40 Kenyan Men in America Diaspora Who Inspired Others and Set the Pace in 2018

0
21401

By Mukurima Muriuki

In August, African Warrior Magazine honoured 40 Kenyan women in the diaspora who are doing wonderful things for themselves, while giving back to the society, in America and back home.

READThe 40 Inspiring, Remarkable, and Motivating Kenyan Women in America Diaspora in Eyes of Kenyans.

This December, we would like to celebrate men who selflessly go out of their way, against their demanding jobs, maddening schedules and high inflation in America to give back to society or inspire the community of Kenyans living in America or domiciled in other countries.

Their singular stories evoke the possibilities that America offers, those who dare to dream and try. Some of the nominees went to America with meager means, armed only with hope and discipline and within a short time had earned their academic papers or started a business. For some, like Francis Kioko and Peter Gishuru, their businesses came to an end (Kioko’s shop that sold African artifacts went up in the flames of terror attack on September 11, 2001 in New York, and Gishuru’s Curio became a victim of Amazon and other online retailers.

Among the nominees are medical doctors who travel to Kenya frequently to offer free health care services to the impoverished in their respective villages, scientists and innovators, like Symon Gathiaka who is working on new generation cancer drugs. We have not forgotten those in the creative field like Benjamin ‘Benji’ Onyango, the renowned Hollywood actor who starred in God is not Dead, to events’ organizer Mike Otieno who has helped East African musicians and comedians host some of the largest, sold-out shows.

These men in one way or the other have pioneered, broken barriers, set aflame, nurtured, or added value in their varied career sectors. They are Kenyan men in the America Diaspora inspiring the community of Kenyans living abroad.

We hope that their stories can inspire more people in the diaspora to work harder, excel and give back to the society, be it materially, through mentorship, or ideas that can benefit Kenyans in America and back home.

  1. Lemuel Mwangi

Mwangi arrived in the US when he was 19. By juggling between two or three jobs, he managed to pay for his degree at the University of Washington (Seattle), where he graduated with a science degree.

Noticing his potential, his alma mater offered him a Research Scientist/Engineer job on his graduation at the UW Medicine (the medical and research division of the University of Washington, a position he held for several years.

Mwangi is currently pursuing a Doctorate degree. Kenyans (and other African Immigrants) in Seattle frequently consult him for advice for their own academic endeavors.

Besides academia, Lemuel is very much involved in the Kenyan community affairs. Most Kenyans in the United States know him as the Founder of “Kenyans in the United States”, the pioneer and largest Facebook group for Kenyan-Americans to interact with each other and with their Kenyan heritage.

2.  Ralph Kilondu

Kilondu is well known for his involvement with the Kenya USA Diaspora Savings and Credit Society as a co-founder.

As philanthropist, he has co-organized medical camps in Kenya, specifically in Nakuru and Machakos with over 5000 patients treated free of charge. His passion for education led him to sponsor children from poor families in Kenya; he pays for their tuition and connects them with employment services upon completing their training.

As a community leader, he has mentored and assisted Kenyan students to finish their college through his company which sponsors them as demanded by immigration rules.

Mr. Kilondu is a respected family man and a father of four accomplished young adults: A US Marine pilot, an anesthesiologist at Emory Hospital, a psychologist, and a high school senior. 

Suggested Read: Norah Orina, a beautiful star who has illuminated the paths for other young women in America Diaspora

3. Francis Kasyoka Kioko

Kioko immigrated to America, armed with a briefcase of Kenyan artifacts and crafts, a donation from his uncle who wanted him to sell the crafts in case he ran out of the $600 that the community had fundraised to send their son abroad.

That small safety net from the uncle became a national wholesale distributorship of Kenyan Crafts through his company Arts and Crafts Worldwide Inc. This investment would later all go up in smoke during the September 11, terror attacks in New York City.

Following the loss, he ventured into coffee business.  He co-founded the Fair-Trade Organization of Kenya (http://www.ftok.org), an organization that promotes Kenya coffee and identifies potential partners for trade as well as they offer any technical capacity to their partners.

The organization has also developed a leading Coffee Agronomy Farmers’ Manual. One of the coffee Cooperatives in Kenya that is under the wings of Kioko and his organization was selected to feature in a documentary by a leading USA coffee buyer.

Kioko is also the brains behind the popular Swahili Grill, a restaurant that prepares Kenyan cuisine fresh on order. This restaurant allows Kenyans, a world away from home, to converge after a hard day of work to unwind and exchange ideas over a meal and a drink.

