I was born July 18th 1998, I have one brother who is 3 years older than me, my mother passed on when I was only 3 years old leaving us under the care of our grandmother and aunt. There are 6 in my family, me, my brother, my cousin and another boy we called brother, I am not really sure who he was, I know nothing about my father only that I have one but have never seen him. Our grandmother was the main caregiver as my aunt only lived through ideas and never followed through with them.
As a child I really didn’t understand most things, unlike my brother who sunk into depression very early in life, which turned to anger, he still struggles with this to date. Being raised in the ghetto I used to watch the military men and desired to be like them. My desire was to join the Kenyan Army and the Kenyan Rugby Team, but as I grew older I realized that I had a different passion growing inside of me…that is my art.
Ghetto life is not fair…even to a child!
At the age of 10 I had my first taste of marijuana (bhang) and from that moment on my life has never been the same. It wasn’t only the marijuana that changed my life, we moved constantly in search of a better life (which never came), moving made my life more difficult. This is when I started to feel like a burden to my grandmother and my private thoughts in my head. Every new area we moved to came with new experiences, new friends, and new cultures, in 2011 we moved yet again and this time moving also meant a new school, this made me lose my mind. I had so many thoughts racing through my head, feelings that I couldn’t understand and unfortunately nobody to share this with, I felt so alone, I had started drawing cartoons and this became my outlet…through my art!
The ghetto was quickly becoming my #1 teacher, here I was a 13 year old boy who could only experience the cruel way of living, fighting and marijuana (by now it was a need) became normal for my brothers and I, we had to do it to survive life in the hood.
School can be just as harsh!
All of this time I was in primary school until 2012, in 2012 I sat for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) where I attained 214 marks, this meant I was going to high school. It was not easy joining high school since my grandmother could not raise the required school fees, I eventually joined from 1 (grade 9) in the 3rd term. I tried my best that whole term but unfortunately did not perform well, this was heartbreaking to me and from that moment on I felt like I could not make it in school. I met people outside of the school who were encouraging and pushing me to push on, not to give up, they didn’t want me to turn like they had. My classmates on the other hand were always making fun of me just for the fact that I came from the ghetto, that ghetto people can’t succeed. I let their words sink in my head and this is when I started recruiting other students into my world of drugs, there was no way I was going down alone, the drugs helped me to deal with the bullies and the world at large.
While in from 3 (grade 11) I was introduced to the city of Nairobi during the school holidays, the city was so amazing to me and slowly became another addiction for me, every school holiday the city became my 2nd home, I met other boys who were used to life on the streets in the city and they taught me survival tactics. During this time I always went home at night, even though the other boys encouraged me to stay, I went home to my grandmother and aunt and I was still going to school. In form 3 I also joined a boxing club, which in turn made me untouchable in the school. Being in a boarding school is not easy, I had to look for ways to keep me high, I discovered that I could sneak out, go get marijuana and cigarettes, then return without being discovered. At first it was scary but with time I got better at it and by this time I had recruited many boys into my world. My performance in school kept getting worse and worse, and by now my grandmother was even giving up on me! The next school holidays I went back to my 2nd home, they city. My gang was ready and waiting for my return to the city, we are known as the Miami Gang, and this time they taught me how to make money on the street, we would pick pocket, jam snatch, con people and do armed robberies, through all of this I still went home every evening.
By the time I was in form 4 (grade 12) nobody, not even my grandmother, aunt or brothers wanted anything to do with me, I listened to no one and no one could tell me what to do at this point. I had already broken heir trust by becoming an addict, an addict in Kenya gets disowned by everyone, even family! I was now using 5 different drugs, which explains a lot about my unruly behaviour. When school closed I decided that I didn’t want give my family a headache anymore so I moved to my own house, I was alone but in my own house.
I knew that no matter how hard I tried traditional education was not my thing, art was because I could draw even when the teacher was in class!
In form 4 during 3rd term I did something that I regret still to this date! I mobilized a group of students and incited them in participating in a strike just so that we could be sent home. I still ask God for forgiveness in my prayers daily! We wanted to be sent home but instead we were arrested, this was my 1st encounter with the government, not to be my last though. My fellow students were bailed out by their parents, I had no one to bail me out so I spent almost a month at the cells (jail), which made me feel really bad. Doing this mobilization also led to my expulsion from school except for my final exams, I did go back and sit for them! This in turn gave me the opportunity to go and live in the city on the streets, finding ways to survive.
I was now a free bird and started living life dangerously, I also realized that with money you can get girls. Life was sweet for me at this time, me and my Miami Gang started life together in 2017 and 2018. The dangerous living of course put me on the police’s wanted list, I had to go into hiding somewhere, I rented a house near Mutuini Hope Centre. I had never heard of the Centre until one day I helped a lady, Jacinta with her porridge business, she kept urging me to go visit the centre so I could get help, I did not. In 2019 I went back to the city and joined a tattoo con artists group for survival, myself and a friend named David teamed up and started working together, he taught me one should not make friends just money, fraud is quick and easy money. During this time we were sleeping outside on the streets but now that we were making money we found a place known as junkie where we could pay and sleep in a room, life was a bit better for me. By now I had graduated to using heroin, heroin and robberies became my other side. At the jam we would go in groups to commit crimes and only return because the police would gun us down, others would be murdered and others were arrested, I was arrested at one point and spent a whole month in Kamiti Maximum Security Prison, when you mention prison to me a chill goes all over my body, it was the worst experience. Being in Prison made me fear the police and returning to prison so every time I was wanted by the police I would hide out in Dagoretti and lay low for at least 5 months. While in Dagoretti I would work at the slaughter house only to spend all my hard earned money on heroin, this habit turned into a disease because I could not live without it. In 2020 I was now a master at making money so I also started selling bhang to add more coins in my pocket in order to satisfy my heroin need.
