such a shame if I went back home empty handed. I kept reminding myself of a guy in my village who went to the states only to be shipped back to the village because he had over-indulged himself on drugs and alcohol and pretty much lost it in college. With help of my Los Angeles family, Lenore, and friends, I finally made it through college and moved back to Los Angeles. In my first year of college, the Kenya & Tanzania American embassies were bombed, and in my last year of college 9/11 happened.

Going back to Los Angeles and trying to find work on a practical training card valid for one year after college following the downturn of the American economy was an experience that I will never forget. It took me about 4 months to get a job. Being a barrister with Coffee Bean, I can always thank them that I now know the difference between Cappuccino and Frappachino. After getting the coffee shop job I moved out and rented a room, but I guess the college days had not escaped me yet as partying was a norm.

A couple months later, I got my first real job with Crystal Stairs Inc. - an NGO that provided child care and child health care to single mothers living on welfare. The childcare was an incentive for the mothers to get some training or schooling in order for them to improve their economic status. That was my first social related work that geared me towards public health. The place was far, but I made the best out of it by learning how to take Metro busses in Los Angeles.

As my practical training card was nearing expiration, I was in a dilemma, do I fight and stay by getting a work visa or do I go home and start over despite the lack of knowledge of what I was to find. Thinking bout the kind of things that I had been through, lack of proper work, racism and learning how to deal with it., dealing with cops during my college days when I felt lost and getting drunk and getting into confrontations with other people, missing home, all my high school buddies, getting caught driving under the Influence (DUI) the month after graduation in Los Angeles, the hopelessness of it all and for the fact that I was now responsible for me made me weigh my decision very carefully. Lenore at the time although less visible and so was the family that I had lived with; this decision had to be made by me as an adult and I was overwhelmed, I made the decision to return home because as I saw it America was not my home, my parents and relatives were all in Kenya, I was a Kenyan, and I felt I could probably achieve more with my American education if I was to go back to home - Kenya.

I bid everything and everyone I knew good-bye and on 21 October 2003, twelve years since 20 October 1991. I left for my homeland without a clue of what to find. I knew that my father could not support me financially for I had all along through high school and college sent him money whenever I could and my mother whom I had not spoken to in ten years was too disconnected for any formal support.

Bidding Joan, the mother good-bye on the driveway, I took to the airport. In my pocket, I had $300 going back home to a place where we had no house, I had no one to lean on and neither did I have any job prospects.

Seeing my father for the first time was great, but from the start the friction started at the airport when he made a comment about talking to me about a plan he had. And given that the line of subject in his communication, which was politics, I knew I had to show him that I was a man who was capable of making his own decisions. The days when I was a boy were long gone. In the few months to come where I supported him and his wife from borrowed money from my high school friends, I slowly put up a wall that defended me from anyone trying to steer me. I had grown up mostly making my own decisions in the United States with the support of those that became close to me, this was not the time to pick up the reigns and try to control me.

I went to my grandmother's house in Banana. She owns a coffee farm and has a modest house, but what I loved about the place was the green scenery of green tea hills and coffee trees. I was there for couple of months and that became a source of conflict between my father and me. I finally relented and moved in with him in Kiambu in a two room rented house. I knew the whole idea was not going to work; I didn't have money to pay rent, buy food for him and his wife and support myself as I looked for work. I moved out two months after bumping heads with my old man on several occasions. I needed my freedom and so I had to get it. This happened one morning when the landlord came with a padlock to lock the room. My father was out and so I took the opportunity and packed a few clothes and off I left without a word. A couple weeks later he came to find me and found me at AMREF where I had taken up a casual labourer job.

I began in Feb. 2004 with AMREF, which paid me 1,000 KSH a week. As little as that was, it was a coveted source of income for me for now I could rely on myself. That feeling of providing for myself gave me some pride that I was doing something. The work I did there was sorting discarded paper in one of the abandoned rooms at AMREF. It was dusty, dirty, the roof was collapsing, and the floor had gaping holes that one could see through to the floor below. Each step had to be taken with caution as any wrong step and one could easily find him/herself sprawled on the floor below. The sorting of documents consisted of deciding what would be important to the organisation by categorising the selected documents. It took about three months but little by little I found myself working from the main office doing administrative work. Soon my pay went to 650/- per day and within 9 months I was making 30K.

In 2005, following directions from my supervisor, I applied to a graduate school in Bangladesh. She knew I wanted to get my masters and so when someone who knew about the new graduate school told her about it, she told me to apply. And so I did. I was interviewed and was admitted. In Feb. 2006, I left Kenya and did my masters in public health until Feb. 2007. I went back to AMREF and worked briefly as a consultant. Jobless again for a couple of months, I received an e-mail from INCLEN (current organisation) asking me if I was interested in working as an intern. I had applied to the organisation before I left Bangladesh, but I heard from them almost seven months afterwards, so it was a surprise but nevertheless a good one given that I was jobless at the time.

In October 2007, I was offered the internship for a maternal health and governance study that was to be undertaken in Ethiopia. I could not be happier given that I had always wanted to visit Ethiopia. I worked there for five months under Addis Ababa University, and never in my life have I come to love a place as I did Ethiopia. I fell in love with the people and the culture, the land, the history and everything that is Ethiopia.

At the end of my internship in March 2008, I left for Kenya by road through Morale and Isiolo. It was an adventure reaching Nairobi because taking lorries and camping in the back of it for 2 days was the only means from the border to Isiolo. I was in Kenya for three weeks and soon after I was offered an extension of the internship in the main office of INCLEN in India. In May of that same year, I arrived in New Delhi and worked until October 2008 as an intern. At the end of the internship, I was offered a position as a project officer working on a maternal health study which is evaluating a government scheme that provides pregnant women with cash incentives to encourage them to deliver in health institutions. The study is based in Jharkhanb - one of the poorest and tribal states of India.

This is where I am now. Not sure for how long, but looking at the way things have been, this is not my last stop. I am however willing to be here until the completion of this study so that I can at least get my name in a paper which I know will boost my confidence as a new public health research officer. It's only the beginning of my career, but I know that God has a lot in store for me for he cannot bless a person as he has blessed me without a purpose for his people. My people are my Kenyans and for them I shall return to the land of my birthplace and do what I can and use what I have come to learn, know, and seen, to uplift them from the shackles of poverty.

One Love!



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