4. Opanyi Nasiali

Mr. Nasiali is the first Kenyan immigrant to serve as a Mayor in the United States of America.

He has lived in Claremont, California since 1986. Prior to serving in the council, Opanyi was active in the community and served as a Traffic and Transportation Commissioner and member of the Mayor’s Economic Sustainability Committee.

Later, he was elected to serve the people of Claremont in the City Council, and would serve as Mayor of the affluent Claremont, leading it through its finest hour of a balanced budget.

In an earlier interview with African Warrior Magazine, Mayor Nasiali said that his most inspiring moment as Mayor was borne out of a motto he had run on: “Living within our means.” At the time he was running the city was facing up to $5 million annual deficit.

“I refused to increase taxes as some people in the community had suggested. Instead. I urged my city council colleagues to embrace economic development as a way of improving the city’s revenues. In addition, I was inspired by the fact that during my first 4 years on the Council, we had balanced the budget with surpluses three years in a row, not to mention that I was re-elected unopposed! All these were satisfying and welcome blessings.” He added.

5. Johnson Melly

Sergeant Johnson Melly joined the U.S. Army in 2012, and has earned many honors in the short time he has served the American Army.

He has received the Army Commendation Medal, Army Achievement Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and Korea Defense Service Medal.

Sergeant Johnson has a strict work ethic, he says, “A soldier’s work ethic is second to none and they will arise and shine through any circumstances to get the mission done.”

Sergeant Johnson inspires others by standing for what he believes in. His nomination is an honor to the many Kenyan serving in the different branches of the Armed Forces in America.

In April this year, Sergeant Melly was honored by the LA Galaxy as “Hero of the Game,” an award which recognizes courageous men and women serving the country and communities on a daily basis.

6. Ken Opalo

Ken Opalo is an assistant professor at Georgetown University in the School of Foreign Service and a nonresident fellow in Security and Strategy in the Foreign Policy program at Brookings.

His research interests include the political economy of development in Africa, elections and democracy consolidation, and sub-national governance in Kenya. Ken has a book manuscript in press with Cambridge University Press titled “Legislative Development in Africa: Politics and Post-Colonial Legacies”

Opalo is a renowned thinker. His articles in Kenyan dailies (in the last few years in the Saturday Standard) challenge the masses to think not outside the box, but without the box. He is a good example of the “intellectual” flow from Diaspora to motherland.

7. Erastus Mong’are

Erastus is the brains behind the Nonprofit StartUpAfrica founded in 2011 that focuses on young people and seeks to hone their entrepreneurship skills.

Beyond youth, StartUpAfrica supports adult entrepreneurs through programs from capacity building to linking startups with startup capital and mentorship.

“I was inspired by the Post-Election Violence of 2007,” says Mong’are. He wanted to help Kenyan and African youth in general to have opportunities and help fight poverty that often precipitates wars.

StartUpAfrica often runs a competition where high school students pitch their business and social innovation ideas and best ideas are short-listed for a national competition where the best are picked. The competition started in 2013, with 12 schools in Kenya and some from the state of Delaware being represented. Winning teams from Africa visit Delaware for the global competition.

In 2014, Moldova and more states in the US joined. The competition has since opened to Uganda and Tanzania (2018). They intend to open to other countries such as Burundi and Eritrea in 2018.

In the competition high school students form teams of four. A curriculum is then given to the teacher and a where needed, member of the community is roped in as a volunteer mentor. The students are then guided through developing a business concept that is submitted to be reviewed by reviewers of the NGO.

In the seven years of their existence, several businesses have emerged. There have been winners who have come up with value-addition concepts to agricultural products. There is a group that won by coming up with a device that warns the community about elephants are approaching.  The device sends signals to the farmers’ phone to act as a warning to move to safety as well as find interventions before the elephants destroy the crops. Another great idea was coming up with a foot-mouse for the disabled that help those without hands to browse.

At the global competition in USA, winners are given $10,000 (Sh 1,002,700) first runners up $7,500 (Sh 765,000) and second runners up $5,000 (Sh. 510,000).

StartUpAfrica is funded by individual donors and every year, there is an Annual Entrepreneurs Awards dinner in Delaware where they celebrate different entrepreneurs as well raise money for the cause.

In 2013, he was awarded the Kenya’s Presidential Head of State Commendation (HSC) award for his community service.

8. Isaac Kuria

Kuria is one of the more notable Kenyans in North Carolina. It was his initiative that led to Raleigh Sister Cities program announcing Nairobi as its fifth sister city. He has served as the Vice President of Membership for three years with the Raleigh Sister Cities, and sits on the board as well as serving as deputy director for Nairobi Committee.

