Second chances: Recovering addicts in Nyeri turn over a new leaf

Anderson Mahinda Maina, a recovering addict, with his wife, Grace Muthoni.

Photo credit: Margaret Kimathi | Nation Media Group

Eight months ago in Ndima-ini and Ihwagi villages, Nyeri County, many households were troubled as young men and women wasted away in a dark pit of alcohol and drug abuse.

Parents watched helplessly as their children, many of them in their prime, got ensnared in the vice that threatened to sap out their lives with each passing day.

The grim picture was replicated in many other areas of the vast Mt Kenya region, prompting the government to declare war on illicit alcohol and drugs. 

Recovering drug addicts training to drive as part of a rehabilitation and reintegration programme run by the Office of the Wife of Deputy President, Dorcas Rigathi.

Photo credit: Margaret Kimathi | Nation Media Group

Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua’s spouse, Dorcas, stepped in to help the addicts who were willing to go into a rehabilitation centre and change their lives.

Two months later after completing the rehabilitation programme, the first batch left the rehabilitation centre in Timau, Meru County. The Nation.Africa team headed back to the villages they had come from to speak to the recovering drug addicts and alcoholics and their family members.

Thirty-year-old Robert Wachira from Ihwagi village started abusing hard drugs when he was a student at Pwani University in Kilifi County.

As a result of drug abuse, he spent six months in jail due to malicious damage to school property.

”I started smoking marijuana when I was in First Year and then I started drinking alcohol. By 2013, I was hooked on cocaine,” said Mr Wachira, adding he regrets his bad choices.

He said the decision to go to the rehabilitation centre in Timau has been a blessing to him and his family. 

Jason Kamweti and his grandmother tend to their animals at their home in Ndima-ini.

Photo credit: Margaret Kimathi | Nation Media Group

“I am now a new person. God has given me a second chance to rebuild myself. I have skills in welding and I’m planning to open my own business,” said Mr Wachira who has since enrolled afresh in university.

Similar script

It is a similar script for 24-year-old Jason Kamwiti from Ndima-ini village.

He had a troubled childhood, according to his grandmother, Susan Wairimu, who raised him.

“I was given Sh10,000 by my grandmother to pay school fees for my younger sister. Instead of paying the fees, I used the money to buy alcohol. My life changed completely and I became an alcoholic,” narrates Mr Kamwiti.

The Office of the Spouse of the Deputy President spearheaded the rescue programme to give the two gentlemen and others afflicted by alcohol and drug addiction a chance to start all over again in life.

The recovering addicts are now engaged in meaningful activities such as farming, welding, and driving. They have also prepared tree nurseries in Kiamariga where they have planted over 300,000 seedlings.

Useful members of society

In Mathira Constituency, Nyeri County, parents narrated their anguish, saying their dreams of raising their children to become useful members of society were nearly shattered.

Ms Mary Mwago from Kihayu village says her firstborn son, Godfrey Mwago, was an obedient child while he was growing up. However, she started noticing changes in his behaviour when he joined the university. At some point, Godfrey had to discontinue his studies.

Upon graduating, he landed a lucrative job in Nairobi, and that is when his drinking problem escalated.

"My son was very obedient during his childhood, and I never noticed any bad behaviour from him until he joined university. After graduating, he could not sustain any job due to his drinking habits," she said.

For Anderson Mahinda Maina, his star has shone bright barely two months after leaving Timau Rehabilitation Centre.

He acquired masonry skills, and he has now become a role model for his peers.

Mr Maina’s wife says that their lives have changed, and her husband, who is a mason, has started providing for the family.

"His life has changed for the better since he returned from the rehabilitation centre. He accounts for every penny he spends, and we are happy as a family," she says.