Kironyo,Wanjiku. BORN TO BE UNSTOPPABLE: My Kenyan Story, Global Journey and Life’s Legacy.
2016. Fifty-fifty Ld. Nairobi, Kenya. ISBN: 978-9966-097-28-6
Review and author photo by Theresa Wolfwood
- Photo: Wanjiku on right in Muthare Valley, Nairobi
“It is how we embrace the uncertainty in our lives that leads to the great transformation of our souls.” Brandon A. The opening quote in this book
Wanjiku was born into uncertain, dark times to farmers in Kenya at the time of major resistance to Britain, the colonial power that ruled the lives of Kenyans before the country won independence in 1963.
Hard as life was in those turbulent times, Wanjiku had the love and confidence of a family, parents, grandmother, who believed she could accomplish whatever she set out to do. That confidence made Wanjiku ‘unstoppable’, no obstacles were too great to overcome.
From her village and early schooling she went to the USA on a scholarship and studied social science.
She returned to Kenya, first as a university lecturer, determined to work to overcome poverty anf oppression, particularly of women, and to create opportunities and hope for slum-dwellers.
I first met Wanjiku in Nairobi and she showed me the many projects of the organization she founded: The Maji Mazuri Centre.
She took me to meet women who had learned new skills to operate their own businesses, train as teachers and community workers. I also saw the teenage drama group she initiated so young people could perform their own plays about their lives and social issues that affected their lives. Many of these young people went on to university and jobs in media and development.
Most touching was her orphanage for handicapped children, many of whom were unwanted and abandoned on her doorstep. After a tragic fire where children locked in the home perished, Wanjiku faced the painful awareness that disabled children were stigmatized and many people believe that have no place in society. Wanjiku believes that ta life without love is worse than a life of material poverty. Over the years she has taken in many children, giving them security, love mad and education suitable for whatever condition they have.
On later visits I met teachers who had been children in the orphanage, others who went on to university and professional life, some enduring the operations she organized so they could gain mobility and health. She has founded two schools in the countryside, one a boarding school where children form the slums gat out of that toxic and dangerous environment and flourish in the safety of a school staffed by caring teachers.
The list of Wanjiku’s accomplishments is seemingly endless- computer classes and libraries for slum children, quality daycare so mothers can train and work, women’s refuge from domestic violence, composting projects for addicted youth. She also started programs to help girls with education and save them from the circumciser’s blade while creating self-esteem in the girls themselves. F or Wanjiku this is a major milestone in her accomplishments.
All this, as Wanjiku worked with people, never giving them aid, but asking of them to participate in change; she knew this was difficult for many from deprived lives as she admits that she, in comparison, has a privileged and secure life. But I remember Wanjiku saying, giving people things does not change anything. But working with them as all can rails their abilities does make change.
Wanjiku is an inspiration to all that meet her.
In her conclusion she writes, “I hope this book will be a testament to my life’s journey. That it will inspire one person to v\chase after his or her dreams, regardless of circumstance, believing that we have within us the strength to achieve anything we set our minds too. ”
I hope this book will have a wide readership and a lasting impression on all those who read it.
Maji Mazuri means ‘sweet water’ in Swahili: a name that speaks to the lives of so many that have partaken of this sweetness.
For more information on the many projects Wanjiku has initiated see: http://majimazuri.org/