Miriam Mutindi, 26, has fond memories of growing up in Machakos, Central Kenya, especially accompanying her mother, who would sell newspapers at the Machakos town law courts and Garden Hotel.
“When I was growing up I wanted to be a magistrate, I admired the way they looked when I would see them buy newspapers in the morning from us,” Miriam recalls.
Miriam and her elder sister were raised solely by their driven mother, who worked her hardest to ensure they had the best. But it was still difficult, the girls would be sent home for school fees arrears of as low as KES 100 ( USD 1) which their mum struggled to raise. But in 2004, when Miriam was just 10 years old, her mother fell ill and passed away. For a year, they were tossed from one home to the next with most relatives reluctant to care for them. Their grandmother took them in, but considering the distance from the town, there were concerns about the quality of education the children would receive. A year later, Zipporah Mueni, Miriam’s mother’s best friend, took Miriam in as her own.
Zipporah had four children and made a meagre salary as an attendant at a bookstore. But adjusting to a new family wasn’t easy for Miriam.
“It wasn’t easy, you know, they weren’t blood. But Zipporah always involved me in the family events drawing me in. But it still hurt that I had living blood relatives who never visited me. My grandmother and sister were there for me.” Miriam states.
Zipporah was extremely strained financially, but she was determined to see Miriam complete her education. Zipporah heard of Jitegemee and successfully received support for Miriam’s education.
“Jitegemee made everything easy, I had a uniform, school shoes, they paid for lunch and textbooks, with that my only focus was to ensure I passed my exams and graduated from High School.” Miriam enthuses.
And Miriam did work hard, she scored 392 marks out of 500 in her Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) and joined Machakos Girls High School in 2009, she was ecstatic and quickly realised how fortunate she was. She quickly realised just how many people in her class and school had similar challenges with tuition and other school needs. This drove Miriam even harder in her studies.
“The thought of someone giving their all so I can study, that was comforting. I knew all I needed to focus on was working hard,” Miriam notes.
In 2012 she graduated High School with a B plain grade and was called to Laikipia University to pursue an undergraduate in Economics, a far cry from her childhood dream of being a Magistrate.
But she does admit that “deep down I knew I wanted to be in business, so economics was a great degree for me.”
Miriam eventually graduated in 2016 and walked into a world of a new kind of struggle: finding employment. She relentlessly sent out job applications with no response. After months of applications, she was finally approached by Techno, the Chinese phone company, to serve as a brand ambassador in Machakos town. The job entailed promoting the phone brand in the town, which after three years of work lost its novelty, Miriam felt she needed to try something new.
In 2019, Miriam came across a new job opportunity at Jitegemee posted online, the position of Operations Officer. Miriam successfully applied and today she works at the organisation that helped her get an education. She now manages the finances, accounting, and oversees procurement and operational functions of Jitegemee, giving another generation a chance to receive the opportunity to learn and pursue their life long dreams.
“It was nice coming back, but also a bit weird, Mwalimu Alex took me in when I was in class five when they started to support my education and now he is my colleague, it’s come back full circle, at times it feels surreal,” Miriam remarks.
But this is just the beginning, Miriam wants to do more and use her skills in economics more extensively to support those in need.
“If Jitegemee was not there for me I would not be here. I want to do, even more, I want to work with an international organisation, like the World Bank of United Nations, which makes a global impact for those in need,” Miriam concludes.