A Helping Heart

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| This is the 106th story of Our Life Logs |


If life were to be pre-programmed, it would kill the fun out of every learning situation. It would be better to be born a zombie than live such a life. I’m glad that I made choices in my life with my heart, instead of being controlled by money.

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I was born in the tourist destination town of Mombasa, Kenya in 1973. Life was nothing short of blissful. We were a typical middle-class Kenyan family where I was the second born of five siblings. I was raised by strict parents, but I still managed to sneak out and be a typical boy. I would not miss a chance to go swimming, play football and hang out with my friends even if it would earn me a thorough beating from my parents afterward.

My father was a strict disciplinarian, but he managed to sit me down and make me understand his intentions for us. He took the time to listen to me even when he did not agree with me. As I grew into an adult, I found myself sharing most of my experiences with him. We were like best friends. It felt easier to just have him listen to me as I talked about the unpleasant stuff I went through. He shared my joys and failures with a knowing smile.

I began my early childhood education in Mombasa until I was in grade two. Then, my family moved to Kisumu when I was seven years old. The environmental change was easy enough, as the coastal town of Kisumu was as hot and humid as Mombasa. Though I was sad to leave behind my old friends to start over in a new town, the thought of new adventures and a chance of exploring a new setting with new friends was exciting, too.

Soon after settling in Kisumu, I was enrolled at Kericho Boys Boarding School. My parents felt that there was a need to have me enrolled in a consistent educational environment where I could better explore my abilities. I agreed with them.

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I sat for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE) in 1985 and proceeded to the prestigious Mukumu Secondary school in Khayega, Kenya. It’s during this period that I developed an interest in computers and after sitting for Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KSCE) in 1991, I enrolled to study computer programming.

I was fascinated by the discoveries I made while learning computer parts, programming and packages that I ended up tutoring other college students on the subject. I was able to earn some cash for my services. This encouraged me so much that I decided to learn more about computers part-time while offering tuition services to Gulf Consultant Company. They had a college section back in 1992 to 1997 where I helped students figure out how to navigate computer programming lessons. Students knew I would take time to explain concepts, and I found it fulfilling when they grasped my teaching. I did this for three years, and I would have continued doing so, had fate not decided to add a twist to my destiny.

I was offered a bank job as an IT expert in Nairobi. The position was lucrative, and the market was not flooded, so it would have been smart to take. I could live a comfortable life and afford the finer things in life. But having to move away from Kisumu did not sit well with me. My best friend, my father, had taken ill. He was diabetic, and this greatly plagued him. I couldn’t leave him to suffer alone.

So instead of a better future in the city, I chose to stay by my best friend’s side. His ailment was agonizing, and I felt like I was losing him each day. His ailment kept me home, but my father’s family business in pharmaceuticals kept me there. He had established it after his retirement from government work in 1990. So far none of my siblings had shown interest in the business. I thought that since I did not want to move to Nairobi, I could as well learn the trade and remain where my heart was, caring for my father. At the time, I was also engaged to the love of my life. We were happy, and I thought we were a match made in heaven. We hit a speed bump when she insisted that we move to Nairobi. I fell into an emotional turmoil.

“How could she not see things from my point of view?” I kept wondering.

After lengthy discussions and an adamant refusal from her to settle in Kisumu, I let her go, and chose my dad and by extension, the family business. I ran to my father with my pain, and his guidance was invaluable. I would marry someone who would stick by me.

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Just as he predicted, I was lucky enough to meet a girl in Kisumu who loved me and respected my choice to remain in my town. She encouraged me to pursue my dreams. We were blessed with 3 children, with our last born in 2006. I had my father to share my early struggles with, but unfortunately, he lost the battle in 2000. Pain had never been that raw. My confidant was gone. But he had prepared me enough for his demise, and though heartbreaking, I was glad that he was no longer in pain. My mother became my pillar, and she stayed true to me until she lost her battle to cancer in 2010.

I enrolled at Kisumu Tropical Institute of Community Health, now rebranded as Great Lakes University Kisumu and took part-time classes for four years. Coincidentally, a few months after enrolling at the college, my father had singled me out to run the business for him as he was becoming sickly. I managed the business part-time as I attended classes until I graduated and took the full control of the business as a professional in 2004.

