Motivational speaker tells of the power of determination
His calm demeanor and jovial mood give the impression of a man who has had an easy ride in life, but his story tells otherwise.
As any child would hope for a happy family, Steve Muchiri wanted the same but their home was marred by domestic violence. His father, Fredrick Muchangi and mother, Catherine Muthoni always picked up fights.
Muchiri who was born in Embu in 1988, said the violence stopped in 1991 when his mother got pregnant. He was happy that he would have a sibling. The fights between his parents also ceased. How wrong was he.
“My sister Christine was diagnosed with measles and pneumonia a year later and had to be rushed to hospital where she was admitted. I was four years old, and my parents were struggling financially. She died three weeks later,” he said.
Since then, death marked their family.
His parents’ fighting worsened after Christine’s death and at times his mother would run away to her parents’ home and his father would go and fetch her.
In 1998, his brother Kennedy was born and Muchiri was glad that he finally would have a sibling. His father who had retired as an office clerk had been away the entire pregnancy period and returned when Kennedy was born.
“It was sort of a consolation for us after Christine’s death and my parents were in better terms than I had ever seen them before,” said Muchiri.
However, six months later, Kennedy developed anaemia and had to be admitted to hospital. Luckily, his father had money (from his retirement benefits) that paid for his treatment. Kennedy was discharged a month later but three months on, in September, he contracted meningitis and died.
“The doctors treated him for malaria but further tests revealed that he had meningitis. He died five days later. He had been in so much pain that it felt okay that his suffering had ended but I was affected for losing yet another sibling,” said the motivational speaker and author of the book, The Victor In Every Victim.
The loss of a second child put a strain on his mother’s health even as their fights intensified. On several occasions, his father would stay away for days and the taxi business was not making profit.
“ At that point I swore to myself that I would get my family out of poverty. I learned how to farm and do household chores whenever my mum fell ill,” added the 25-year-old.
His mother’s health worsened in 2000 when she got typhoid, malaria, developed seizures and complications of the womb that required her to be admitted to hospital.
His father who had been away from home had to be recalled. At first he refused saying he had no money to take her to the hospital but after his parents promised to assist, he returned home and took his wife to a hospital in Runyenjes.
“I remember my dad coming home from hospital, he was very happy. He told me that my mum would be discharged the following day and would bring her home. They had become very close that it was like a miracle. I was happy,” said Muchiri who was in Standard 7 then.
That did not come to pass. She died of cardiac arrest aged 32 years, and Muchiri was unable to mourn her because he was in denial.
Life became difficult. “I lost my self-esteem because my friends would brag about their mothers and siblings when I had none. My dad was also financially constrained. We had to depend on my grandparents for everything,” he said.
Despite the predicament, he sat his KCPE in 2001, but could not join high school due to lack of fees.
In 2002, his grandparents offered to pay for his high school education, with the condition that he works on their coffee farm.
“I had swore to come out of poverty through education and so I took my studies seriously since the death of my mother and siblings had affected me. Besides, dad was very poor,” he said.
Later that year, his father developed tuberculosis, meningitis and swelling of the internal organs and was admitted to hospital.
“He had strange diseases that doctors could not understand. He would cry out in pain and saw it as God’s punishment on how he’d treated mummy.”
He died in January 2003 leaving Muchiri as the family’s sole surviving member. His grandparents took him in but his grief was too great to bear as he had to deal with rumours that his family had died of complications from HIV/Aids.
“I wanted to die too. The memories of my family haunted me but I was determined to change my life. I yearned to join university and so I studied,” he said.