A new year brings hope, especially when things have been tough on parents courtesy of the rising cost of living.
It’s that time of the year again when people review their lives and try to chart new courses and, hopefully, take action. We spoke with four men, who shared snippets of their lives and their resolutions for 2023.
Thuitai Njuguna, 49. Long-haul trucker traversing the USA
“Marital status? Happy. I have two sons; aged 22 years and 14 years. They’re great kids.”
Thuitai immigrated to the USA in January 2009. He worked in warehouses and a nursing company, like many Kenyan immigrants. Between May 2010 and January 2011, he joined a trucking school in Rhode Island.
“My first trucking job was under my good friend Tony aka Montana, where we ran a dedicated route with FedEx. In 2015, I moved to Texas and joined a company which runs all over the country.”
“My first truck was a Freightliner Colombia bone-shaker, which I christened, ‘Kairitu’. This is Kikuyu for, maiden. I was extremely fond of her. Later, the company acquired a Volvo truck. I nicknamed her, ‘Side’. This is short for Side-chick because she had the habit of spending most of the money we made on maintenance.”
Later, Thuitai went solo in a green century truck, which he called Mamba. Thereafter, he acquired a blue truck – Golden Girl. He hopes that this baby will see him to his golden years.
“The highs of my job are plenty. I am my own boss. I choose where I want to go. I choose my days off and vacation. I visit many places most folks will never visit, and I am paid to do it. I savour different cultures and cuisines.”
Thuitai also experiences time travel as he moves from east to west, going through four time zones. He says this is the most fascinating thing ever.
“We are the first people to respond in disasters to offer reprieve, food and repair materials; which is very fulfilling.”
“I spend a lot of time away from my family. That’s why I am working towards early retirement.”
“Also, I can’t control the market. The cost of running trucks is high. The cost of fuel is also astronomical.”
“Then I have to deal with expensive repairs in case of a breakdown. I go through bad weather and have to deal with health issues due to sitting for many hours.”
One time Thuitai and other road users were caught in a terrible snowstorm in New York. Roads were closed for two days. Temperatures were really low and dangerous. Next to his truck was a lady with her five-year-old daughter inside their idling sedan.
“I went to check on them and offered them to join me in the truck, which was more spacious and warm. At first, they declined. This made sense. I was a black guy with a funny accent.”
“But as hours went, they found it was the only good option since they were running low on gas. They hopped inside my truck. They were amazed that I could make them a warm meal, snack and hot drinks.”
We got in touch with her husband, whom Thuitai assured he would take care of his family. The next day, the storm dissipated and roads were cleared. From that day, they became good friends.
“The moral of the story is that not all folks are bad, but one should still be cautious as this country has real psychos.”
My goals for 2023
“I have four resolutions. One, I want to start taking care of myself more than I do others. In 2023, I will make healthier choices, such as losing weight and hitting the gym. I want to emulate my high school mate, O’Georges, who also lives in the USA, and is the epitome of a healthy lifestyle.”
“Two, I want to be a better man. This also involves making a better commitment to the environment.”
Thuitai’s third resolution is to invest more for retirement. He says that his job negatively impacts his health, and he does not want to spend his old age behind the wheel of a truck.
His fourth resolution is to review his social circles. He wants to be more cautious and selective of the people that surround him.
Harrison Kigwe Mwanzi, 45. Sells mitumba at Mutindwa Market
“I am married with five children, three boys and two girls. They are aged between 14 years and six months. My wife does casual labour.”
Harrison started selling second-hand clothes in 2010. Before that, he was a matatu tout. He realised that as the years went, younger people were getting into touting. Also, as a tout, he was not permanently employed.
That’s how he got into the mitumba business. He specialises in selling tracks and jogging pants.
“My side hustle is teaching people, mostly children, how to skate. I learnt skating while in primary school. It was just a pastime, but it has now become an activity that supplements my income.
“I started with skates known as four-wheelers, which were also called dancing shoes. I am now proficient in inline skating. I used to teach kids how to skate in a court in Buruburu Estate, near Mutindwa Market.”
Harrison has partnered with a childhood friend to start a football academy at the grounds of Friends Church, Kariobangi South, where he lives. The academy has 25 children, whom they train in football and life skills.
“I also regularly train children in skates in Kitisuru. These are holiday camps. This gig is organised by someone else. The camp offers football, swimming, tennis and skating. I am subcontracted to train the children in skating.
“I own the skates and other equipment. I bought them in Gikomba Market, where I also buy the items I sell in Mutindwa. I would buy a pair or two until I accumulated almost 30 pairs of skates, headgear, and wrist and knee protection. When I teach your child skating, rest assured that your child is safe. I also have lessons for adults.”
Harrison was among the founders of the national federation of skating. They were instrumental in lobbying for this sport and were given a skating park at Reinsurance Plaza and Kasarani Stadium.
“I get a sense of satisfaction when I see the children in our academy excelling in sports and life. Two children from our academy were recently recruited to join a bigger club. This will give them and us more exposure.”
“When I train kids in skating, it prevents them from getting into anti-social activities, which are prevalent in our estates.”
“Everyone is running into doing business like mitumba which has become very competitive. In this type of business, we say that you don’t need an education – just capital.