If fully utilized, this sister city partnership will open many doors for Kenyans back home and those in America diaspora.

Isaac took the lead and diligently helped set up a partnership between National Museums of Kenya (NMK) and the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences (NCMNS) in Raleigh North Carolina.

Isaac is also the Founder and President of non-profit organization called Myles of Great Hopes (MoGH) which helps underprivileged schools and communities in Kenya and beyond. MoGH has a vision of Reviving, Empowering and Sustaining Hopes in clean water, sanitation health and education.

9. James Njuguna

Njuguna is an entrepreneur running (together with his wife) a healthcare staffing agency in Washington State. He creates job opportunities to Kenyan’s looking for healthcare jobs.

He works hard to access contracts with care facilities in order to continue creating job opportunities, which for the most part benefit fresh immigrants to US looking to settle into the fast-paced economy.

Njuguna stands out because, in an environment where there are Kenyan employers who judge their fellow countrymen based on their immigration status, James treats everyone with respect and upholds their dignity. He remunerates his employees very well, aware of their demands in a country where the cost of living is higher compared to Kenya

He teaches us to help people who are new in the country, the spirit of hard work, and dedication

10. Symon Gathiaka

Symon always knew he wanted to be a scientist. He is an innovator, and currently a senior scientist in the early drug discovery space for bio-pharmaceutical company in Boston, Massachusetts.

His daily routine involves working in multi-disciplinary teams of scientists to identify molecules with the potential to advance through pre-clinical to clinical studies and hopefully end up on the pharmacy shelf, next to patients who need these interventions.

In graduate school, Symon worked on a Type II Diabetes drugs, but as fate would have it, the post-doctoral studies led him to a pharmaceutical industry job in a company that has a stronghold on immuno-oncology. As such, his current efforts are on the next generation cancer therapies that will be helpful to Kenyans and Africans at large.

He admits though, he never thought he would be fascinated with drug discovery against cancer. And this is something he does now on a daily basis. He carries with him the hopes of so many Kenyans whose loved ones are threatened by cancer.

11. George Mokuasi

George is well known as the Cheerleader and No. 1 fan of the Kenyan Rugby team in the Las Vegas circuit. He mobilizes Kenyans to go watch the games and leads in chants supporting the team. On why he loves to lead in the cheering, George says:

“Rugby is engraved in my blood. Having played the game, I know what cheering can do to a team in the field. It gives them an extra boost. They are playing thousands of miles away from home and when they hear songs in languages they are used to, it means a lot!  They entertain us, and fans should reciprocate by entertaining them!”

Early this year when reports surfaced that the Safari Sevens had shortage of funds, George reached out to his friends through a GoFundMe appeal. He hand-delivered the cash collected to the team in San Francisco during the Sevens World Cup. In his words, “It wasn’t enough. But it meant a lot to the team.”

Suggested Read: Mary Kimari: My Special Needs Son Continues to Be a Blessing and an Inspiration

12. Mike Otieno

Otieno, is the brains behind Concentrix Entertainment, C.i.X Events,and  6iX ENT; platforms for talented young Kenyans to showcase their talent as well as bring Kenyans and Africans in Diaspora together to celebrate themselves and elevate their common self-view.

Two years ago, Mike helped put together an event in Las Vegas during the Rugby Sevens that attracted approximately 5,000 Kenyans over 3 days. The event featured performances by Tekno of Nigeria, Ali Kiba from Tanzania, and DJ Simple Simon, DJ Shinski, DJ Kalonje all from Kenya among others.

Mike has also hosted other events that include comedy, Culture Days, as well as Nightlife. And this is how Eric Omondi, Owago Onyiro, DJ Pierra, DJ Slim, Dubb DJs, DJ Fully Focus, and DJ Steve Junior among others have wowed crowds in California and other states.

It takes resolve to host these events, aware that Kenyans might not turn up, or their feedback would demoralize the desire to bring together Kenyans another time. Mike represents  event organizers and promoters and their never give up attitude.

Mike is also a former Gor Mahia soccer club player.

13. David Monda

Professor Monda teaches at the City of New York’s Guttman College. He is a regular political commentator in the media on various issues including those about Kenya and the Diaspora. Time and again he has demonstrated a  sober and moderate mind, even though his political views can be interpreted differently.

