TALES OF COURAGE: From casual labourer to clothing brand supervisor - Daily Nation

From casual labourer to clothing brand supervisor

Tuesday December 12 2017

How I scored a mean grade of B, I cannot explain.

How I scored a mean grade of B, I cannot explain. ILLUSTRATION | IGAH 

By BENJAMIN OPIYO
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It was two weeks to the national high school exams when I lost my mom.

She had been battling cancer for two years but succumbed to the disease as I was preparing for the Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) exams.

Initially when she had told me that she was ill, I did not worry too much because she was always on her feet, working to provide for my siblings and I. As the sole breadwinner of our family, she put on a brave face and persevered until the very end when her health completely deteriorated.

On the day of the first exam, I was unable to complete my Mathematics paper. I remember what happened like it was yesterday. After working on the first question, I could not move my limbs; I just sat there completely still.

Memories came flooding in of all the time spent with my mum, how we had made big plans for my life after high school and how I would take care of her once I was done. How I scored a mean grade of B, I cannot explain, and what came next is even more difficult to fathom.

Compassion Kenya, an organisation that sponsors orphaned children paid for a short Graphics and Design course. Upon completion, I enrolled for a certificate in civil engineering at the Technical University of Kenya (TUK) but since they did not have a partnership with this institution, they could not assist me financially.

MENIAL JOBS

I tried raising money for fees and upkeep using pencil portraits that sold for Sh2000 or less but it was not enough. That is when Leadership Development Programme (LDP) offered me a full scholarship but on condition that I switch universities. I dropped from TUK three semesters into the course and took up Bachelor of Environmental Science at Kenyatta University.

Unfortunately, I had to defer my studies for a year after I failed my exams and LDP withdrew their sponsorship. During this time, I would look for casual labour jobs and one day I stumbled on an opportunity with the Kenya Revenue Authority.

My work was to offload electricity meter boxes and take them to KRA employees' houses in Lang'ata for a paltry Sh300 a day. After that ended, I got a job at a school in Nairobi, digging up trenches. At this point, I had lost all hope and was desperate for a better opportunity to earn money. I took out my phone and sent messages to everyone in my contact list asking them for help.

Luckily one of my uncles responded and offered to hire me in his Courier services company. However, the job required that I own a motorbike since it involved trips to Gemini Insurance in Upperhill. I would walk there and back most of the times but when too exhausted, I would be forced to spend part of my Sh5000 salary which would then last me only two weeks. I left the job after nine months.

I got my hands on a book titled How To Stop Worrying and Start Living and I can attest my newfound courage to it. A networking event in Karen exposed to yet another opportunity but this time at a well established company: Mr Price, a clothing brand with several stores in Kenya and South Africa.

After the contract ended, the company recalled me to work at one of their stores at the Junction Mall in Nairobi. My work ethic based on the book I had read earned me another six-week contract at the company's branch within the central business district.

The opportunity was then extended to six months but now as a salesperson. Currently, I am a supervisor based at the Garden City Mall store. I went back to school and enrolled for a diploma in business management at KCA university. My experiences have taught me a lot about life but most of all not to worry about things beyond my control and work as if today is your last day. You never know what the future holds.

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