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Kenyans in US grapple with Covid-19 woes



His conspicuous Kenyan name, Kariuki, is what gave him out and attracted the attention of a handful of compatriots working at the Philadelphia international airport.

Recently, staff at the airport woke up to news that scores of homeless people had been rounded up by the airport police and the Philadelphia Parking Authority. Among them was Kariuki (first name withheld for privacy reasons), a Days later, the Nation located Mr Kariuki in a shelter for homeless people on Island Avenue in South Philadelphia.

Mr Kariuki, originally from Nakuru County in Kenya’s Rift Valley, came to the US as an undergrad student at Temple university in Philadelphia five years ago.

“My mom, a hawker in Nakuru, raised the initial $10,000 for my tuition and that could only last me a semester and a half. Fortunately, I got a part-time job at the library in college but I still had to work at a local grocery store in the evenings and play drums for my church on Sundays where I was paid $100 every Sunday. Things were okay until Covid-19,” said Mr Kariuki.

A combination of photos of counsellor and clinical consultant Abel Oriri, who is based in Cleveland, Ohio; Geoffrey Chepkwony, who died in August in Texas, US; and David Bulindah, a clinical counsellor based in Seattle, Washington.

When, towards the end of March, the state of Pennsylvania shut down everything including education institutions, hotels and shops — and restricted movement, his world came tumbling down.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Adongo's sister in law dismisses man in the video as an imposter

“My roommate, in whose name our apartment was registered cancelled the lease and returned to Memphis, Tennessee to his family. For almost three months, I lived in my car. It was hard to find food. The nights were cold. I started developing regular panic attacks that left me feeling like I was going crazy!” he said.

So bad were the panic attacks that police found him at the busy intersection between Island Avenue and Lindberg shouting at motorists and trying to stop them.

“I cannot remember doing this,” he says, although he describes himself at the time as “stressed, depressed and contemplating suicide”.

Psychiatric help

One day, he woke up in some psychiatric facility in West Chester and was told he had been there for three weeks.

“I was totally confused, and heavily sedated. I had nowhere to go but at least I knew I had to leave that place,” he says

Mr Kariuki finally went to the airport because one of his classmates was working at an eatery that had remained open. His friend would occasionally give him a fresh meal and, at least at the airport, he’d enjoy heating during spring and cold air in summer. That was where the authorities found him and other homeless people who they took to shelters.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Father to Kenyan-born former NFL star pleads with Kenyans not to judge him too harshly

Mr Kariuki’s story is unfortunately now just one of the many familiar stories of Kenyans living abroad — made worse by the pandemic.

“It’s of course true to say that Covid-19 has led to a significant increase and demand for mental health intervention due to anxiety and depression. In fact, recent research indicates that more than 53 per cent of adults in the US have reported that their mental health had negatively been impacted directly,” said Kenyan-born counsellor and clinical consultant, Abel Oriri based in Cleveland, Ohio.

Recently, Kenyans in Houston, Texas, were shocked by the death of Geoffrey Chepkwony, who is thought to have committed suicide after his body was found on the streets. He was said to have been struggling with mental health problems. The Kenyan community in the US, led by those in Texas, has been raising the money needed to ship his remains home following a passionate appeal from his mother in Kenya.

Another high-profile case is that of the first Kenyan-born National Football League player, Daniel Adongo, who later fell from grace. His worrying state was depicted in a video clip widely shared online. His family later said they had sought help for him. Coronavirus seems to have exacerbated social and health issues like homelessness, depression and domestic violence, among others.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Adongo's sister in law dismisses man in the video as an imposter

Support groups

Mr Oriri, who is also a pastor, says most of his clients now describe feelings of depression, anxiety, worry, stress, loneliness, poor appetite, suicidal thoughts and isolation.

“Many report difficulties sleeping, eating, increased alcohol consumption and substance use. Worsening chronic conditions from worry, depression, and stress over Covid-19.

The anger management and domestic violence groups that I have been providing for more than 20 years have surged one hundred percent in enrollment since the pandemic began,” he said in a recent interview.

David Bulindah, a Kenyan Pastoral and Clinical Counsellor based in Seattle, Washington, said the usually structured life of Kenyans in the US was recently disrupted without warning by the coronavirus.

“Most people could not leave their job and or could not go to their second job. For someone who had been enjoying consistent income to suddenly lose all that, stress, anxiety and depression thus kicks in”. he said.

Mr. Bulindah says that the Kenyan community will only deal with these issues if it opens up and discusses mental health and homelessness candidly without pre-judging those affected.

“People should know that it’s okay to lose a job and it’s okay to experience mental health problems. Those affected should not isolate themselves rather, reach out for help,” he said.


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Youths are dying of depression as their helpless parents sit by



It used to be that, whenever I read articles in the newspaper or watched news about children as young as 13 taking their lives, I often wondered why anyone would do that. Now I understand.