Prof. Monda avers that he is frustrated by the apparent competition among Kenyans in the diaspora rather than cooperation. He notes that in New York, there are very many successful Kenyans who barely know each other.

“We have recently begun a Kenyan diaspora group that meets twice a week to build networks, support each other and develop a spirit of comradeship,” he says.

Professor Monda notes three key areas that those in Diaspora should rally around: immigration reform, financial capital accumulation towards positive cash flow investments in the US and Kenya, and thirdly, connecting the diverse intellectual capital in the US to support education in Kenya.

For Professor Monda, there are baby steps being taken to realize intellectual capital flow to Africa. “Carnegie Corporation has a program of getting diaspora faculty to teach in Africa” he notes.

14. Richard Wamai

Dr. Wamai is a professor at Northeastern University. He earned his Ph.D. in international health and development from the University of Helsinki, Finland. Prior to that, he was a research fellow in the Takemi Program in International Health at Harvard School of Public Health. Before that, Dr. Wamai was a researcher at Oxford University (UK) Department of Social Policy.

His work focuses on HIV prevention, health systems and neglected tropical diseases (NTDs). NTDs are communicable (and preventable) diseases that affect the poorest people. Dr. Wamai and colleagues have recently built a hospital in West Pokot-a region with no healthcare facilities to combat NTDs.

In addition to his research, Dr. Wamai also teaches Swahili. Every summer he usually takes his students to Kenya so they can practice their Swahili as well as learn more about the Kenyan culture.

Dr. Wamai’s work on improving and delivering healthcare to the less privileged in society is a reminder that with passion and dedication, one man can change the world.

 15. Gideon Mwololo

Mwololo is an author with 5 published books to his credit and currently working on his sixth. These books are available on Amazon and Kindle.

Mwololo is also a song writer and producer, motivational speaker, preacher and loves soccer a bit too much! He enjoys playing the game with the over 35-year-olds where he lives in the state of New Jersey.

Mwololo’s philosophy is premised on always aiming higher to achieve his goals in excellence. His parting shot for Kenyans in Diaspora: “be your own champion; you can either hinder yourself or inspire yourself to greater achievements.”

16. Sam Mwaura

Mwaura is a resourceful person that helps bring together like-minded Diasporans together to complete a task at hand. He manages some of the most active Diaspora “WhatsApp” groups where Kenyans all over America share ideas and debate on topical issues.

As such, Sam can be defined as a one-stop concierge desk resource where various people seek to find direction, resources, and information that brings people together to help achieve a common goal.

Sam is also a Lay Leader in one of the fastest growing churches in Massachusetts-St Stephens Church Lowell.

His duty is to mentor, teach and coach the young next generation of leaders with biblical teachings.

17. Martin Thuo

Thuo invented a heat-free solder which joins metals without using heat. In addition, it uses little mechanical force (www.safi-tech.com) and low-energy conversion of waste to high-end materials (www.sep-all.com)

Thuo also established the Kenyatta University Foundation that has mobilized resources for the university and helping advance research and innovation.

Thuo has one ambition: to bring to the world low-energy processes to carryout high-end work. He hopes to transform the artisan (jua Kali) industry by leveling the playing field.

Thuo’s drive comes from a desire to tackle some of the world’s challenging problems.

18. Benjamin Onyango

It has been 30 years since “Benji” left the country, but he occasionally sneaks back home, for a shoot. He has appeared in films such as God’s not Dead and has appeared in hits like X-Files, General Hospital and Dysfunctional Organized.

Benji dreams to pursuing music, as he played a lead guitar for the only Rock band in Nairobi. But he is more famous for his acting than music.

Benjamin recently wrote the series “Wives” for which he doubled as an actor and director. The series production was a collaborative effort of his California based company, AMR Films, and a Nairobi based production company, Tafsiri Entertainment.

The Wives tackles the subject of polygamy in Africa from a satirical point of view and questions its validity if any, in the modern age.

19. Mike Mugo

There are a million charities, causes, philanthropists, a dozen UN departments dedicated to women. Surprisingly, there far few institutions that cater for the welfare of men. Yet men are no having it easy.

Mike Mugo, who lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and together with others decided this had to change.

“There are so many young men with no mentors, they have no fathers, they are mostly dead, absent or in jail,” says Mugo. And that is why he was a director at Men Impact Change (MIC). The singular aim then was celebrating great men impacting desirable change in community and getting those men to mentor the boy child.

Mugo is also a renowned political activist in Baltimore, is not just after helping young men find a compass in life. He is also shaping the politics of Baltimore, where he hopes to make the state to be a Sanctuary State for immigrants, in the wake of strong anti-immigrant sentiments through the western hemisphere.

