“Life has taught me that no man is an island, we all need each other to step a ground higher; life has taught me to be humble; to accept people for who they are, and what they are; if you don’t do that, you’ll face myriad challenges relating with people – those close to you; and those far from you. I haven’t been this well as people would think, it came with struggles, it came with needs. Above all, I have learnt to be a blessing to everybody who comes my way; Patrick Hinga’s case is not the first, and it won’t be the last.”
Those were the words of 33-year-old Nairobi-based nurse Wanja Mwaura, when eDaily, on Friday, February 23, asked her about the key lessons she has learnt in her three decades of life.
Cultured, charming, precise, exuberant are adjectives which best describe the tricenarian, who was born and bred in Kabete, Kiambu County.
To those who are coming across Ms Wanja for the first time, her story hogged media headlines – both nationally and internationally – in October, 2017, when pictures of her and her former schoolmate, a then-drug addict and street boy, Patrick Hinga, went viral on social media.
The pictures – deservedly – spread widely online because Ms Mwaura bumped into Mr Hinga, who was wandering on the street, and immediately took it upon herself to help him restore a social status, and true to her effort, the overcritical online community approved of her compassion.
It was early October, 2017, when Wanja Mwaura, who was on her way to the market in Lower Kabete heard someone shout out her name.
She looked up and was surprised to see a tall man with bulging eyes, a reduced frame, dirtied black overalls and an equally stained thick woolen hat, sitting on the side of the road. She did not manage to immediately establish who he was.
But when Mr Hinga introduced himself, Wanja Mwaura said shock shook her; her friend, whom she studied with in primary school in 1992, when she was 7-years-old, had turned out to be what she did not expect – a street boy, a drug addict.
Ms Wanja would, thereafter, give her contact to Mr Hinga, who promised to keep in touch.
She was his guardian angel; called her when he could – after borrowing strangers’ cell phones – and the communication pattern sooner, thereafter, became more circular.
Ms Wanja has since enrolled Mr Hinga into a drug rehabilitation centre in Nairobi, and says: “We are expecting Mr Hinga to be discharged from The Retreat Rehabilitation Centre in Nairobi toward the end of this month (February) or early March.”
Today, Mr Hinga’s transmogrified figure, persona and character has left many awed; with sections still skeptical about Ms Wanja’s good deed, claiming she was grooming Mr Hinga to become her husband.
What’s her response?
“For the people who know me, they understood I was trying to assist a man I grew up with. Speculations by some online users that I was grooming a husband in Mr Hinga did not affect me that much. Nonetheless, I was really concerned of the image there of. You know it’s difficult – or nearly impossible – to control what people say, neither can you control what they do. So, it was about my focus – where I wanted to focus, and who to focus on. I wasn’t grooming a husband, I was trying to help a friend; so far so good,” said Ms Wanja.
She reveals that Mr Hinga hit the streets after the death of his grandmother, who was the one taking care of him then. That was over a decade ago.
Wanja Mwaura says Mr Hinga was expelled from Uthiru Secondary School when he was in Form Three after he was found in possession of marijuana in school. He, thereafter, dropped out after staying with his grandmother for a short period of time.
Mr Hinga, having stayed in the streets for more than 10 years, sections of online users wondered how such a sophisticated woman managed to hold – and even sustain – a conversation with a ‘graceless’ street boy.
“We have a history together; we grew up in the same village, went to the same school. So, we had a lot of catching up to do. I had to listen to why he became what he became. Conversation between Mr Hinga and I was flowing. One: I knew him from childhood, so he wasn’t new to me; therefore, addressing him was easy, given I was confident about him. I knew he was not going to be violent, he had never been violent.
“So, the history that we have together made it easier for me to communicate with him. We still have a lot to talk about with him, including the social aspects of our lives. Mr Hinga is a very normal guy going through normal issues in life.
“Life for him in the streets was quite challenging, especially on his feeding and shelter; sometimes he would fall sick, and there was no one to take him to hospital. His immune system was down, and what made it worse, was that he wasn’t feeding properly; and had plunged into drug and substance abuse. I think that caused him depression. But, I am glad he has now gotten help,” said Wanja Mwaura.
When she announced that she was seeking financial help to enroll Mr Hinga in drug rehab facility in October, 2017, Kenyans, in their numbers took to her social media pages to assist. Mr Hinga needed over Ksh100, 000 for the programme. Ms Wanja, who has since clarified that she is engaged, says her fiancé was her Number One pillar, who stood by her; and approved of her deeds.
“My fiancé was my Number One supporter, and every time I faced accusations of grooming Mr Hinga for a husband, I talked to him (fiancé); and he kept me going. I would say it is quite encouraging to have a man who is very supportive. One: he is my Number One fan, Two: he supported me financially, when I showed interest in helping Mr Hinga. Before, we got funds from members of the public to assist Mr Hinga, I used to struggle a lot in raising finances needed to assist him.
