Humility Through Shared Struggles

Humility is an important virtue to possess and practice. It is associated with the ability of a person to be aware of their strengths and talents but not show off or think they are better than others.

Humble people treat everyone with kindness and respect, not with respect to their social status in society. They are open to learning from others and admitting their mistakes. They are ready to help others without expecting anything in return.

There’s a stage of my life that reminds me of a perfect scenario for demonstrating humility. Dan Oduor (founder and director of ROCK KENYA) often reminds me of the experience. I’m a beneficiary of ROCK KENYA’s high school scholarship and a long-time mentee of Dan.

In my sophomore year of high school, I was chased out of the house by my uncle and aunt. I found asylum in a house that Dan used to live in when he was still residing in the Kibera slums. 

Dan addressing scholars at ROCK KENYA facility in Kibera slums.

Dan continued to pay rent for years despite not staying in his former house. He knew that the house would one day help one of his scholars.

As the founder and director of ROCK KENYA, he noticed a recurring pattern among the guardians of his scholars. They would frequently, and without informing him, forcefully send the scholars back to their rural homes (hundreds or a thousand kilometers away), citing disobedience as the reason for justifying their actions. This practice led to a significant loss of school fees that Dan had already invested for the scholars at their respective schools.

The above-described incident is what almost happened to me. Fortunately, owing to my close relationship and open communication with Dan (I spent a significant amount of time at his office, which strengthened our bond), I promptly brought the issue to his attention.

Of course, Dan intervened by organizing several joint meetings to help resolve the issues between my guardians and me, but they didn’t bear any tangible fruit. 

Eventually, I moved to the aforementioned Dan’s house. Around the same time, another ROCK KENYA’s scholar (also named Dan) experienced a varying situation and joined me at the house. Later on, Steve, another local school-goer who struggled with a place to stay despite securing an education scholarship with a separate NGO, joined us at the house. It didn’t take long before Eugene, who worked as a barber at Dan’s nearby barbershop also joined us. 

I started experiencing challenges in making ends meet – especially securing daily food (mostly supper. I didn’t stress about breakfast – I banked on the school’s porridge at 10 am). Dan noticed my struggles and asked his barber to train me how to cut hair so it could be a source of income for me on weekends and sometimes evenings when I’m free. I learnt how to cut hair and soon it became a side hustle that I could depend on for buying supper, laundry soaps, and paying for hot showers, among other essentials.

Usually, as his principle, Dan doesn’t like giving handouts; he opts for long-term, sustainable solutions. But even during those days, when I wouldn’t get the time to cut hair, he would still support me by directing me to go pick foodstuff at a nearby kiosk at his cost (he would clear it with the kiosk owner the following day). 

I wasn’t alone in this tough journey. Dan also supported other kids, most notably Robert and Brian. Robert’s story is a touching one, I would not even try to narrate it here. We went to the same school with Robert and he lived alone as well. We experienced almost the same challenges. 

Robert (right) and I

Dan demonstrated humility by offering me shelter, consistently paying rent even after he moved out, and permitted me to move into the house with ongoing rent support. His willingness to address the arising problems with my guardians also demonstrates his humility. Moreover, his acknowledgement of my challenges in making ends meet and the initiative to empower me with the skill of cutting hair exemplify his humility and compassionate nature.

Whenever Dan notices arrogance in my words or actions, he reminds me of the above-described olden days. Or when my fellow scholars (Robert and Brian) lacked food and we had to share whatever was available as presented by either of us, or if we were lucky, Dan came to our rescue. Then, we treated each other with respect and we were humble, or as Dan regularly puts it, the circumstances humbled us.

By Melkizedek Mirasi

Lifelong learner.

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