Earlier in 2018, he had joined the campaign team of Kevin Kamenetz, who was the Democratic Party pick for the Maryland Gubernatorial Election. Kamenetz’s death in May was a big blow to his hopes of making Maryland a sanctuary State.

Previously, he has was involved in the election of Obama, where he camped in Colorado, to help, the man born of Kenyan father to be come the first black to be American president.

Presently he is also a go between the Baltimore County Government and the Kenyan and Africans to help push for pro-immigrant policies in the counties. His work has seen the new County Executive Johnny A. Olzewski to adopt the policies of his predecessors, that immigrant friendly.

20. Ngugi wa Thiong’o

Kenya’s and Africa’s finest writer, and one can rightfully call him the Dean of Letters. It is 54 years since he published his novel Weep Not Child, under the tutelage of Chinua Achebe. He was 26. At 80, Ngugi is still going strong, touring the world, delivering lecturers and keynote addresses from Bayreuth, to New Delhi, to London, to Johannesburg.

In the last decade his name has frequently been mentioned as a likely candidate for the Nobel Prize in Literature. Maybe he would have won this year, had the Prize not been suspended following the sex and leakage scandal at the academy.

The award seems to be going everywhere, but Africa, where the last Black African to win the award is Wole Soyinka in 1986. He has received several honours and accolades, everywhere, except back home.

Besides being a distinguished novelist and essayist, Ngugi has been advocating for use of African native languages and has spent the three decades preaching for everyone who cares. He has written some of his works in his native language, Agikuyu.

Presently, he teaches at the University of California, Irvine.

21. Mukoma Ngugi

Like his father, Ngugi, Mukoma took to writing and has become a distinguished novelist and poet.

Presently, he is an assistant professor of English at Cornell University.

Mukoma has become a notable literary voice about matters to do with the African continent, with several his works focusing on the African languages, identity, and African literary movement.

He has also been keen on the growth of Kiswahili and is one of the conveners of the Mabati-Cornel Kiswahili Prize for African Literature, along with Lizze Attree, the Caine Prize Director. Winners of the Prize walk away with $5000 (Sh 510,000.)

It is because of his proactive approach in dealing with African literary issues that Mukoma is a respected literati in his own right.

22. Prof Makau Mutua

Prof. Makau Mutua is a distinguished Harvard Law School alumnus, a legal scholar and one of the finest brains from Kenya living in Diaspora. He is known to speak his mind and never afraid of rubbing the wrong shoulders.

His scholarly merit and his resume is famous for its sheer size. And it has earned him notable with top world agencies and NGOs, including the World Bank, International Development Law and the Rome based, IDLO (Independent Development Law Organization (IDLO.)

Back at home, he is famous for his Sunday Standard column.  He has previously applied to be the country’s Chief Justice, and some argue was the most qualified, but he was beaten by the conservative Justice David Maraga.

23. DJ Fully Focus

He is arguably one of the top Kenyan Disc Jockeys (Dj) in America Diaspora. This year, DJ Focus made history in Las Vegas by becoming the first Afro beat DJ to play at Hakkasan, one of the world’s biggest & most prestigious nightclubs.

At a time when the world is going gaga over Afro Beat, SiriusXm introduced the Passport Experience Radio, a weekly hour mix show that plays some of the latest African music and other genres. And Fully Focus is the man behind the wheels of this African voyage through music.

Dj Focus’s diversity and acumen has seen him share the stage with some of the biggest names in entertainment: Usher, Sean Paul, Wizkid, Steve Aoki, Rick Ross, Shaggy, Davido, Machel Montano, Future, T.I, Tiwa Savage a host of others.

Suggested ReadMeet Kenya’s Fridah Mokaya; First Black Female to Attain PhD in Nuclear Physics from University of Connecticut

24. James Owino

In a country where minutes are measured in dollars, the first causality of the ruthless capitalist system is usually one’s faith. Unlike in Africa where people spend many hours on end in Church, in the diaspora, people often dedicate the fewest number of hours to church.

Not James Owino.

Whereas in the West people have generally shunned the church for financial (they are better off making an extra coin) and philosophical reason (religion increasingly does not provide immediate meaning to life), James Owino leads one of the most renowned choirs in the Kenyan diaspora communities: Umoja SDA Choir, in Raleigh, North Carolina.

Owino is a great singer, a talented pianist and a celebrated choirmaster. He travels with the choir around the US, ministering to diaspora Adventists among other believers.

