I met a man… yes I met a man. His face is full of devotion, the eagerness for a better tomorrow makes his smile even brighter. He is the man you may never notice on the streets, he is a regular matatu tout but when you do notice him, one thing will captivate you: the book in his hands.
Photography : Courtesy of Unitedpix
(Photography and interview was done offsite at Uhuru gardens)
I shared his story on my Facebook page and boy,the post went viral. Thousands of people were inspired by his story of juggling between the matatu madness and his pursuit for education. My inbox was literally bursting! Messages ranging from well wishers asking for his contacts wanting to help him with study materials, help him get internship, secure a job, thanking me for sharing his story and a couple asking if I am “seeable ” (such people make the society complete).
Who talks to a stranger and takes their contacts? Personally I don’t. I mean, I didn’t have “anything” to give him other than wish him luck in his journey. So when the question of his contacts kept coming up, I knew I needed to do something. It was haunting me, people with big golden hearts wanted to help him and the only answer I would give them was ,”unfortunately I did not take his contacts”
Find him! Find him! Find him! Was the only thought running through my mind on Friday. I prayed for a miracle and started a #missionfindDouglas on Saturday and the whole universe conspired. Left home at about midday, went and camped at the bus station matatu terminus where the Langata matatus are (that’s his route). I showed his photo to all the matatu drivers and touts, I mean everyone who cared to listen. Most of them recognized his face but did not have his number.The constant questions being: does he have your change or did you forget something in his car? One of them offered to help me get his phone number and kept checking up on me through the two hour wait.
Finally, he showed up!
Our man of the moment is Douglas, late 30’s from a remote village in Nyamira county.A matatu driver/conductor. Has a wife and three beautiful kids. Douglas sat for his O level exams in 1995 but due to financial struggles, he had to pursue other interests other than education. Prior to joining the matatu industry, he was a shoe seller in Kisii and when the market got flooded, he decided to join his wife in Nairobi to help her in her “small businesses”
Why the motivation to go back to school now?
I have always wanted to be a lecturer and I realized late in life that if I do not do anything about it, then all I will ever have in life is a wishful thought. Being in the matatu industry is not easy but one has to make a living. By the way, I should be the driver but I chose to be the conductor so as to have ‘ample’ time to do my light duty. Reading, you mean…”is that what you refer to as light duty?” I ask. You found me reading course work on company law, that is easy to handle here…this is what I consider as light duty, units like quantitative analysis require more concentration so I have to do it in a quiet environment (the next time I find myself reading luhya jokes while stuck in traffic…)
What do your colleagues think about you?
Some think that it’s too late for books and that I don’t have to kill myself reading. Some have been quite supportive and motivated by me.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
As a lecturer, he chuckles. I will be graduating in December after which, I will try secure a job. I intend to complete my masters too…that’s the minimum requirement for choka (lecturer), right? I smile…I think so.
Many people have been inspired by the piece of story I shared. Given a chance, what would you tell them?
I would tell them my story and the power in never giving up. I did not pass my O level exams like I would have loved to. What mean grade are we looking at here… B- (minus). I let it get to me and realized late in life that I was my own blocking point and had to do something. So at 39, I am doing what I should have done a long time ago.
There are people who want to help you, should I give them your contact details?
Oh really! God bless them. Who say’s no to help, I would be grateful in whatever form: study material, internship, jobs…I mean this is what I have been praying for.
After a little chit chat, he asks to leave as he has guests coming home. His is a story that will stay in my heart forever. For all those who asked for his contact details and those who want to assist him one way or the other, kindly reach him through this email address : firstname.lastname@example.org.
Love & love.