Homeless to Pharmacist: The Story of a Young Kenyan Leader Mentoring Street Children

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Friday, July 9, 2021
Benson Kiragu leads an entrepreneurship training class for rescued street children at Tumaini Innovation Center in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya.
Stephen Mwongela

In Kenya, over 250,000 children are homeless and  live in the streets. “I grew up in an unstable environment that drove me to the streets at a young age,” said Benson Kiragu. His life in the streets of Nakuru County came with many challenges including severe cases of asthma and trachoma. 

“Whenever I face a challenge, I see an opportunity for change,” Benson added. He started learning how to read and write at 13 years old after being enrolled in grade two. At age 23, he completed high school and at 30, he had an undergraduate degree in Pharmacy. In 2019, Benson was among 100 young people selected — who have demonstrated leadership in various fields — to participate in a four-weeks intensive training under the United States’ Young Afrian Leaders Initiative (YALI) Regional Learning Center (RCL) in East Africa. The YALI RLC offers training in business and entrepreneurship, civic leadership, and public management tracks. Benson’s training was in the civic management track.

Benson’s motto, ‘make good use of available opportunities and turn things around,’ is one he applies in his daily life. He volunteers to support street children’s rehabilitation at Tumaini Innovation Center in Eldoret, Uasin Gishu County. “Tumaini” is hope in Swahili. “I use my story to encourage and motivate. They have so much potential when given an opportunity. They represent what the future holds,” said Benson.

Tumaini works alongside medics from Indiana University and focuses on mental health, rehabilitation, and implementing a quality healthcare system.

“My time at YALI gave me better insights on how to practically transform communities, network, and share my experiences.”

Working closely with Tumaini, Benson has supported the rescue of 189 street children — 97 of whom have been reintegrated back to the society — and motivated others to finish their vocational education and to pay-it-forward. Benson is one of the over 4,200 young African leaders trained by the YALI RLC in East Africa and transforming their communities. These young African leaders are generating lasting change in the region. Benson is also a 2021 Mandela Washington Fellow under the public management track. 

Last updated: September 24, 2021

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