I once approached my parents about my deteriorating mental health and all they said was “you, youngsters are too sensitive”.

This was confusing. What did it mean? I wondered whether there was something wrong with reaching out for help. That statement discouraged me from ever talking about my struggle. I also accepted that our parents simply do not know what to do and how to help. I also know that I am not the only one who has experienced this. For most of my age mates, the issue seems to be the same — they do not have anyone to talk to.

When they try to talk, the situation gets worse. I just wish that they would take us for therapy or the hospital where we can find the counsellors who are trained to handle the issues that affect us.

Generational curse

I wish our parents paid attention to us, so that we are not only better people now but are also better parents to the children we will have in the future. The way they are relating to us reveals something akin to a generational curse.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Adongo's sister in law dismisses man in the video as an imposter

I have not put my finger on it but it could be internalised self-hate or the fear of disappointment. I see that the way our parents treat us is the same way they handle their own issues. They do not want to seek medical help even when they know they are unwell.

They do not have healthy relationships and friendships, and do not want us to either.  I hope that our parents will be able to approach mental health with the seriousness it deserves.


They wait until someone around them dies by suicide, then join the world in posting “rest in peace” or “you are missed” on social media. The parents of those who have been affected will be mobilised to help the bereaved.

Everyone will then move on with their life, until someone else takes their life and the cycle continues.


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‘My exes left fearing I couldn’t conceive,’ Ruth Matete on life threatening condition



Gospel artiste and pastor Ruth Matete has for the first time revealed that she had to undergo surgery when she was 14 to remove clotted blood in her uterus.

The heavily pregnant singer, who lost her husband in April this year, said that doctors told her she might not be able to conceive.

Ruth Matete

Sharing her battle with an imperforate hymen, a congenital disorder where a hymen without an opening completely obstructs the vagina. It is caused by a failure of the hymen to perforate during fetal development. It is most often diagnosed in adolescent girls when menstrual blood accumulates in the vagina and sometimes also in the uterus, she wrote,

I was born with this condition. I found out when I was 14 years old. I had started my periods but didn’t know. My hymen was closed so there was no through way for the blood to come out. I remember being rushed to the hospital that night. The doctor insisted I had something in my uterus and it had been there for three months..whaaat😳😳😳😳. So he insisted that I say the truth. But all I could do was cry coz of the excruciating pain I was having.  I told my aunt and doctor that I wasn’t pregnant. I had never been with a man before. The doctor then said he would check to confirm if it was what he was suspecting even though it’s rare. We checked and he confirmed it was what he suspected. My hymen was closed. He said that if we didn’t do a surgery that night, my chances of surviving were minimal. So I had to go in for an emergency surgery. The blood had been staying in my uterus all this while. Three months.
It was so painful healing from the surgery. Because unlike other wounds, my wound had to heal while open. So dressing was done every three days. Yani the pain. Oh Lord!! Anyway, I healed.  The doctor said that there could be a chance that my uterus had been messed up by the blood and it may be tricky for me to conceive. Wueh!!

She continued;

‘So I lived my life in fear wondering if I would be able to conceive. But to cut the already long story short, that was not the case. I remember sharing with some guys I dated the fact that I may not be able to give them children and that’s how the relationship ended. Hivyo ndio walikanyaga kubwa kubwa😂😂

I met my late husband and when I shared, he just asked me one question.
“Do you want children of your own?”
I said “yes”
Then he told me to tell God and believe that I’ll have children. I was so encouraged by how he didn’t see it as a big deal.  Few years of dating and we got married. Few months down the line and we conceived. Wah!! I was in tears. You know? I was believing God that He would give me children of my own. But it still was and is a miracle to me. Remembering what the doctor told me when I was 14 years old. The other day I asked Him (God) what will happen because I wanted six children. But now, the way things turned out. Anyway, He answered me like He always does. I won’t tell you what He told me… Anyway, I know I haven’t held my child in my arms yet. But the fact that I conceived, is enough reason to thank God. The fact that I came this far, it can only be God. I am here testifying of the Lord’s doing.’

Ruth, who’s heavily pregnant with her first child, a baby boy said she was not scared of death but afraid of dying without fulfilling her purpose on earth.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Adongo's sister in law dismisses man in the video as an imposter

One, I could have died that night. But I did not. Two, the surgery was successful and I was able to conceive.  I have decided to speak faith till I see and hold my child in my arms. So friend, if you see me celebrate this pregnancy and enjoying myself and having the time of my life, please understand. I am not boasting. I am rejoicing. Oh! Come and see what the Lord has done. I am not ignorant of the devices of the enemy. So I keep praying and speaking life till the end. The God who started this good work, shall be faithful to bring it to completion. In the name of Jesus Christ. All to the glory of His name. Please be encouraged. There is nothing God cannot do if only we trust in Him. You may not be believing God for a child, but something else..even that, He is more than able to give it to you. 

