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How dinner with Joe Biden changed my life

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Imagine going from living on the streets of Nairobi to dining with the Vice President of the United States of America.

Former Vice President and 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate, Joe Biden, is an icon to millions around the world. But Kenyan Nelson Gitonga says an encounter with him in the US in 2010 changed his life.

“Having spent many years in hopelessness and doubt about my posterity, I must confess that meeting Mr Biden greatly amplified my hope. I was among the least, the last and the lost. It was unfathomable that a person from my background would have such a moment in his lifetime,” he told the Nation.

Mr Gitonga is the founder of Shades of Hope Africa (SOHA), a mentorship organisation that focuses on at-risk children and youth as well as suicide prevention. He is also an author.

He attributes establishment of the organisation to his meeting with Mr Biden in 2010 when he was a student at St Mary’s Boys’ Secondary School and Rescue Centre in Nyeri County.

But his story and journey to the once-in-a-lifetime encounter started in 2000 when he lost his mother an ended up living on the streets of Nairobi.

“My family was very poor so when my mother died, we ended up on the streets scavenging for food. I lived on the streets of Nairobi for three years,” he said.

Together with his friends, Mr Gitonga was rescued by and enrolled in school by well-wishers. Through Glory Worship Center, he was admitted to Komaranch Primary School where he resumed his studies.

“My friend from the streets ended up in St Mary’s Boys Rescue Centre in Nyeri,” he said.

Exchange programmes

Fast forward to 2008, Mr Gitonga joined St Mary’s Boys’ after transferring from Jomo Kenyatta Boys’ School in Nakuru following the post-election violence.

“My education sponsors felt it was safer if I moved to the school because it ran a programme that focused on children with similar backgrounds as mine. I fit right in,” Mr Gitonga told the Nation.

Besides being a faith-based private secondary school, St Mary’s runs a programme that focuses on rescuing vulnerable and street children and taking them back to school. The child rescue programme was started in 1999 by the late Brother Dominic Jordan, who was also the secondary school principal.”

The programme that offers shelter for vulnerable children runs alongside the secondary school, with the older students mentoring the younger ones.

Nelson Gitonga, an author and the founder of Shades of Hope Africa (SOHA), a mentorship organisation.

Courtesy

The institution is run by De La Salle Christian Brothers in partnership with other schools and donors around the world. It includes exchange programmes with sister schools, which see students travel around the world for benchmarking.

“I was lucky to be among five students been selected to represent our school in an exchange programme with St Chad’s School in Manchester, UK. I stood out as one of the refined speakers on the topic of the plight of street children in Kenya,” he said.

His speech in Manchester was the reason Mr Gitonga was picked to represent St Mary’s in a ‘meet and thank the donor’ trip in the US that same year.

The child rescue programme is largely funded by students in some schools in the US in a twinning programme where students hold annual fundraisers towards child rescue programmes such as St Mary’s.

Special trip

During the trip to the US, Mr Gitonga spoke to students at Bishop Laughlin Memorial High School and Georgetown University. But it was a trip to Sidwell Friend’s School in Washington DC that stood out.

“One of the donors, Mr Rich McKay was able to organise a trip to Sidwell Friend’s School in DC. Unbeknownst to us, this was the school  that the children of many US dignitaries attend. One of them was Mr Biden’s granddaughter. She loved our speeches and requested him to invite us to his house for dinner,” Mr Gitonga said.

Mr Biden agreed to the request and invited the team to his official residence for dinner with his family.

“Our meeting was supposed to start at 5pm but he arrived a little late. There were mixed feelings when he arrived but what struck me by surprise was how he received us. The first thing he did was apologise for being late. That was a shock to me because this was the vice president of the US. It was surreal,” he narrated.

Together with former principal Brother Dominic, Mr McKay and schoolmate Dennis Mwai, Mr Gitonga proceeded to have dinner with Mr Biden’s family. During the engagement they spoke about their backgrounds and the plight of street children in Kenya.

Biden’s advice

Mr Gitonga describes Mr Biden as not only humble and hospitable but also a great listener as he spent close to three hours engaging with the team.

“What Mr Biden told me at the end of our meeting changed my life and is the reason I started SOHA. He told me to never forget my roots. This is why I am passionate about reaching out to struggling children and mentoring them,” he told the Nation.

Besides mentoring Mr Gitonga, Mr Biden became actively involved in networking and helping to raise funds for the rescue centre, which still rescues and educates the vulnerable and street children in Nyeri Town and Majengo slum.