“We are just ministering to people including Kenyans and attracting them to church, so that they can stay close to God, despite the pressures of Diaspora life,” Owino says.

25. John Gitau (a.k.a Gitts Wairimu)

Gitau went to America on a student visa to study Automotive Manufacturing but he would soon find himself exploring the medical field.

This year (2018), he graduated with a Master’s degree in Nuclear Medicine and having the honor of being the only African and first of the four in the United States.

“I was the best in the hospital clinical rotations. And on January 23, I sat for my boards certification examination which is offered by Nuclear Medicine certification Board and I passed” John tells African Warrior Magazine.

John hopes to conduct his research on ways in which health disparities in sub-Saharan Africa and other developing countries can be balanced out.

26. Alex Karundu

Mr. Karundu is the Managing Director of Seagate Holdings, LLC a Dallas, Texas based company that is one of the largest African owned, Transportation and Logistics Company.

Seagate has given a comfortable platform for many Kenyans migrating to Texas by providing jobs and other opportunities to excel in a world away from home. There are substantial number of Kenyans in logistics and transport in Texas, and Seagate is among the most influential companies of its kind amongst Kenyans.

Available data shows that Dallas city has the highest number of Kenyans in America Diaspora. In his capacity as Chairman of the Kenyan Advisory Council of Texas, Karundu is the  liaison officer for all visiting Kenyan dignitaries, and connects them with local authorities and Kenyans living in Texas.

27. Charles Mwangi

Charles Mwangi is the Director of Engineering at American Company Tesla Incorporated, the Elon Musk-owned company that specializes in electric vehicles, energy storage, and solar panel manufacturing.

Mwangi has been a Director at the company since November 2016 having worked at the firm for almost seven years.

In his LinkedIn online profile, Mwangi describes himself as an “Engineering Leader with substantial expertise in results-oriented leadership in a fast-paced company, product development for manufacturability, manufacturing process development, and new product introduction.”

Mwangi represents the optimism that Kenyans can excel anywhere in the world.

28. Gerald Mbugua

Four years ago, Mbugua and his siblings started Maktabas-Inc, a charity organization whose mission is to provide reading materials for children and the youth in both rural and urban areas, especially in the informal settlements in Kenya.

Maktabas (a library), was formed one afternoon after his sister had returned to the US from a trip in Kenya. During her trip in Kenya, she visited her former primary school and one of the concerns raised by some of the teachers she met was the lack of reading materials and a library in the school.

A Master of Public Administrations graduate from California State East Bay University, Gerald juggles between fatherhood, his job at Global Payments, a merchant processing company and keeping Maktabas-Inc going.

29. Dr. Acquillahs Muteti

Dr. Muteti arrived in Atlanta, Georgia from Kenya in 1999 to attend an ICT Conference. After seeing the plethora of opportunities available to him, he decided to stay and further his education in America.

After staying in America for many years, Dr. Muteti was struck with the reality of the pain and suffering of those in the diaspora who have lost loved ones.

He realized that the churches did not have monies readily available to assist these families. He explained, “They would get anywhere between $1000 to $1500 if they were lucky. Local welfare associations weren’t any better – some offering up to $1,500. The main question was what to do with the money. Do you buy an air ticket or send the money to Kenya?” Out of the necessity to find a lasting solution, Dr. Muteti started the organization, UKARIMU, that helps in facilitating bereaved families to bury their beloved ones.

Besides bereavement support, its members receive up to to $8000. They also receive assistance with airline tickets to Kenya from anywhere in the US, discounted accommodations in major Kenyan cities for holiday, and discounted mortuary services

30. John Baresi Odhiambo

John Baresi Odhiambo is a name that lingers in the minds of Kenyan soccer lovers after his epic performance against Nigeria – Super Eagels at Kasarani Stadium during the 98 World Cup qualifier match.

After the match Nigerian superstar Jay Jay Okocha applauded Odhiambo’s performance, in fact, most of Nigerian players were under the impression that John Odhiambo played professional soccer in France following his brilliant display in the midfield. His man to man marking on Okocha and tackles on Nigerian players were the talk of the town for a long time after the match.

John Baresi Odhiambo managed to get a study scholarship to the U.S.A where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Business and went on to do a Master’s degree in Business Administration. Odhiambo currently resides in New York where he works in corporate America.

In a year where Harambee Stars are playing some of the best soccer since the Baresi era, John represents the future soccer players hold post their playing days. That they can succeed in the corporate world, if they choose to explore that route.