Since my husband went to be with the Lord, I realised how fickle and short life is. I probably will mourn him forever and somehow learn to live with the pain because I don’t know if the pain ever goes away. But also, I decided I will do what I can in the kingdom of God. I am not scared of death. I am scared of dying without fulfilling my purpose here on earth. When my day comes to meet my maker, I want to hear Him say, ‘well done. Good and faithful servant. You can come in” So I will keep sharing my life and serving God till then. All these I do to bring glory to God Almighty. Please keep me in your prayers even as I await the manifestation of this miracle.’


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Ex-Kenyan international defender seeks help out of drugs



“Just one moment of madness turned things upside down for me, changing my life from the international left back I was to a street conman, a life I have never recovered from to date.”

That was former Tusker and Kenya international Michael Mbaji’s revelation when I met him in front of the A1 supermarket, along Digo Road in Mombasa where he positions himself begging for any loose change from those visiting the supermarket.

According to him, his altercation with goalkeeper Joseph Kibera over a TV remote that caused him all the troubles after he was immediately suspended from Kenya Breweries FC (now Tusker FC), never to be recalled.

“I was in the TV room watching my favourite TV series program when my colleague Kibera came and grabbed a remote control device from me, insisting he wanted to watch another channel which I objected to,” Mbaji said, adding that after a brief scuffle with the late ‘keeper over the remote, he (Mbaji) decided to break the TV set altogether.

Supporting himself on crutches and hanging on the right leg because the left leg has an open wound which he has been treating for the past 13 years, the soft spoken Mbaji says he chose to break the television set because Kibera was heavily built and could not use his small frame to wrestle him over a remote, a battle he says he knew he was going to lose, anyway.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Adongo's sister in law dismisses man in the video as an imposter

According to him, that moment and the suspension that followed made him lose interest in playing football again, opting to link up with his old friends with whom they peddled and consumed heroine after his brief stint at professional outfit Volcano United.

“You know my mother Catherine Foleni very well because I know you were very good friends and coached netball together.”

“She was those tough stone-age primary school teachers who could not allow me to operate from our Mwembe Kuku home so I decided to join my friends and advised that we rent ourselves a small room to operate from in Kisauni,” he said in reference to his mother, who was secretary Coast Netball Association and doubled up as netball coach at Coast Girls High School at the time yours truly was coaching netball and basketball at Mombasa High School in 1990 as a high school teacher.

The ex-Harambee Stars right back says he started conning people in the streets of Mombasa with his friends, mostly at the KFA Mwembe Tayari stage where they also engaged in pick-pocketing after heroine addiction, a practice he has found very difficult to drop.

Bad lifestyle

In 2018, Mbaji appealed to the Ministry of Sports for help him recover from the ailment which he said he has had to live with for long, blaming it all on a bad lifestyle.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Father to Kenyan-born former NFL star pleads with Kenyans not to judge him too harshly

Mbaji, who went to Kikowani Primary School in Mombasa before joining Tudor Secondary School, says he started his football career at Buxton Strikers FC before joining Feisal from where he got the chance to play for Tusker.

After he was sacked from Tusker FC, the talented defender joined Volcano United, then under Coach Gerry Saurer, after which he quit competitive football.

Mbaji says it is unfortunate that his addiction to drugs made his wife and children disown him.

“I did not just have time for my family because I spent most of the time at the drug dens and in the streets trying to see who I can con because that was my new life,” he says with regret written allover his face.

“My wife married another man with whom they relocated to Dubai with,” Mbaji said, adding that things got worse for him when his mother passed on.

Mbaji says he picked up his in injury when he was hit by a truck while completely intoxicated and had passed out after taking heroine which he says has ruined his life completely.

The ex-Kenyan intenrational, who is under the government’s Methadone Programme, says he is ready to quit drugs if he can get Good Samaritans to take him into a rehabilitation centre.

READ ALSO:   VIDEO: Adongo's sister in law dismisses man in the video as an imposter

“I am very ready to change and personally really appreciate the Methadone Programme but the problem is that they don’t isolate us.

“They still allow us to go back to our drug dens where we freely associate with the drug peddlers and therefore continue with our old habits,” he says.

He is not happy that the government’s Methadone programme has been “invaded by drug barons.”

Renowned Mombasa coach Tito Hassan, who was Mbaji’s classmate at Kikowani Primary School, says he was shocked to learn of Mbaji’s predicament.

“We were very good friends in school, played football together among other games. I just cannot recall when he got into drugs,” Tito said.

Kaya Tiwi Secondary School Principal Robert Aran, who was taught by Mbaji’s mother at Ziwani Primary School, says Mbaji was “brilliant while in primary school” and was even the mother’s favourite son.

“I’m sympathetic to his current situation,” Aran says.

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