Is it me or there are so many chokoras (street urchins) around Nairobi CBD lately? My goodness! When the slightest sight of dusk appears, they well up the streets all of a sudden. Begging for money, preying on people and just making it damn uncomfortable to walk the streets peacefully.
To be honest, and this might not sound very kind, I totally dislike chokoras. Yeah, I know they are human beings just like me and all, but ever since I had a nasty experience been mugged by several of them, I harbour this resentment. (I wrote about that horrific experience here). Maybe with time I’ll get over it. Somehow.
It’s easy to crisscross the streets and not give them much thought, and at best ignore them. But wait till you see someone you know from your past, on the streets as a chokora. Trust me, your perspective will be challenged. You’ll be moved.
Sometime late February I was standing outside Nation Media Center, waiting for a friend. We were meeting to talk business, about a book he’s writing and needed someone to edit the manuscript. I got there a bit early than he did. When he finally showed up, he offered to take me to a joint we could sit and talk over lunch.
Then I saw this skinny, frail, dirty looking guy walk past us. I was shocked because I knew him. He was a fellow student at St. Paul University pursing a bachelor’s degree in Business Information Technology. We both played football for the school team and at some point, I remember paying him 200 bob to work on a dance mix audio for my then dance crew. He was an aspiring Deejay. A cool cat. You bet me, I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw him. I was stumped.
His name is Vinny.
I asked my friend to hold my laptop bag so that I could talk to Vinny. I approached him and immediately he remembered my name.
We talked a bit. I was curious to know what happened to him and why he’s on the streets. What happened to his education? He told me it had something to do with losing his Dad. That the Dad was a step-father, and when he passed on, his relatives came and took charge of everything they owned. His Mom had passed on earlier and his half siblings were considered the only legitimate children unlike him.
He was pushed away by the Uncles he said. He became homeless, hopping around friends’ homes for a night or two until he’d exhausted his list.
Sadly, he turned to the streets. The cold streets of Nairobi have become his home.
I can only imagine how hard it is being out there. He mentioned in that weakly voice of his, ‘huku ni kunoma manze. Aki nikubaya sana. That’s why nataka kutoka streets.’
I won’t lie Amigos, I was really moved by all that. I gave him two hundred bob and jotted my number down on a piece of paper for him. Told him I’d meet up with him and see how best I could help. My initial thoughts were to write his entire story, to build awareness especially with the St. Paul’s University community and alumni club, hoping we’d come up with a plan to help him get off the streets.
After the first time, we met, I bumped into Vinny a few other times randomly on the streets but on all these occasions I didn’t manage to interview him. Until Wednesday evening I went to Kimathi Street looking for him. I was ready to get down with it, talk to him and run his story here yesterday. I scouted that street and the surrounding areas for close to two hours but didn’t get to see him. At some point, I went to Sonford Restaurant, had two samosas and continued looking for him. But still, nothing.
You might have heard how Vinny is making rounds on social media ‘The Chokora who Returned 200k Back To A Stranger That Had Lost It.’ He came across 200k a passer-by had unknowingly lost on his way to the bank, run after the person, handed back the cash, yet he demanded for nothing in return. I wanted to get to the crux of that story as well.
The point is, he needs help. I’ve had this burden to do something for him for a while now. Frankly, I feel inadequate about it, but if there is anything, even the slightest bit of help I can offer to change the course of his life, I am willing to roll up my sleeves and get my hands dirty.
Because, at some point, we are all in dire need of help, aren’t we?
I just hope he’s fine.
Feel free to drop me and email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or comment below with suggestions on how to get Vinny out of the streets and back on track. Thank you.