toward the ledge:

changing the world thru loving and serving others. without agenda


the story of john ken….

here in africa, we fall in love with the country, the people we work along side of, those that we serve,  the community. literally, most every single solitary person that comes here loves tanzania.  and of course! we fall in love with the children – their eyes, their smiles, their beauty, their unconditional love, their strength of spirit despite what life has dealt to them.  yep.  we love them all….

but oh! then there are those that just reach out and really grab your attention.  their stories, their presence, their spirit.  this blog is devoted to john ken.  he has faced more in his young life than any of us could imagine.  but he looks forward.  he has dreams.  vision.    he is articulate, driven, creative and clever.

16 years old, he has been at msamaria center for street children for about one year or less.  so this all happened in his life not too long ago. one of our volunteers, faith (uk), started learning  a bit about his story and reported in her own blog.  then encouraged john to write his story.  so here it is –  straight from his own mouth and pen.  of course swahili is his native language so he has written this in english, his 2nd language.  typically, children here do not learn english until secondary school.

Title: What is it to achieve richness

My name is John and I once lived with parents. My father was an hotelian and my mother worked for womens rights. My father’s name was Mr. Kenneth and my mother was Mrs Matilda Kenneth. We lived at Nairobi in Kenya. We had a happy life thus I made very many dreams of my life. My heart was filled with an described joy since I had all my needs at my parent’s paws. My grandparent had all passed away. Our relatives broke all relation with my family due to fight against grandparent’s wealth. They all flew from Nairobi to other places far away from our family. It was a lonely family since I did not see my relatives especially my cousins. I was then learning at Thawabu Primary School grade 5. When I was in grade 6 my father retired from work which made life in Nairobi to be very hard. We were now depending on my mother for everything.

My mother had to overwork in order to get more money to ease our needs. Life became more difficult especially for my education. We had to shift from Nairobi and settled ourselves at Holidi; a border between Kenya and Tanzania. Due to overwork,  my mother became sick. She did not go to work for two months which made her lose her job. My dreams started to fade out. There was nobody to help us. We were living near Maasai settlement who never knew national language It was really tough for us. I had to drop out from school and engage myself in doing little labour in order to get money. My mother was very sick that my father had to stay at home to take care of her. It was really sad for us when mother started having a persevering cough. We ignored the state and saw that it is not serious. We did not understand that never judge a book by its cover. It was a moth now when her state became more worse.  We were about to take her to the hospital when she started coughing out blood She said that it was too late. She asked me to go and fetch water for her. Without wasting time, I immediately ran for the water. I can hurriedly knowing that I am going to save her life. Two steps before entering the house, I heard someone weeping. I dropped the glass and sat down. Someone could knew what was happening for the expression that was on my face. Tears of pain rolled down my shabby chicks. I pinched myself assuring that it wasn’t a dream. My father came out if the house. His eyes were red and watery. I knew he wanted to tell me something for he was struggling to open his mouth. He opened his mouth and said to me ‘Your mother has…..g…g…gone! I was shocked beyond measures. My heart almost skipped a bit. I remained rooted on the ground. My eyes became wildly opened. ‘ I think I didn’t heard your correctly, what d..did ..y.o.u…i..said” I asked trice not believing my ears. Slowly and slowly I closed my eyes and finally went into the world of darkness.

Opening and closing my eyes, my father was at his mental skill trying to take my back to consciousness. He was having his t-shirt out and up and down he went still. I could not believe what my father had told me earlier before. We buried her without the help of anybody because we had lose our relatives and the neighbours who were was a difficult to inform with them. My heart was like a broken piece of wood in the desert. I was lonely. I lived with my father. We all went to the street together in search of food and clothing. This went for four months. It was really tiresome but there was nothing I could do about it. My father really worked hard. He did not care whether it was raining or not; whether it was windy, cloudy, sunny or not. Due to his don’t care he was infected by pneumonia.  We went for his medical attention but found out it was really expensive. I has to take him back at home. I went alone at the streets and carry luggages and the money I get medicine for the right sort.

It continued for two weeks and the pneumonia had fully developed and they started swallowing the immune system of my father. He became very sick and even holding and lifting a spoon was too difficult for him. He had no strength even of raising his hand up. It was like I was holding his heart on my hand. I had to do everything in order to make him living. By bad luck, he too turned against the world and waved for it . It was too late for my help. My father had passed away. I was like traumatised I did not know what was going on. My heart was full of bitter pain It was like sharp thorns trying to penetrate deep in my brain.  I came to recognise that he was dead after three days. This was due to the food and medicine brought to him. I look at the body thrice try not to believe that he was dead. I dug outside not so deep and buried my father. I was now alone in the world; I had no family, no relatives, no friends. I did not know where to start or end. I did not know where to go or where to stay. My heart was full of sorrows. I continued to do my labour and the few money I get; I buy food and go back to the same house to sleep.