“This means that the people with more capital will be able to get ahead as, for instance, they can buy camera clothes. Camera are the best clothes that come out of a bale. These are priced more highly.”
Harrison says that even in Nairobi’s CBD and other towns, the mitumba clothes business are more than other businesses. The same happens in the estates and online.
Resolutions for 2023
“I have three resolutions. The first is to restructure my mitumba business. I want to standardise the price of all the items I sell, so they will be at the average mwananchi’s level. It’s the economy that has forced me to make this move. I want to rebrand my shop to what I call, ‘The 500 Shop’.”
Harrison’s second resolution is to take his skating hustle more seriously. He plans to do it consistently, on every weekend, not just on and off during school holidays. His plan of action is to directly apply to more schools, especially those that have concrete surfaces where children can skate on.
“I get gigs for holiday camps because someone subcontracts me after they have organised a holiday camp with a school.”
Harrison’s third resolution is to uplift the standard of life of his family. Toward this end, he has plans for his wife to have a more stable source of income.
Paul Collins Ndikamire, 50. Engineer who is recovering from a stroke
“I am married with two children; a daughter, Cedella, 25 and a son, Rodney, 20 years. My wife, Mary Ndikamire is a teacher.”
Before Paul suffered a stroke in 2020, he was self-employed. He co-owned a business that dealt in industrial maintenance and spares. Their business which was located in Nairobi’s Industrial Area dealt in the supply and repair of industrial machines.
Together with one other partner, they set up the business in 2016 and employed four people. They used to import goods from China, which they would supply as well as use in maintenance and repair jobs.
“One Saturday in June 2020 I left my house to go to work. It was just like any other normal day. As I was in the matatu, my speech was suddenly affected. I didn’t know I had high blood pressure.
“I was trying to talk to a client through the phone, whom I had an 11 am appointment with, but my speech became suddenly impaired. I was slurring my words like someone who has a severe speech impairment.
“While in the matatu, my phone kept falling down. Passengers thought I had Covid-19, and asked me to alight. My left foot was the first to hit the ground when I alighted. I didn’t know it was affected, just as the whole left side of my body was affected. I collapsed as soon as my left foot hit the ground.”
It was the client Paul had been calling who went for him and drove him back home. His family took him to St. Mulumba Mission Hospital, Thika where he was admitted for nearly three months.
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The doctor told Paul he suffered a stroke, which was caused by high blood pressure. He didn’t know about it because he had never measured his blood pressure. It caused a clot in veins on the left-hand side of his body. This interfered with the flow of blood, which caused the stroke.
“I depend on my wife for all my needs. Family and friends also help me once in a while. My family has been my backbone on this journey.
“My wife was my primary caregiver. She did everything, from bathing to feeding me. I could not sit because my nervous system was affected.”
“When this illness struck, my partner changed the company’s name and location. I have not sought any legal action against him. I don’t have the money to do that. I have forgiven him.”
“It has been a long arduous journey, but I thank God because I’m recovering. I can take a bath and clothe myself. I can walk, although I am still not stable.”
“Seeing my children doing well in academics gives me joy. It also gives me strength to keep fighting, so I can get better.”
Aspirations for the new year
“My first hope is a prayer for God to restore my health. In relation to this, I want to take better care of my health and avoid anything that can be detrimental to my health. I have changed my diet and it is mostly vegetarian.”
“The second resolution is to be financially self-dependent. I am a man, and I was used to being the sole provider. When this is taken away, a man feels powerless.”
Paul says his third goal for this year is to get back to his old job. It is what he studied in college and loves doing.
His fourth resolution is to further commit his life to God and his family. This resolution is anchored on a vision Paul had when he was hospitalised. The vision sounds like a near-death experience.
“I had a vision that two very strong men carried me from my hospital bed and took me high up in the skies. I couldn’t see their faces, as they were shiny and emitting great light. They told me they were talking me away for good.”
“I pleaded with them to give me a second chance. I told them if they took me away, my soul would be lost forever. They returned me to earth, and I gave my life to Jesus Christ.”
Bernard Mwendwa, 30. Secondary school teacher
“I am single, but that won’t be for long. My elder brother and I were raised by a single mother in Mbooni.
“My mother passed away in 2000 and we were raised by a guardian. It is through the generosity of this woman that I managed to beat all odds. If it were not for her, my story would have been different. My brother is a shop attendant.”
Bernard graduated from Egerton University in 2018. After college, he has been moving from one job to another. But majorly he has worked as a secondary school teacher in Nairobi teaching English and literature.
“Teaching is not just a job, but it’s an occupation that gives me great joy, especially when I see students that have passed through my hands doing well.
“I like challenges. In some schools, there may be students who have been written off and society thinks they will amount to nothing. When I see such students change their attitude because of how I have handled them, I get the strength to go to work, even if the pay is not good enough. My greatest pay comes in transformed lives.”
“From time to time, the teaching job failed, especially during the lockdown caused by the pandemic, when schools were closed.
“During that time, I had to try some different things to survive. I worked as a hawker in different areas in Nairobi. I was selling revision materials. When schools resumed, I went back to teaching.”
Resolutions for 2023
“My first resolution has to do with my roots. I am looking to purchase a piece of land in Ukambani and establish a home where I can retreat to.
“I am also looking forward to having a family. I am not seeing anyone at the moment, but I am casting my net far and wide.”