“When I took Mr Hinga to a rehab centre in Nairobi late last year, my fiance dug into his pockets to raise money needed to accommodate Mr Hinga at the facility. My partner is my everything; I am happy in the relationship, and I am very much contented. We have been together for two years. We plan to have our wedding by mid 2018 – June.
“I think I am ready to become his wife. I know there are heavy responsibilities hinged on a woman with the title ‘wife’, but with the skills and attitude I have developed in the course of my nursing career, I am confident to become my man’s wife. He has been supportive, he doesn’t fight me, and he is a good person.
“What attracted me to my man is his God-fearing personality, his understanding ability, his great communication skills and his true love for me; he understands my passion – that matters to me a lot. You know, not many men would understand why I was helping Mr Hinga – they would, most likely, suspect that I had a motive; a motive to fall in love with Mr Hinga. But, my man never questioned me on why I was helping Mr Hinga. He has never questioned my moves either. Of course, I had to prove myself worth of the trust. So, the trust he has for me, the confidence he oozes in himself and the support he has given me, made me realise that he can make a good husband, and he is; I have no regrets.”
With her life on course, with marriage in the offing, does she know what the future holds for her friend; did Mr Hinga share with him his dreams?
“He has a passion of becoming a mechanic, and after he gets discharged from rehab, we will work toward that. He wants to be a professional mechanic, and I think he deserves that chance. The shop that we opened for him early this year in Ruai will help him to remain financially afloat after his integration into the community.
“On whether he plans to have his own family, I am not sure because he developed something called Schizophrenia, which is a condition where somebody is depressed but they laugh and enjoy the company of people they relate to.
“It is quite a challenge For Mr Hinga to develop new relationships with people. I don’t think he is even thinking of getting a woman to settle down with because he enjoys his own company. He does not speak to so many people. So, when that time comes, he probably will get that woman to marry, but for now, I think his concentration is to regain his stability,” said Ms Wanja.
Good deeds naturally attract admiration. On top of that, being beautiful draws more awe and attention to one. Ms Wanja has both – good deeds and beauty. Men are drooling over her; men want her to be their wife. She gets weird text messages on social media. She shares details about those messages with us.
“I am receiving plenty of relationship-cum-marriage proposals from men, but I am focused on one (man). It’s easy turning down those guys interested in me: if you are engaged, you are engaged; if you are married, you are married. So, there is no two-way about it. Those, who make advances toward me and realise I am taken, they react in two ways: One: give up, Two: continue persisting.
“Those who are persistent, I tend to ignore conversing with them because if I continue talking to them, I’d create a communication flow, which is not something I’d want. So, what I do: I tell them my status, and should they be stubborn, I ignore them. Eventually, the fire that drives their pursuit dies down. On social media, I get tens of relationship requests daily.
“When I scrutinize these guys, I learn that they are interested in me – not Wanja the person –, but Wanja the lady in the limelight.
“Being in the limelight is not easy, you can easily fall with a thud, do wrong things, and that is why I always ask God for guidance. There is pride that comes with fame, I try my level best to know what is my purpose.”
‘WEIRD’ APPROACHES BY MEN
“There was this guy who texted me, saying: ‘I want to marry you right away, and take you home’. When I checked his profile information, he did not even have a profile picture. People can be weird sometimes. I get plenty of crazy texts on a daily basis.
“Another funny incident was when this guy texted me, saying: ‘I have more money than the guy you are dating currently. Why don’t you break up with him, love me and I will give you more money and happiness than he does?’ As I said, one has to be really focused to navigate through such temptations. The funny part of all this is that my private life is all gone,” she says.
Ms Wanja sounds well-grounded, self-aware and stolid; I am convinced she is in a good position to offer young women, especially in today’s highly-materialistic society, nuggets of wisdom. I ask her for the word of advice.
With great humility, she says: “I have to acknowledge that the way I was raised up is not the same way ladies in today’s generation were brought up. Basically, what I can advise young women to do is give more to society and work hard. They should do a brilliant job in their academics, be industrious in work places, and be independent – financially and emotionally. I am tempted to think that women who are out to only-receive are lazy and bent on living beyond their means. So, if our ladies can be satisfied with the little that they have, I think we’d manage to do away with the cropping receive-only culture among our young women, who have been given the moniker ‘slay queens’. Above all, our women should fear God because, when they do that, He will guide us on what to do.”
And finally, Wanja Mwaura, a KMTC Nairobi alumnus, seems bent on humanitarian work. Will she hang up the boots on nursing and embark on full time charity work?
“I am not plunging into humanitarian work as sections would speculate. I assist where necessary and when necessary. Despite being a full time nurse, I still have to do charity work; there are people who still need our help. If their cases are genuine, I take them up and reach out to people on social media to chip in and offer financial support if needed,” she says.
“I am not planning to shift to full time charity work. So, it would be wrong to think I am planning to put up an NGO.”
The only-child to her parents concludes by sharing the life philosophy she subscribes to.
“’Give and it will be given back to you’: That is the philosophy I subscribe to. It is my favorite Bible verse. And what it means is not necessarily specific to finances; it basically says that God gives back in form of good health; a great family, among others, if you choose to live by His teachings.”