To say Patrick “Hinga” Wanjiru has been down on his luck would be an understatement. After becoming estranged from his parents when he was still at school, he moved into a squat with his grandmother. Despite having to skip classes when his grandmother could no longer afford the school fees and even though the pair were evicted from their squat, the schoolboy still managed to do well in his exams. But that all changed when his grandmother died and he dropped out of school altogether. Hinga descended into a downward spiral that saw him become addicted to drugs and living on the streets. Resorting to rummaging through rubbish to find anything of value he could sell to fund his addiction, the future looked bleak for Hinga. Until that is he recognised Wanja Mwaura, an old friend from primary school whom he had not seen for 15 years, on her way to the market in Lower Kabaete, near Nairobi. When Hinga called out her name, the nurse stopped but could not recognise the painfully thin tall man with bulging eyes dressed in a dirty hat and black overalls. It was only when he introduced himself that Wanja realised the man in front of her was the old schoolfriend she had known since she was 7 years old. “Patrick, or Hinga as we called him, and I had met at primary school in 1992,” explained Wanja. “Hinga used to be a great soccer player all throughout school. We nicknamed him ‘Pele’.” A far cry from the man in front of her who after a decade living on the streets, appeared distracted and unable to finish sentences. After buying him a meal at a local café, Wanja gave Hinga her mobile number. Over the next few days, the 34 year old managed to borrow phones so that he could regularly talk to his old friend, often telling her that he wanted to kick the drug habit. “I decided then, that something needed to be done to help him,” Wanja says. But with Rehab in Kenya very expensive, helping Hinga would be easier said than done. So the 32 year old nurse appealed on social media for help. “We set up a crowdfunding page, but we only managed to raise around 41,000 Kenyan shillings (£300) initially. However the cost of nine days rehabilitation at Chiromo Lane Medical Center in Nairobi was more than 100,000 KES. I wasn’t sure how we would be able to cover this.” Undeterred, Wanja took Hinga to the Rehab centre for a nine day detox. Staff at the centre were impressed with the patient’s commitment and within days Hinga was transformed. “A week ago Hinga and I couldn’t hold a normal conversation without me trying to hold his head up with my hand in order for him to concentrate. Today we can have a normal conversation with him confidently looking at me,” wrote Wanja on Facebook. Her post was spotted by Mombasa businessman Fauz Khalid who took up Hinga’s cause on Twitter. His post was shared more than 50,000 times which in turn led to Hinga’s story being covered by the Kenyan media and the Chiromo Lane Medical Center agreeing to waive the entire fee for his treatment. But Wanja is not stopping there. She is now raising funds for her old friend to go on a 90 day programme at The Retreat Rehabilitation Centre, as she explains, “Rehabs are expensive and out of reach for many people, not only in Kenya but also the greater part of Africa. I am committed to crowdsourcing so I can support my friend at this time…People say I changed Hinga’s life, but he changed mine too.” says Wanja. “I realise now that a small act can change a person’s life.” As for Hinga he told the BBC, “Wanja is an angel sent from God. I owe her my life. She has stuck with me more closely than a brother or a sister”. The Wonderful Wanja!
November 5, 2017