31. Benson S. Bonyo

In the early 1990s, Bonyo raised enough money to attend college in the U.S., but he made a promise to return to Kenya and provide health care services that are badly needed back at home.

He earned his medical degree from Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine. He collaborated with other medical students there, and together they formed the Student Health Assistance Rural Experience (SHARE) Kenya program in 1995.

Bonyo established his own medical practice in Akron in 2001 where he currently provides medical care to people of all economic statuses, many of whom are otherwise underserved. Bonyo also works with agencies in Akron to provide refugees with health care.

Bonyo travels to Kenya at least three times a year with teams of medical volunteers. Some are students from the Kansas City University of Medicine and Biosciences, where he has developed a partnership.

32. Jared Otieno Abuya

It is not easy to get a chance to model for some of the top brands in America. But Jared does, just that.

A chance meeting with a photographer at a club five years ago introduced him into a career in modelling and his star has been rising ever since. He has modelled for AKOO, Sean John, Macy’s and Abercrombie & Fitch.

He has worked with The Bailey Agency which Cynthia owns. He’s as a result appeared on the Real Housewives of Atlanta reality show and considers most of the cast mates his friends. Abuya has also made cameos on T.I & Tiny’s Family Hustle and the series Single Ladies.

Jared has also collaborated with Wallmart, Sears and done fashion shoots for various popular magazines in America.

33. Peter Gishuru

Gishuru went to the United States in 1963, shortly after Kenya gained her independence and at the height of the Civil Rights Movement in America, inspired by the Tom Mboya airlifts

Gishuru has succeeded in bringing awareness of the many businesses opportunities in Kenya that are available to Americans. He has made it his life mission and believes that when people in the diaspora give back, Africa will be able to shine brighter on the world stage.

He has worked as a substance abuse counselor, and previously he ran a curio business that sold African artifacts which became an instant success in the 14 years it operated before it fell on the swords of Amazon and other upcoming technology-oriented retailers.

Gishuru continued his interest in politics and noticed that toward the end of the cold war in the 1990s, Africans in Diaspora were feeling marginalized. He wanted to be an effective change agent for his countrymen, therefore, he created the African Chamber of Commerce.

The ultimate goal of the organization was to educate Americans about Africa. Their mission was to improve the image of Africa for her to be viewed as a business partner instead of a continent dependent on foreign aid.  As he was working with the African Chamber of Commerce, he was introduced to Jim McDermont, a medical doctor who had recently returned to Seattle from then Zaire.

Dr. Jim McDermott was running for a Congressional seat in Washington’s 7th District.  He was fond of Africa, and Gishuru believed that his new friend could be the voice for Africa in the United States Congress. He fondly remembers Congressman McDermott asking him, “What can I do for Africa?”

Congressman McDermott went on to introduce legislation called AGOA (African Growth and Opportunity Act) which opened the American market for African products. Peter recounts that period:

“Congressman Jim reached out to us at the African Chamber of Commerce, and asked us to be the foot soldiers, to call the other members of Congress and ask them to support this AGOA legislation.”

One of the most exciting experiences for Gishuru was when he learned that his hero, Nelson Mandela, was coming to speak at Seattle University. Being an Alumnus of the university, Peter went to the university president and asked if he could meet Mandela. He was given the contact information of the facilitator who oversaw organizing Mandela’s and his wife Graca’s trip to the university from South Africa.

Providentially, Gishuru called the contact and the man on the other end of the phone said, “Peter, I am from Cameroon and an African just like you. I can assure you that at every event where Nelson Mandela speaks, you will have 10 tickets! There is a meeting tomorrow morning for those planning the visit. I invite you to join us.”

Today, Gishuru remains involved with the African Chamber of Commerce which is now 20 years old. From his experience, he has seen that most Congressmen know more about Asia than they do about Africa. He believes that the African Diaspora’s duty is to teach Americans about Africa.

Gishuru describes meeting Mandela and shaking his hand as “a dream come true” and words Mandela uttered in Seattle years back are still clear in his mental sheets:

“You Africans in Diaspora. You are blessed. You are going to have to remember that you are the bridge between the resources and where the resources are needed. Make sure you bring resources to our people.”

34. Nixon Muiruri

Muiruri is a passionate biker. A passion he uses to raise funds for Food 4 Education, a non-profit organization that provides subsidized lunch to school children in Ruiru, north-east of Nairobi.

Currently, the program caters for 2000 children in six schools and has served over 250,000 meals.