2021 came and I was still in my unruly behaviour, we were still doing our usual business, while doing this I witnessed 4 of my friends being murdered in broad daylight by one man, I can only call him super human, his strength was out of this world. They died on January 4, 2021 and we buried them on January 8, 2021, this still hurts me to this day, this hit me very hard it was either I stopped living my life that way or I would be next, if I wasn’t to get murdered then the drugs would kill me. Coincidentally I bumped in Jacinta, the lady who told me about Mutuini Hope Centre, she said to me “I told you long ago to change your ways and try seeking help at Mutuini but you refused. Now I am totally done with you, if you want you will look for them” and that was all she said.
January 19, 2021 – Day of Change
On this day I woke up from the corridor I was sleeping in, went to the junkyard, took my morning heroin and decided to make my rounds in search of a person to steal from so I could get my next fix of heroin. Funny enough I didn’t even know where Mutuini Hope Centre was and just as I was walking I saw a gate that said “Mutuini Hope Centre” and remembered Jacinta’s words to me. From nowhere I decided to go inside just to make her happy the next time we met up.
Inside I met a lady at the reception shed, she welcomed me and asked who I was, I introduced myself and she did the same, I now call her aunty Grace, I told her I was sent by Jacinta and it happened that Jacinta is her sister. She asked my age and upon hearing I was 22 years old she was shocked and that is when she engaged me into a serious conversation. I narrated to her my life journey and she listened patiently, not interrupting me just listening, we talked for more than 4 hours and she kept challenging my way of life. She later brought in a gentleman and introduced him as uncle Martin, who I later learned is the director of Mutuini, he left us and asked me to let Grace know whatever I decided. After lunch I slept on the bench for hours, because the heroin was still at work on me, at 5pm aunty Grace woke me up because she wanted to go home and wanted me to tell her my decision, she told me if I really wanted to change I had to keep away from my toxic peers. I told her I am ready to change! We took photo’s for memories of my last day in the cold junkyard with my addict friends…this was a huge chance for me and within no time she had organized clothes, dinner, bathing water and a sleeping area for me!
Mutuini Hope Centre
The next day was my 1st day of change, I was advised that it takes 21 days to break a habit and mine has just begun. As you know change is very difficult at first, messy in the middle and gorgeous at the end. The reason for saying this is because starting a life without heroin is almost like a death sentence to me. The withdrawal symptoms were taking a toll on me, endless toilet visits, I could not eat except for porridge, lack of sleep and so much more that I went through for a whole month. This was scary for everyone and they asked me to use methadone, but I couldn’t, I wanted and needed to do this clean. Everyone was so caring, kind and considerate to me during this difficult time for me and them as well.
After that first achievement I was introduced to the rest of the staff at Mutuini Hope Centre, they all showed me love like I have never had in my life, for the very first time I felt peace. I congratulate aunty Grace for her hospitality, teacher Mary for her love and motivation, Lucy for being a great sister, teacher Josephine for her humble words, sir Andrew for being a good brother, teacher Ann for showing love to strangers, Mustapha for following my steps and finally giving up heroine and lastly uncle Martin for more simplicity in a mans life. As I continued on my reforming journey I was gifted a book written by uncle Martin for youths, its called 12 Lessons and a Story. I never thought I would sit down and a read a book, I read the whole book and it opened my eyes to real life. I’ve learned that the bridge of a man is divided into two versions, the superman and the ape, the ape is more the bodily feelings and emotions while the superman is the thinking part of the man. I have also learned that I can delay enjoyment, and this means that I have to say no to things I crave right now, so that in the end I can enjoy freedom and fulfillment in my life. During my journey to reforming Mutuini Hope Centre opened its doors to youth in the community where they can showcase their talents, this was also another opportunity for me, I started an art class which has also helped to improve my skills. I met a brother who said he wanted to reform, I took him through he book 12 Lessons and a Story, I learned that everyone has two wolves inside that need to be fed, the good and the evil wolf, only one can be fed to survive. My friend decided to feed the evil wolf so he left the centre, I am still praying that he be enlightened one day. Mutuini Hope Centre helped to find my passion as an artist, and has made me believe that I can and will do any of the 100 things I want to do in my life before I die.
Most of the time I look back and can’t help but cry for what I went through and what other youths are going through this very day. I keep praying for them that they may also get a fair chance in life. I will never forget January 19, 2021 this is my important day, my day of change, and I would like for other youths to be able to have their own day of change.
I would like to end by thanking friends who have encouraged me to push on, Mutuini Hope Centre as a whole, Because ALL Children Matter for believing in me even though they did not know me, only knew my artwork. What has kept me going is the love I have experienced and the hope that one day I will accomplish my dream of becoming a youth ambassador and motivator, I now understand that HOPE is everything, without hope there is no life and the fear of God is the beginning of wisdom.
I can translate Ghetto into: Getting Higher Education To Teach Others!