+254 732 553 519 Kibera Drive, Nairobi, Kenya

The Beginning of a New Era!

I was done with school and very ready for the next phase of life which was to marry and get kids. I mean hadn’t I learned about the reproductive system in grade six and didn’t my culture demand me to start early and have as many kids as possible? – Jacob starts us off with a typical hysterical laugh.

In 2009, just after finishing his primary school education, Jacob was done with school…so finished and done with-until he wasn’t.

On a chilly June morning our sponsorship team sits down with Jacob, our second university graduate to hear about his journey from a mischievous village boy to a university graduate with a bachelors in Economics and currently being the Community Engagement Officer at the Mirror of Hope.

“I was born in the western part of Kenya, in a small village that was described by many as “Mu-vatakha” which in translation means a place of poverty. Back in the village nothing was unique to my family. We all had parents that survived on nothing but subsistence farming, we fetched water at the same place we bathed and toilets were just in the nearby bushes. All of my ten years in primary school, I only had to put shoes on one occasion- during the final party prior to the final exams.”

It is a journey Jacob describes as tough. Growing up, Jacob did not have his parents for the most part of his childhood life. It became an ordeal of being tossed from one relative to another in order to survive with his siblings.

I hardly take breakfast. I never did take a single breakfast meal since I was in grade two. There wasn’t any available-maybe during the avocado season we would each have one in the morning. Apart from that all I remember with my siblings is coming back home at lunch time and finding a cup of porridge and that was more than enough until dinner, which was always ugali and sukumawiki (a local Kenyan meal and kales”) seven days a week.

Jacob went on to finish his primary school exam, being the top student in the school with 363 out of a possible 500 marks and although this sort of achievement would normally spark such merry and celebration amongst many families, it wasn’t the case for Jacob.

“I cannot remember anything special about that day really. Most people who celebrated such achievements were rich people who considered it a stepping stone into a brighter future for their kids. As for me I went to school simply because my peers were going to school and therefore I didn’t have friends to play with the whole day. So I didn’t have a choice really. Also, it was majorly due to the introduction of free primary school education that was initiated during that time. It had nothing to do with my dreams and aspirations. I honestly didn’t have any. Life can get you to that point you know-and for me it did. The point whereby you cannot see beyond the day. A point where all your focus is to get through the day and that’s it!”, Jacob continues.

Jacob later decided to make the big step of leaving his family behind and moving to the city in search of better education- a hard decision for him to leave his siblings with no reliable caretaker.

“I realized I wanted more. As much as I was brought up in a society that did not believe much in a brighter future, I did rub off a few things from my teachers at school. Therefore looking around me and all the poverty that surrounded me, I knew I could not get the help I needed back at home. So I jumped at the back of an old bus and after 12 hours of what seemed like an endless journey, I arrived in the city.  Having heard and read all about the expensive life that people lived in therein, I chose to go into one of the slums and after asking around I learned that there was a place called Kibera where I could probably find a cheap place to live. So I took a bus to Kibera and this made the beginning of what would be a new era for me.”

“After trying several options of work with no success, I decided to head into a nearby primary school and after what seemed like hard luck, I finally had a chance to talk to the school director. My objective was to go through grade eight again and get an even better score which will warrant me a scholarship for secondary school. The school director was known to be a kind woman so she let me in and also gave me a place to stay. I did the national primary exam again and emerged the best student in the school again earning a chance to join high school.”

Jacob was later sponsored through high school where he did excellent earning him a place in the university where he was equally sponsored by The Mirror of Hope to pursue a degree in Economics. He graduated in 2019 and he gives as his journey towards his top academic flight.

“The hardest part was living in Kibera with no one to look after me at a very young age. I would miss school to go look for work so that I could get a meal. The hardest exam was to overcome all those obstacles and distractions; drugs, peer pressure, the urge to give up. The thing people should know about living in a place like Kibera is that it presents it all. You can become the very best version of yourself or it could turn you into the very worst. The decision is always up to you and with a place like Mirror of Hope; I was so determined to be the very best version of me.

Jacob went on to get a job as the Community Engagement officer at The Mirror of Hope a few months after his graduation. He uses his story to inspire the many students we support instilling that their dreams and aspirations are possible regardless of the situations they live in or what they have been made to believe in.

“Working at the Mirror of Hope is not a job to me”.

It is a ride I enjoy every minute of the day. If stretching my arms and pushing my limits gets someone the opportunity to be the best versions of

themselves then I am willing to give twice my effort. Seeing the opportunity that Mirror of Hope presents every day to hundreds of kids in the slum is all the motivation I need and I being proof of such possibilities is all that it takes for me to work even harder and aim to be an even bigger source of inspiration.

Jacob has become a true source of hope to his family and everyone around him. Early this year he went on to enroll his younger brother in school to pursue a Diploma in Building Technology and his younger sister finished a certificate in Hospitality and Catering. This is one among the many reasons Mirror of Hope is providing free education to children from needy backgrounds- because we believe that educating a child doesn’t just end there. It is an onward process with a huge ripple effect to families of these children and society at large.

“Jacob’s story is a story of hope, resilience, determination and commitment in the face of adversity, hopelessness and despair. It is for stories like Jacobs that I am thrilled to wake up every day and push for change in the lives of the very many people we serve in Kibera”, Thomas.

You can help us continue to create an impact like this for many more kids in Kibera.

Donate towards our education sponsorship so that you can help create more individuals like Jacob and give them an opportunity to build a brighter future.

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