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MY STORY: Rise from poverty to owning three homes in two continents

I live a good life Europe. But my story starts in a near hopeless situation in Kenya. Call me Joab, it is my real name. I was born in the 1960’s along with an elder brother and a younger one. Our father died when I was four years old and our mother was only 29 years old at that the time.

We lived in Western Kenya. My mother, as you can imagine, had her work cut out for her. She was a widow, with three children to raise, yet all she had was one cow and a piece of land that was 1.5 acres in size.


She did all she could, went through hard life, through the hurdles and lived through what you can truly call a peasant life. She took us through school, to the point that she could. For me, she took me all through primary, into high school- up to form two where I dropped out due to lack of school fees.

My memories of high school are probably relatable to some people; I worked in our farm, ploughing and weeding so that I could sell the vegetables and use the money to buy pens, toothpaste, shoe polish and such personal effects when it was time to go back to school. Pocket money was tight and I had to walk for two hours with my suitcase either on my head or my shoulders since bus fare was out of question.


After dropping out of high school, I left for Nairobi. I got a job as a casual worker at Cookies construction site. I did this for a while, then I left Nairobi for Mombasa to try my luck at the coast. A few months after arriving at the coast, l landed my first job as a cook in a police station, earning sh400 per month and sleeping on the verandah.

This money was not much but I used most of it to pay for my younger brother’s school fees and send something little to my mother, mostly sh50.

Soon after, I left this job to work as a gardener in a tourist hotel where I developed an interest in German language. At the same time, I learnt to drive and got a driving license, even though I knew that I was not going to be driving anything anytime soon let alone own a car.

Maybe it was the prestige of knowing that I could drive. The same sense of prestige pushed me into applying for and acquiring a passport knowing fully well, that I was not going anywhere.

Joab's home in the village. PHOTO | COURTESY
Joab’s home in the village. PHOTO | COURTESY


But life happens, and eight years down the line I made my way to Europe through friends whom I had known for some time. I left my family and friends behind. By this time, I was married and had a child, a boy.

When I got to Europe, the first job I landed was that of a cook. After a two-year struggle, I came back for my son, who was seven years old then. I wanted him to have European education, something different from what I had. Sometime after this, I worked hard and brought my wife and my youngest son to join us.

And in the course of time, I have built a home in my village and a second home at the coast. Knowing what it means to have your education dream cut short, I do help a few young people who are unable to meet their education needs… you know fee and other things. This is just my little way of appreciating God’s goodwill on me.


My greatest joy in all these years was this time when I flew my mother to come live with us for two and a half months. She was extremely happy and emotional and we, enjoyed every bit of her stay with us here in Switzerland.

My wife and I fly in two or three times a year to visit people back home. I have come to know three things; be honest, work hard and be optimistic that the future will be better.

Never in my wildest dreams did I know that I would one day be able to put up a storey establishment as my home, overlooking the river with only one neighbor nearby. My village home is magnificent… the birds, the frogs and the hippos during the rainy season.

At our home in Europe, we speak in our mother tongue, Kiswahili and English. We speak German too, being the local language, but we speak it only when we are outside with other people. The same applies to food. We still cook mostly Kenyan meals. We are all dual citizens and my wife and two sons have competently adapted to this dual cultural way of life where we straddle between the culture of our original home and the culture of our adopted home.

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