Nicholas Posing for the cameras in Kenya
Me, posing outside.

I quickly realized that my true calling was in business, and my college background sharpened my skills and enhanced my customer approach. I can say I went beyond customer care. Unlike my father who was conservative and a strict adherent to prescription, I gave my clients more of my time. I empathized with them and listened more to the root cause of their problem before prescribing any medication. Sometimes, the state of the client is so dire, but she/he does not have immediate cash. In those cases, I don’t charge up-front. I feel it’s more important to give relief and then get paid once they can afford the medication. The joy in a client’s face safe makes it all worthwhile.

In 2006, my last son was born with Autism. The reaction from my community reminded me too well of why my choice of career was God sent.  The society did not understand much about Autism, and most perceive it as bad luck and a curse. For the affected families, we embraced and made use of the available support group to make each moment with the afflicted worthwhile. How people perceive autism is a challenge that needs a lot of exposure and awareness for the community, so they can become more understanding. I resolved to show my community the best of what an accepting attitude can do to someone.

I would love to say that I am grooming someone to take over the business in future. But I’m not because I don’t have someone. All my siblings took different paths, and my three sons have also steered clear of medicine or pharmacy. I believe children must be allowed to pursue their own interests, so I will not make them work for me. I may be forced to hire a manager when I retire and pursue other interests. I just hope whoever takes my place will be someone to whom human life holds greater value than money.

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My resolve in exceling in my work was further enhanced with a few visits overseas that allowed me to interact with different people and observe how they dealt with fellow beings. In May 2012, I flew out to visit my siblings, and my limited understanding of community service was expanded.

Nicholas taking a break from his tours in 2012
Me taking a break on a bench during my visits abroad, 2012.

One of my sisters was pursuing her PHD at Caroline Institute in Sweden, and I got a chance to visit her. The visit lasted 6 months, during which I had a chance to visit other places like Stuttgart, Germany where my elder sister lived. I explored the old army barracks and got to interact with a lot of fun loving people. I also visited Ikea in Stockholm as well as indulge in a fairy trip to Finland.

These visits taught me that equity and fairness should be accorded to all, like they do in Sweden. This is an important value that I have carried into my career and life. It costs nothing to appreciate the little things in life and treat people equally in all aspects of life. Sweden’s communal housing inspired me so much that I felt challenged in my own life. Consciousness of the environment is a lesson I learned but still find challenging to implement in my community setting where most of the population still struggle for the basic needs. Still, I hope to find a way to make changes in my community someday.

Nicholas unwinding during his 6 months tour abroad
Me posing in front of a fountain abroad.

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I believe that the way in which I treat others, along with my personal character, has drawn loyal customers and helped me acquire new ones. I classify myself as a liberal. I always believe that regardless of status or class, everyone is talented and has a right to something in this world. That right includes the right to better health care. I give my services to the best of my ability so that if should I die today, I would not doubt that I did my best to serve the people who really matter.

I’m glad I decided to take over my dad’s business. My experiences from taking this path has taught me the importance of equity. Everyone is equal and deserve a fair treatment. This is the slogan I live by and believes that if replicated time and again, it could heal our ailing world which is full of hostility and little to no regards to human life.

Section Break

This is the story of Nicholas Kinyah

Nicholas Oringo Kinyah married in 1997 when he was just taking a switch in his professional career. He is blessed with three sons. The last son, born in 2006 was discovered to be autistic two years after birth, and the family decided to manage his condition through dietary therapy as opposed to using medicine. Nicholas also enrolled his son in a special school where he receives professional care. He believes that when you are kind to those in need, your faith must be tested. How best you handle your test determines how well people relate to you in your professional and personal life. He plans to soon retire to his ancestral home in Rarieda, Asembo, Siaya County of Kenya. With his 19-year-old eldest son pursuing agricultural engineering at the university, he is looking forward to a grand teamwork of farming during his retirement.  He is not certain retirement means a stop to caring about others.  It is a part of him, and he hopes to share it for as long as he lives.

 

 

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This story first touched our hearts on May 29, 2018.

| Writer: Opondo Maureen | Editor: Kristen Petronio |

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