The story of James Mwakichako

On Wednesday 27 1993, twins were sent forth to the earth. Born as the last born in a family of four, I had a somewhat normal childhood upbringing. I went through periods of lack where I only got the basic needs to life. Growing up, I went to public hospitals which were normally overcrowded and the services rendered were not the best. I did not have the privilege to have a leather soccer ball but instead used polythene bags and strings and utilized my artistic skills to make a soccer ball.

Every child but me, has great memories of their first kindergarten teacher. My teacher believed I was dumb and would not amount to anything. She even recommended that I be taken to a special education school. All that was to change when I my mum decided to take me to a different school. I went to primary school at Mwatate Junior Academy, a school in the coastal parts of Kenya.

Mwatate Junior was a new school at the time and most of its classrooms were still under construction. The school did not have electricity or piped water. In order to get water to clean our dorms and bathe, we had to wait in line and fetch water from an underground tanks. In the dry season, water supply was rationed and one could only receive up to one bucket full to meet all their sanitary needs.

The classroom environment was not free of challenges too. Since we did not have windows, the evenings would get particularly uncomfortable due to the biting cold. We used a generator to provide electricity from seven to nine in the evening. After nine, all students who wanted to extend reading had to use oil lamps. I was among the few who pressed on. You can safely say, I burnt the midnight oil.

What pushed me was the desire to be a meaningful person in society. When I wanted to give up, my dream kept me on my toes. In my final year, I had to take a national exam to qualify to join high school. My dream school was Alliance High School. A school that had produced great leaders in Kenya and Africa. No student from Mwatate junior had ever been admitted to Alliance.

It was at Alliance that my academic prowess and leadership skills shone brightly. From being an assistant class prefect in my first year, I rose to becoming a chapel warden in my second year, then chairman of the house (dorm) committee in my third year. In my final year, I ran for School Captain, the highest office a student could ever hold. The verdict of the teachers and students were in tandem and I was appointed to the post.

May 2010 will forever remain a special month to me. This was the month I met Esther Nyarwai Ndegwa, CEO of Enco Communications. A tall beautiful lady with a heart of gold. She came to my school to select a student to attend the Ultimate Life Summit. After spending time with her, I fell in love with her ideas and dreams. Without her coming into my life, I highly doubt if I would be where I am. She provided a platform every ambitious student yearns for but only a few get it. Her dream for Africa was the catchiest part of our conversation. She believes in a self-relying and successful continent that will be a trend-setter in technology, infrastructural development and human rights. Reading her story in the Standard that following Sunday was even more humbling. Her story screams one thing: HOPE!! She is simply one of the biggest gifts I have ever received in my life.

I attended the Ultimate Life Summit in July 2010 and it was life changing. I was taught the seven mindsets of the most successful people in the world and that has since formed a compass in my life. I also made very important networks that have propelled me to where I am now.

When I came back to Kenya, I sat my KCSE exams and emerged 39th best student in the republic out of 350000 scoring straight A’s in all the 8 classes I took. I was then admitted to Emory University in Atlanta and Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT) in Chicago. Although Emory is more world renowned, I chose IIT since they offered some form of scholarship. I enrolled in August 2012 as an Applied Mathematics major. In my first semester, I had a Grade point Average (GPA) of 4.0 out of 4.0 and was on the Dean’s List. In my second semester I averaged a GPA o 3.82.

I then got the opportunity to attend Georgetown University in Washington DC as I was among the 200 students out of over 2000 who applied to be selected. Georgetown is one of the best schools in the world now.

One of my greatest role models of all time, Muhammad Yunus, who founded the Grameen Bank is widely considered as the “Banker to the Poor.” He has established a bank that is devoted to providing loans to the poorest in Bangladesh. After reading his book, I developed a bigger perspective on life. I want to become the “Insurer to the poor” and like Yunus, break the vicious cycle of poverty in Africa starting with Kenya my homeland. Having experienced poverty when I was a kid, having access to medical services was a struggle. Many children in Africa die daily because their parents cannot afford health care. I would like to study Applied Mathematics and minor in Business Administration at Georgetown and thereafter become an actuary.

As an actuary, I plan to start an insurance company in Africa that will offer affordable premiums to poor people so that they can access respectable health institutions. I am convinced that Georgetown would provide the much needed environment and support for my dreams.

Providing any sort of financial help would be a dream come true. I will be grateful, Kenya will be grateful and Africa will smile.

May the good Lord bless you. | James Mwakichako

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