HAMZA HASSAN AND THE JOURNEY
My name is Hassan Hamza, I come from a long line of pain. Growing up a stone throw away
from Korogocho-1 of the largest and deadliest slums in Kenya, distinguishing dinner from
the danger was an essential life skill.
Luckily I had two angelic mothers, I feel like Abraham Lincoln who said “All that I am, or hopes to
be, I owe to my angel mother” for me after God I owe to my mother Mary Katunge and my
grandmother Justina Mwikali.
My grandma was born in Kitui in the early 1900s, the firstborn in a family of five children. At a
very young age grandma witnessed her father’s horrendous death, she vividly narrated to me
how one day as he was walking by the roadside, a car came rushing in his direction he tried to
avoid it by diverging into the bush, it followed him there and crushed him, he did not meet his
death, death literally followed him into the bush.
From there her mum and she had to do whatever they had to do to survive, a while later her
mum died leaving her with no option than to become the head of the family she was barely at
the age of puberty.
You already know what happened next but I will tell you anyway. As a young girl barely into
puberty, her family married her off as the fourth wife to an old man that had children old enough
to be her parents, she had no choice as the head of the family her siblings had to eat, and go to
the toilet and bathe and her brothers had to go to school this was taken care of by the small
dowry and sacks of Muthokoi that exchanged hands., and with that grandma was sold she
simply became a commodity for the old man to amuse himself.
I am literally in tears as I write this trying to find the courage to narrate to you the pain she went
through in that family that believed in and practiced witchcraft, she told me how the remnants of
the water she and her kids used to wash their faces in the morning would be taken by the
co-wives she didn’t know where it was taken to, but results don’t lie, grandma started losing her
children in mysterious deaths, not one, not two, not three but five children died the last one of
who died while sleeping on the same bed as my mother who also seemed sickly. By now
grandma had been completely overwhelmed, in between sobs she asked those around to bury
this one too, pointing at my mother luckily, they understood it’s her pain talking, or else the
the person writing this wouldn’t have existed.
My mum, my first love Mary Katunge, remains the only child out of six, grandma had seen it all
she decided to go back home where it’s said is better than east or west, she was wrong her
younger brothers the one she had taken to school met her with a resistance she had not
anticipated, they insisted she has to go back they had been accustomed to the small portions of
Muthokoi that used to come from the other end when she refused one of them literally broke her
back with firewood and she had to leave, she told me she forgave them for they didn’t know
what they were doing and times were tough for them too.
With a broken back, a little girl, and no money, grandma left with a determination to go to Nairobi
on foot, she didn’t know where, how, and what but she had no other option she walked a pretty
long-distance until a “ not so good Samaritan” appeared in the form of a truck driver he served
his purpose he even got her a house in the famous Mathare slums, but the man was extremely
violent, grandma could take the blows but when it came to her little girl, she said to him “ Slowly
you man, you have come too much” but in reality, she said to herself because she didn’t wait
for him to come back she left. She took her little baby girl upcountry and decided to swim in the
sea of Nairobi shamba ya mawe she got a job as a waiter in a bar, found a friend who hired her
space to place a mattress and used to send most of the little she got for the welfare of her
young girl upcountry.
My mom suffered upcountry in the hands of relatives and family friends she narrated to me she
used to starve for days and when she was lucky to get a warm plate the kids of that family
would pour soil into the food and make it not fit for human consumption at one point she had
gone for three days without eating and she fainted on the road as she was returning home from
Grandma had, had enough decided to live with her only child in Nairobi as now she had become
a bit of age, Nairobi welcomed her and it was so kind to her, that it introduced her to
motherhood. Just like that, my mom had become a teenage mother to a bouncing baby boy my
elder brother a few years later mom took a deep breath of warm south coast air and there I was born. While
the area is known for its cool sea breeze the marriage was the extreme opposite it was known
for alcoholism and extreme domestic violence, one time she says he came home drunk found
her cooking chapati he removed his shoes and placed them on top of the chapati on the pan
and with that, she was done, like he couldn’t even do it on another food?
Our mum later got married to five other children. Grandma couldn’t be happier. It’s like she had gotten back her lost children. But it was not all smiles whereas the man was generous with giving his seed, he was not generous with providing for the kids. And so mum had to single-handedly take care of her mother and 7 children on her own. She literally took matters into her hands at times she was forced to fight women and even men who threatened her dignity and
that of her children and those who would refuse to pay her hard-earned sweat.
She started a small scale milk business we walked 3-5km every morning before school and
evening after school delivering milk door to door across the informal settlements of the
Eastland’s of Nairobi from Lakiisama, Korogocho, Babadogo, Kasabuni, kariadudu kariobangi to
Huruma when my classmates were dancing to the tune of the bell ringing to signal we had learned enough for the day I wore my sad face for I knew the task ahead of me. We would sell milk up to
2100hrs. My younger brother Ali and I went on the same route.
We would sleepwalk our way back home, get home, light the jiko, and start cooking supper. If it was ready by 0100hrs, we were very lucky. What do you think were cooking, sometimes 30
Kenyan shillings githeri for a family of 9, or a quarter kilo of meat which got lost in a sack of kale
[Sukuma wiki ] BUT MUM MADE SURE WE NEVER SLEPT HUNGRY.
When I was 12yrs old, my elder brother 5yrs older was arrested, all because a neighbor who
had lost his safari boots said “ maybe the son of this woman stole them” we lived in a mabati
house, so we heard everything but the next day he insisted and even went to the police and
without a bribe to pat with my brother was taken to the Romande industrial area, I still remember the
color of the book I walked with on my right hand and the pen on the left trying to fundraise for
his bail 3,000 ksh make sure you don’t add another zero.
