Street children face numerous challenges as they grow up, making them one of the most vulnerable groups in society. Their hardships include a lack of shelter and clothing, surviving alongside pigs and dogs, and the risk of rape for young girls. Despite these daunting circumstances, these children continue to hold onto hope.
Michael Mwangi’s remarkable journey from the streets to the skies serves as a powerful testament to the strength of hope. Born in Nairobi’s Eastlands, Mwangi’s life took a drastic turn following the death of his father. His family’s home in the Kiambio slums was plundered by his father’s relatives, leaving them with nothing.
With no financial support, Mwangi’s mother took her three children – Mwangi, his brother, and his sister – to the streets. Life in this harsh environment was particularly tough for Mwangi, who had to assume the role of the man of the house. He resorted to selling scrap metal to provide food for his family and paying watchmen to ensure his mother and sister’s safety at night.
“The constant fear of rape that street women and girls endure weighed heavily on me, and I had to do everything possible to protect my mother and sister,” Mwangi explained.
In the streets, Mwangi became acquainted with the damaging influence of glue sniffing and marijuana smoking, which was all too common. Whenever he shared his dream of one day flying a plane with his friends, they would dismiss it as mere hallucinations.
The dream of flying was born within him during regular visits with his friends to a landfill in Dandora, where they would scavenge for leftovers from the airport.
“Some days, the garbage truck would bring leftovers from the airport. The food tasted incredible, especially when we found bread and butter. It made me wonder about the meals served to passengers on planes,” he reminisced.
Mwangi’s life took a dramatic turn when a kind-hearted stranger named Fred Mwaura rescued him from the streets and brought him to the Joy Divine Children’s Home in Nairobi’s Huruma estate. However, his mother was not pleased with this decision, as he had been the family’s breadwinner. Fortunately, another benevolent Samaritan named Suzy Ngige, a businesswoman married to Captain Simon Ngige, a pilot, appeared in Mwangi’s life.
Moved by Mwangi’s story, Suzy arranged for him to attend school after consulting with the owners of the children’s home. Mwangi entered Standard Four at Moi Forces Academy, where life proved challenging for a former drug addict. Nevertheless, he remained focused and emerged as one of the top students by the time he left the institution in 2011.
He then joined Dr. Ribeiro Parklands High School in Nairobi, where his exceptional leadership skills garnered attention. Mwangi served as the Christian Union Chairman and the school’s president during his time in Form Three.
In 2015, Mwangi graduated from Parklands High School and, with the support of Suzy and her husband, enrolled in an aviation college in 2016. By 2017, he was already in the cockpit, co-piloting flights on the Nairobi-Mandera route alongside Captain Ngige for Rudufu Airlines, which Captain Ngige owned.
“It’s an indescribable feeling. Sitting in the cockpit and observing all the sophisticated gadgets overwhelmed me. I felt like shedding tears. As I sat there, my life’s story unfolded before my eyes,” Mwangi emotionally recounted.
“I remembered the countless hours spent on the streets, wistfully gazing at planes in the sky. I recalled the mockery and ridicule from my fellow street boys when I shared my dream of becoming a pilot,” he added.
Mwangi’s life was forever