Mr Gitonga is unsurprisingly rooting for Mr Biden to win the US presidential elections, saying he is not only a champion of democracy but a symbol of hope to the world.

“Mr Biden is an ideal leader, who will not only help make America great but also better the world. This world needs more leaders like Biden to bring healing. Trust me, Biden will be a perfect leader who will inspire a generation of young people to be the change the world needs. With him at the helm, the future is bright,” he says.

by Nation.


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Lifestyle

villagers gift Uhuru with heifer for appointing Yatani to Cabinet

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Residents of Hurri Hills in North Horr Sub-County have donated a fat heifer to President Uhuru Kenyatta as an appreciation for appointing Ukur Yatani to the Cabinet.

Speaking during a tree-planting ceremony at Hurri Hills Primary School on Friday that was graced by Environment CS Keriako Tobiko, the villagers heaped praise on President Uhuru Kenyatta for his kind gestures to the county.

They considered appointment of their son Yatani to the National Treasury docket as a superlative honour by the Head of State  to the pastoralist community.

Hersi Ibrahim praised President Kenyatta’s administration, which he said has endeared itself to the region that was once marginalised for many years.

Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani during a media briefing at his office on March 06, 2019. PHOTO | NATION

Labour Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani during a media briefing at his office on March 06, 2019. PHOTO | NATION

National Treasury Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani.

Salaton Njau | Nation Media Group

“We appeal to you CS Tobiko to take both our greetings and this token of appreciation to our beloved President Uhuru Kenyatta for his love for us,’’ Mzee Ibrahim said.

He said the cordial relations between CS Yatani and the President have seen Marsabit County improve economically since the time Yatani served as the county’s first governor.

He also thanked the Head of State for granting North Horr — one of the biggest constituencies in the country —  two other districts namely Turbi and Dukana.

Further, they thanked the Jubilee administration for the planned tarmacking of more than 196km of roads from Marsabit town to North Horr, then to Loiyangalani.

A group of the residents sang and danced gleefully as they presented the heifer, whose head was garbed in a pretty ribbon, to CS Tobiko, who will present the gift to the President.

Maikona MCA Bukhe Diba praised CS Yatani as a pillar and role model to all pastoralist communities. He praised his hard work, professionalism and selfless love for his community.

He also expressed gratitude for the appointment of another local (Mamo Boru Mamo) as the Director-General of the National Environment Management Authority (Nema).

“We have never felt this honoured by previous regimes,” Mr Diba said.

By Nation.africa


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How top-level meeting allowed Radisson hotel to block Arboretum road

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Arboretum park lane has become the latest public road to have a barrier erected, much to the chagrin of many Nairobi residents.

Anyone who wishes to access the Nairobi Arboretum park, Kenya Forest Service, State House, State House Primary School, Kenya Girl Guides Association, Jabali Elementary School as well as the Radisson Blu hotel will have to pass through the Arboretum park lane.

The erection of the barrier left Nairobi Senator Johnson Sakaja seething with rage. And he registered his disapproval on social media.

“The Nairobi Arboretum is a public space that many Nairobians enjoy. The road leading up to it is also a public road. A private entity (Radisson) has put up a barrier on this public road where members of the public are screened. I have asked @NMS_Kenya to deal ASAP,” Sakaja wrote on Twitter.

He then warned Radisson hotel to remove the barrier.

Nation.Africa can, however, confirm that the barrier was erected after meetings of stakeholders and the Westlands sub-county security team.

Arboretum park lane has become the latest public road to have a barrier erected.

Amina Wako | Nation Media Group

The stakeholders, who included State House, Kenya Forest Service Arboretum, Jabali Elementary, Kenya Girl Guides Association, National Police Service and Radisson Blu requested to have the barrier erected for security reasons.

The conversation to have the barrier started after the January 2019 DusitD2 complex attack.

The boda-boda operators who camped outside the Arboretum entrance waiting for or dropping clients visiting the park also worried them.

As the conversation was going on, in July 2019, an intruder was shot and injured after he climbed over one of the State House gates.

The need to have a barrier became even more urgent.

So, they contacted the Kenya Urban Roads Authority (Kura) and they were allowed to erect the barrier.

“We are aware of the barrier. We allowed it there because of the security reasons raised by the stakeholders. Remember it is not a throughway, so it is important to know who goes in and comes out to avoid incidents like the State House intruder,” John Cheboi, the chief corporate communications officer at Kura, said.