One day I was going to some labour, there was a heavy rainfall known as el-nino. It was some few metres before reaching the home when i heard the BAM! of the iron sheet. I stood still and tried to locate where the BAM was coming from. Oh! No, it was our house! My mouth was widely open and my eye couldn’t shut like that of an owl. My legs became as light as a lylon paper bag. I ran as my feeble feet could carry me and as fast as a deer. On reaching the house was finishing the down part. It was over! I went back to the street. My eyes were watery and red in colour. Tears rolled down my shabby chicks. I sat there think of what to do next. I thought of killing myself and aimed to do it, but I saw it was silly think to do.

I looked at Mount Kilimanjaro and said to myself, there is where my help is coming from. Though it was far but aimed to reaching there. On the next day I woke duo early before dawn and started my journey. I walked for miles and miles. From far I saw something glowing like a gold. I ran until there wishing to  pick even a piece of gold. Only to find out it was a gate. It was Tsavo National Park’s gate. I went in through the gate on with my journey. On the park I met wild animals such as elephants. I used skills in order to guide myself. It took me four days to reach Njia Panda in Tanzania.

Njia Panda is a junction connecting the road to Dar-es- salam and Moshi. I took the road on the right hand side of me; the road to Dar- es-salam and followed it. I walked and walked. On my way especially when I was hungry I used to eat unripe mangoes. I was walking with a knife which I took from home. I reached at a place know as Mwanga. I met some children there and asked them if Dar-es- salam is just near if I walked there by foot. On my plans they all started laughing at me. Once of them said even if I could have gone by bus it is still far. I sat down and try to lose hope. I watched as the sun setting at the western horizon glowing like a piece of gold. I went until Chanjale try to look for somewhere to sleep. I saw an unfinished building and saw it was good place to go and sleep. I went there and sleep. On my dreams, I dreamed that there was a snake and the snake was almost going to bite me. I woke up and really there was a snake. Using my knife, I chopped his head off. I got myself off there and went to find another place to sleep. Early in the morning I went back to Mwanga and try to think what to do.  I stayed idle until 12:00noon not knowing what was I supposed to do in order to get help. Finally I thought of something good to do. I went to stole some clean clothes and changes. I made myself clean and went to traffic police who where nearby. I told them I was coming from Chanjale from my aunt. That my aunt had given me thirty thousand as my ticket to go to Moshi to my father. I again said that I was coming to Mavanga and I loosed the money and that I don’t have any means to go to Moshi. They understood me and boarded me a bus. I was taken to Moshi  and I was dropped there. The first thing to think of was going to the cathedral. I asked the taxi men where cathedral was located. They directed me and without wasting time I went there; I greeted them and asked for help.  I told them what had actually happened before reaching here. They asked me to go and talk to the priest first. I went and told the priest. Not believing my ears and eyes the priest chased me out of office telling me I was a conman. I got out of his office heart broken. I went back to those guys and told them about the priest. Luckily they talked to one woman who really felt my pains. She made a call to orphanage and talked to Mama. Soon she came to me and told me it was time to go home. I was taken at Msamaria Centre for Street Children and met Mama known as Mama Machuwa. I told her what had happened and have out evidence of what I was eating on the way and the knife. I knew she really felt it for she shed tears as I was talking about what happened. She let me stay at the orphanage and from that day I was happy that I got somebody to help me.

wow.  can you imagine?  losing both your parents in such a short time, having to bury them yourself.  then your house falls in.  no family to turn to.  i can not imagine that happening to me, much less my child.

not only is he a source of strength but john is also a creative spirit. 

he participated in an art project with volunteer alison (usa) in february and is currently part of the photography project with volunteer laura (usa).  recently he brought me  a handful of his art; alison left behind paper and resources so that the children could continue expressing themselves through art and sell their work, to raise funds for msamaria with a little bit for themselves.  he was very excited because he knows that i truly believe in him and his potential.  oh, well.  i think he also knows that i will help him sell his art.   i thought this would be a perfect way to share his story and his art, and perhaps some of you will be led to help by purchasing art and photography…

in this slideshow, you will see john’s current art work as well as a postcard (suitable for framing) of john’s entry (the bird) in the may student photography competition.   $6.00 each

  • artwork: 50% to the artist, john, 50% to msamaria.  there are 7  4×6 paintings.
  • postcard photography: 50% of profits go to msamaria, 50% to the photography project.  note:  there are additional postcards and notecards (by the fab volunteer / photographer laura poortenga) also for sale.  let me know if you’d like more information on the other photographs

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payments to paypal:, please include ‘john ken’ and what you are purchasing, and of course your address for mailing.  the prices include postage by the way.

so today, be thankful for what you have.  that your children will never have to face such trauma.  but be thankful there are lovely young people in this world like john ken, who have faced hard times and still have a positive spirit and believe in their future.  he is truly a gem, we all love him and want to see good things happen for him.

visit f2a’s fb page for more photos and information about what we do

be love, you are loved.