Saturday, September 23, 2023

Mwangi: Glue-sniffing streetboy who became pilot says mom was sad when he left streets

Street children are one of the vulnerable groups that face a lot of difficulties growing up. From lack of shelter and clothes to eating with pigs and dogs and rape among young girls, these kids only live by hope.

While they climb a lot of mountains growing up, they still find ways to overcome those difficulties. Michael Mwangi’s journey from the streets to the skies is a true testament of hope.

Born in Nairobi’s Eastlands, Mwangi’s life in the streets began following the death of his father. The old man’s kinsmen raided their home in Nairobi’s Kiambio slums and carted away everything.

Left with zero financial aid, Mwangi’s mother moved to the streets with her three kids, Mwangi, his brother, and his sister.

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Life in the street was rough, especially for Mwangi, who had to take responsibility of the man of the house.

He would sell scrap metals to put food on the table and pay watchmen to protect his mother and sister at night.

“Rape is one thing street women and girls go through a lot, and I had to ensure that my mum and sister were safe,” he said.

And just like the norm in the streets, Mwangi was introduced to sniffing glue and smoking Marijuana. Whenever he told his friends he would someday fly a plane, they would laugh him off and tell him those were hallucinations.

The seed of flying a plane was ingrained in him after regular trips to a dumpsite in Dandora with his friends, where they would have a bite of leftovers from the airport.

“There were days when the garbage truck would bring leftovers from the airport. The food tasted so good, especially if you got bread and butter. I kept imagining the kind of food passengers are served in planes,” he says.

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His life changed when a good Samaritan, Fred Mwaura, rescued him from the streets to join Joy Divine Children’s Home in Nairobi’s Huruma estate.

Mwangi’s mother was, however, unhappy about the decision as he was her breadwinner. While at the children’s home, another God-sent Samaritan, businesswoman Suzy Ngige appeared.

Suzy is married to a pilot Captain Simon Ngige. She was touched by Mwangi’s story and took him to school after an agreement with the children’s home proprietors.

Mwangi joined Standard Four at the Moi Forces Academy, but life there was hard for the boy who was a drug addict. He, however, remained focused and was among the top students by the time he left the institution in 2011.

He then joined Dr. Ribeiro Parklands High School in Nairobi, where his leadership skills couldn’t go unnoticed. Mwangi was the Christian Union Chairman and the school’s president while in form three.

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He graduated from Parklands High School in 2015 and enrolled in an aviation college in 2016 through the support of Suzy and her husband.

By 2017, he was already in the cockpit, flying the Nairobi-Mandera route alongside Captain Ngige for Rudufu Airlines, which Ngige owns.

“It’s a feeling you can’t describe. Looking around at all the gadgets in the cockpit, I was simply overwhelmed. I felt like crying. As I sat there the story of my life played before me.”

“I saw my time in the streets longingly watching planes in the sky. I remembered the mocking and taunts of my fellow street boys when I told them of my dream to be a pilot,” he said.

His life was changed for the better by a stranger who became a family, and Mwangi had to extend the hand of giving to other needy kids, feeding street families at Mlango Kubwa every weekend.

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