Updated: Oct 3, 2022
Words by: Peter Muasya Kimuyu, Economic Empowerment Manager, Jitegemee Childrens Program
Have you ever imagined how life would be without a source of livelihood?
Born into a family of 12 children in Machakos, Kenya, my parents worked menial jobs and while growing up, they were not in a position to support me and my siblings. At the age of 7, I found myself on the streets, collecting charcoal and scrap metal that I could sell to get money to buy food or drugs. While on the streets, I met Farah Stockman (Jitegemee Children’s Program Founder) and Alex Mutiso (Vocational Teacher) who plucked me from the streets and provided me with food and basic literacy and numeracy training.
Farah and Alex quickly realized that I was a bright student and eager to learn. So after rehabilitating me, they helped me enrol in St.Mary’s Primary School in Machakos and through Jitegemee, supported my education journey . I was a bright student and quickly grasped the school work and as a result, I skipped 4 grades to catch up with my age mates. Having achieved excellent primary school results, I joined Starehe Boys Centre, one of the best and most competitive high schools in Kenya. Again, at the end of high school, I attained outstanding grades and was accepted to study a Bachelor of Economics at the University of Nairobi.
Peter Muasya, over ten years ago
At the community level, the community leaders kept on reminding all the children that a university degree is the channel to being successful in life. However, during my second year at the university, I started realizing the struggles that young people go through in their lives in search of employment. I knew many people who had graduated five years ago and still could not find a job despite the reality that they had received a good education. Besides, at the time, statistics indicated that the level of unemployment in our country was at 40%. The vast majority of unemployed people were youths. Coming from an impoverished background, I was aware that my family, as well as my siblings, saw me as their source of hope and the tool that would help get them out of poverty. To that end, having an understanding of unemployment rates in the country affected me in ways that were both big and small. As the only person in my family to have completed secondary school, let alone university, the situation created fear and anxiety in my life because I was afraid of not being able to positively impact my family.
I later graduated from the University of Nairobi and Jitegemee hired me as the Operations Officer. Fuelled by the desire to tackle the issue of youth unemployment in our community, I conducted a need assessment survey towards the end of 2017 for the Machakos youth as well as the local trades’ people. In the survey, I was interested in establishing the employability of our young people in the community. I interviewed 200 young people across the town and the results indicated that 63% of the respondents earned between one thousand shillings(10$) and ten thousand shillings(100$) per month, implying that they were in the low living class bracket in Kenya. 26% of those that I interviewed pointed out that they earned between ten thousand shillings (100$) and twenty thousand shillings (200$). In terms of support needed, the respondents indicated that they would love to be trained on entrepreneurship, job readiness as well as 21 st Digital skills.
My life has come full circle and I am now the fulltime Economic Empowerment Manager at Jitegemee. To ensure that we overcome the challenge of youth unemployment, I am overseeing the launch of a Youth Innovation Hub at Jitegemee, which has started providing business and life skills training, as well as career guidance and job readiness support to youth in our community. One thing that catches my attention is the struggles that our young people go through in such of employment to enable them to improve their lives. I have grown up in a community where many people sleep on hungry stomachs, including myself.
Peter Muasya, training parents on entrepreneurial skills
My story shows what a child with a dream, coupled with a lot of hard work, can achieve – even when born into the most poverty-stricken background. I believe my life story can be a light for other young people in my community – I believe childhood circumstances should not hinder anyone from accomplishing their life dreams and goals. I now want to be part of changing the story for other youth in Machakos and beyond. My dream is that in future, no young person in Kenya will struggle in life because of unemployment.
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Business school participants with their graduation certificates after going through a six-month entrepreneurial training.