I walked for 9 months. I couldn’t raise the amount and my brother, my hero, the first father figure
I knew, the one I learned how to wear trousers from spent 9 months in Rumande for a crime he
did not commit and a whole village could not raise 3K to bail him out. When he finally came out
he was a different person, a young innocent boy full of face, full of faith, full of future had been
thrown into a sea to swim with murderers, rapists, and all sorts of crimes, and when he came out
he had a wave of anger for society stored in a polythene bag to preserve it and a mission to repay the
society for what it did for him.
Suddenly we started receiving complaints from people who had suffered at his hands, most of
his friends were killed either by the bullet or mob justice stoning or burnt alive using tyres and
petrol all of which he escaped by a whisker, then one day he had crossed paths with a gang of
rival youths one of whom swung his panga to claim his neck and finish him off he tilted his head
a bit and the panga landed on his left ear and chopped it off, it fell into what we called mtaro
[drainage trench] and was washed away all this happened as my mother watched helplessly.
He resorted to the bottle to drink his pain away but I don’t think he has ever been drunk enough to forget, he is still trying. But we are thankful he is alive.
I had no option other than assuming his birth rite became the big brother for my siblings. I also assumed the role of C.E.O of our small scale hand to mouth milk delivery business that our family of nine depended on. When my mum took maternity leave I would take paternity leave too from school for that was the only way the mouth would remain good friends with the hand. A
relationship that benefited the stomach more.
Grandma and mum’s motivation made sure I always had the audacity of hope for a brighter
future they often told us walking barefoot today will never prevent you from walking in shoes one
day” ( I thought they only said that not `to buy me shoes)
I fought a good fight with the books armed with only a pen, I used to do my homework in the houses of customers who had kids in the same class I was, I didn’t have any other time to do it was a better excuse than we couldn’t afford the textbooks. In 2003 I sat for my K.C.P.E, the only year in my schooling life that I was not sent home for school fees arrears, thanks to president Kibaki’s free primary education policy, mark you Ngunyumu primary school in korogocho was as cheap as a ball gum not even PK. My KCPE registration fees were paid by a
political aspirant. My mum’s love for education was always in conflict with her empty pockets.
I remember the day I joined high school it was a cold Tuesday morning. I walked behind my
mother, my head lowered, my face frowned and shoulders dropped.
The question on my mind was huku tunaenda wapi ? (Where are we going? ) We walked past houses made of iron sheets, mud, and some just nylon. Korogocho Glory high school was our destination, deep in the intestines of Korogocho almost at the exit, next to it was the sewage called sugar-coated as Nairobi River and after it is the largest dumping site in Africa known simply as Mukuru. The school had just been opened. In fact, when I arrived I found only four students. I was the fifth in the entire school.
Our school fees were 2500/- a term, not a month still by the time I finished high school I had an
outstanding arrears that I was denied K.C.S.E certificate instead the principal wrote a letter “To
whom it may concern, I confirm that Hassan Hamza was a student at this school he cannot be
given his certificate because of his 12,000ksh school fees balance, Stamped” it was official I
presented it whenever I went looking for manual labor or college sponsorship opportunity
life after high school was not easy in a community full of crime, drugs, and other vices I was
about to indulge in such when a friend of mine introduced me to community-based organizations
I joined as a volunteer where I met people and opportunities from this I got networks,
experience, knowledge, and even sponsorships and joined college, I went to Unity college did a
diploma in social work and Nairobits where I did a certificate in web design.
In 2015 I was in my tiny bachelor’s single room that I paid 1500 a month, I was debating my options to attend a youth motivational event that I had been invited to at K.I.C.C. I decided to make a decision that changed my life forever. I watched in awe as various speakers wowed the
audience with their speeches and I was introduced to the concept of motivational speaking.
One of the speakers Pepe Minambo gave out a book he had authored where he talked about
an academy he started for public speaking, and knew this is it I was burning with a passion I
would have boiled an egg, the problem was the course was forty thousand Ksh where was I to
get that amount I went to several of my friends who promised to send me the cash only to
disappear into thin air, frustrated but with a strong desire I approached a lady I had just been
recently introduced to, Amina, an elder sister figure to me with a heart so big that it barely fits in
a room, she counted for me 28K and even refused to hold my laptop as collateral, and with that I
got into the academy like a duck to water and a motivational speaker was born.
Little did I know that a time will come when I will join the dots going backward and be grateful for every experience I was subjected to, it created the man I am today. A man who understands that we are a sum of our experiences. A man who understands that tough times don’t stay but tough people do. A man who understands that “My life is my message to the world all I gotta do
is know an inspiring way to tell it”
The rest of my life is the best of my life, only if I make it, in sha Allah.
Grandma passed away in February of this year and I cried a river at her burial. Grandma did not
leave much for me but she sure did leave a lot for me
Her words are still fresh in my mind “ Hassan, Hakuna mtu ukua amewekelewa mawe kwa
kichwa ” which means; everyone can make it, or simply put:#UNAWEZA
Looking back from where I have come from I sometimes go back home and can’t believe I have
my own house, and can take care of a family. I have a wife I love so much and a young
As I was starting I said I come from a long line of pain, it’s my mission to change that now into a
a long line of success, purpose, passion, and happiness not only for my family but for everyone
that I am blessed to cross paths with, I do this through motivational speaking and mentorship,
through my motivational videos on FB, IG, and YouTube also through talks in public.
I am determined to spread the salt of my energy and passion to the meat of people’s lives.
As Barack Obama said, ‘ yes we can .’ I believe: #Naweza #Unaweza #Tunaweza