Growing up in slums comes with quite a number of hardships and as many parents and children struggle to change the narrative, most end up living in the same cycle.
For Natasha Wanjiru, although circumstances almost pushed her to a situation of seeing no future, her story is different and has been an inspiration to many other young people.
Natasha grew up in Kawangware and was raised by a single mother who worked as a casual laborer. After her brother joined high school, their mother was forced to make a tough decision that would see her out of school.
She was later enrolled to a school Bridge Kabiria and since then, her life was never the same and her perception about education changed.
“I became more determined and focused. Before that point, I went to school just to be there as a formality but then I saw that I was changing, I could do more and I was learning about new things – it was exciting,” says Natasha.
After completing her primary school education, Natasha was among the best-performing students and although most students from her community could hardly afford to go to the next level of education, Natasha was more than determined to keep going.
She landed a scholarship to study at Episcopal High School in Virginia, USA and this was just yet another beginning for her academic achievements.
Some of the challenges she encountered while studying in the US was finding a balance between learning about a new culture, new people, and new ways of doing and her studies.
Even so, she eventually got a grip on things and even developed an interest in pursuing her University studies in the US after high school.
According to her, her mother was indeed an inspiration and is one of the many reasons that motivates her to do better.
“She’s courageous and someone who struggled to do her best and make sure her daughter believed in herself. She’s my role model and a woman of steel who has endured suffering with grace and dignity to ensure that her children get the best out of this life. I wouldn’t be where I am today were it not for her sacrifices”.
While undertaking her highschool studies, Natasha started an initiative dubbed Change-4-Change that is intentional about supporting young girls to get an education. So far, she has been able to help 45 girls get an education through her initiative.
Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Natasha who had completed her high school education landed a scholarship that has seen her join Sewanee college in Tennessee and hopes to be a change-maker in her community after completion of her studies.
“I want to use the opportunities I have been given to bring change to my community.” she told Bridge International Academies in an interview
In regard to getting the opportunity to study abroad, Natasha agrees that it has never been a chance to take lightly considering the nature of her background. Although she was never that ‘young girl with big dreams’ she is glad she is in a position where she can impact other people’s lives.
“As I landed in the US, I knew that I had been given the opportunity of a lifetime. Back home, I had not only seen, but also experienced, what it feels like to not go to school and feel trapped.
“Now that I had this incredible opportunity, I knew for sure that I could use my position to help make a difference in other children’s lives. I know how it feels when you realize that someone, somewhere, cares about your future,” she stated