On using his biking passion for a greater cause, Muiruri notes:

“One of my hobbies is road biking and over the summer given that I live in New England, I ride a lot. Initially It all started as a project to raise awareness of the program, but then I added a challenge to it.

I have committed to do 1000 miles every summer from Memorial Day to Labor Day (May – September) to raise funds for the program. The way I source funds is to ask for sponsorship from well-wishers. We are currently pursuing a 501c designation which will make us tax exempt and also allow  companies making donations to benefit, tax-wise.”

Some of the memorable moments for Muiruri while working with Food 4 Education include a partnership with www.akshayapatra.org/ , the World’s Largest NGO-Run Mid-Day Meal Program Serving Wholesome School Lunch to Over 1.76 Million Children in 14,702 Schools Across 12 States in India, whom the idea is based out of.

35. Gitau Munge II

Gitau Munge II is a renowned Metrology Process Engineer based in Washington State.

He is a graduate of Washington State University, where he earned his Master’s in Mathematics and Physics (Material Science).

He is a community organizer and former secretary of Northwest Kenyan organization with over 3000 members.

He is a co-host of Prudential Show, a talk show that examines various topical issues amongst Kenyans in America Diaspora. He is very passionate to whatever that concerns the diaspora community. He is also a philanthropist and has helped various Kenyan community undertakings in the USA.

36. Maurice Oduwo Oketch

Oketch partners with Anekant Community Center of Southern California to take free medical screenings to Kenya.  Anekant center has conducted successful medical camps in India and Jamaica.

This partnership has seen self-funded teams of volunteers travel to Nakuru and Kisumu, where they have conducted successful missions that focus on: Urology, Ophthalmology, and Orthopedic areas of medicine.

Through their efforts, the community impact provides free healthcare to those who have little access or ability to afford it.

They educate and work with local specialists for up care for patients and share supplies and methods of treatment and prevention to improve local healthcare.

Every January, Maurice takes a group of tourists from America to visit Kenya and also explore Mt. Kilimanjaro.

37. Nesphor Wakoli

Earlier this year, Ness went public with a story that many Kenyans living in Diaspora know too well, some from personal experiences, but choose to keep mum perhaps because no one wants to admit having been a victim of con men and their dirty tricks.

Having the guts to tell his story and to seek help makes Ness stand out from the rest of us. He fell victim to a con game orchestrated by a fellow Kenyan in Diaspora he had met in Kansas. In the end, close to 10 million Kenya shillings ($100,000) from his personal savings and money borrowed from family and friends went down the drain

After activist Boniface Mwangi highlighted on social media Ness’s frustration in getting justice, the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) announced he had taken up the case.

By sharing his story, Ness reminds us that in the journey of life, there will be mistakes to be made, some very costly, but it that desire to right wrongs that define our humanity.

38. Bob Mwiti

Bob came to America, went through college and eventually graduated with a master’s degree. His journey was not all smooth, a representation of what many Kenyans in Diaspora go through, yet never giving up.

He started off working minimum wage jobs. His determination though saw him secure an IT Consulting job and the experience gained led him to starting his company Appstec america through which he helps his fellow Africans in America secure good jobs by training them.

Over the last 5 years Bob has also taught and placed lot of people into the IT world word precisely Oracle Implementation in Financials

 

39. Milton Ochieng

Dr. Milton Ochieng’ easy smile and modesty may not reveal a lot about who he is.

A gastroenterologist (diagnose and treat digestive disorders, such as stomach pain, ulcers, reflux, constipation and Crohn’s disease) in Missouri, he received his medical degree from Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

Dr. Ochieng is fluent in Spanish, French and Swahili.

Together with his younger brother Fred Ochieng, Milton started a community health centre back in Kenya that has seen significant drop in maternal deaths and HIV-related deaths.

Dr. Ochieng has also worked on empowering women through schooling and setting up income generating activities like sewing and farming in his village.

40. Immanuel Gitamo

Immanuel is the embodiment of kindness and a big heart that willing to help those who cross his path, and in need. A reader left us a note about Immanuel that read:

“He gave me a place to stay when I was stranded and my fellow relatives and friends abandoned me.

He did not known me, and did not ask who I was or my history as other people do, but he welcomed me to his house in unconditional way and took me as a brother.

Immanuel has the determination to help others even when he has his own struggles. And a smart man he is, pursuing PhD in astrophysics. May God bless him.”

 

When not writing about Diaspora, Mukurima loves to talk about his village, Baricho in Kirinyaga.

For compliments or criticism, write:

info@awmagazine.org

Comments

comments