Thereafter, the stakeholders, through Leisure Park Development Limited — the mother company of Radisson Blu Hotel — on December 10, 2019, wrote to Nairobi City County about the proposed erection of the security barrier.

And, on January 17 this year, the county replied granting permission for the work to begin.

“Authority to erect 1 No. security barrier to serve Plot L.R. No. 1870/X/106 on Arboretum Drive is hereby granted to you subject to compliance with the following conditions…” the letter, signed on February 17, 2020 by the Nairobi Chief Officer, Roads, Public Works and Transport, Eng. F.N. Karanja, read in part.

The council also acknowledged receiving Sh10,000 inspection fees for the work.

The work was, however, postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, which was first reported in Kenya in March this year.

What followed next was government restrictions to curb the spread of the virus.

According to Edward Momanyi, the Food and Beverage Manager at Radisson Blu, the Sub-County Security Committee visited the hotel in September and spelt out conditions for erecting the barrier.

“The team, led by Westlands Deputy County Commissioner Mwai Gicheru, visited the area in September. They cited the conditions as a bulletproof guard booth, two armed police officers, and two security guards,” Mr Momanyi told Nation.Africa.

Because of the cost implications, the stakeholders met again on November 11, 2020, at the hotel.

“We invited everyone around this area including State House. We discussed the cost of setting up the barrier, bulletproof guard booth, two armed police officers and two security guards and how it would be shared among ourselves,” Mr Momanyi said.

But council warned that should any member of the public or residents along the Arboretum park lane object to the erection of the barrier, the barrier will be removed.

“That you be required to bind yourselves to the conditional clause of removing the barrier should the Nairobi City County receive reasonable objection to the barrier from one or more area residents or other members of the public,” the letter read in part.

“You shall indemnify the Nairobi City County against any litigation that may arise as a result of these works,” read one of the nine conditions set by Nairobi City County.

“This approval is valid if the works commence and are completed within three months,” it further said.

Arboretum becomes the latest public road to have obstacles.

In September this year, Muthaiga Residents Association mounted a roadblock restricting access to the suburb by boda-boda operators, commercial vehicles and pedestrians.

An email from the association’s secretariat, dated September 22, said the move was due to security reasons.

“No motorbikes and commercial vehicles are allowed to enter Main Muthaiga Road from Oil Libya Plaza, Kiambu Road and from Mini Muthaiga Round-about including house-helps, construction site employees,” read the email signed by Christine Chiriba, for the secretariat.

Further, residents were asked to provide details of their employees, including job card or a letter indicating the name of the staffer, ID number, plot or house number, employer and their contact number.

In 2014, the county assembly moved a motion to remove barriers erected on public roads by the Runda Residents Association.

by Nationafrica


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Lifestyle

TRAGIC: Woman kills self after realising hubby’s plan to get second wife

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A 38-year-old woman has committed suicide in Migori after learning that her husband had a secret lover he was planning to marry.

According to police reports, the body of Pamela Atieno was found dangling from the roof of her house on Friday morning at their rural home in Kameji sub-location, Rongo sub-county.

Chief John Agoro who reported the incident to Rongo Police Station said that Atieno took her life after she learnt that her husband was planning to marry a second wife.

“The deceased reportedly differed with her husband after she learned that he had another lover and was planning to marry her as a second wife,” said Agoro.

Atieno is reported to have left a suicide note to her husband before taking her life.

“I have decided to die because of your secret plan to (marry) another wife,” the suicide note read in part.

Never differed

Michael Ondito, the woman’s husband, however, denied arguing with Atieno, adding that he had gone to the farm only to come and find his wife had killed herself.

“I was called when I was at the farm in the morning but upon reaching home I found the body of my wife hanging on a rope on our doorstep, I was surprised because we had not quarrelled or fought,” said Onditi.

Chief Agoro, however, condemned the action saying people should find other ways of solving family differences.

“Domestic problems should not lead to people killing themselves. We are supposed to look for guidance and counselling experts,” the administrator said.

Rongo police boss Peter Okiring while confirming the incident said police received the information and went there to collect the body which was transferred to Rosewood Hospital’s morgue.

“We have launched our investigation into the matter but we are yet to confirm the reason why the deceased committed suicide,” said Okiring.

BY Standardmedia.co.ke


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