38 years ago, John Pete 54, had the worst experience of his life. Only 17 then, Pete sat for his Certificate of Primary Education (CPE) examinations and excelled with 28 points. This was a momentous occasion for the youthful Peter, who hails from Kokwanyo village in Home Bay county. Little did he know that his happiness would be short-lived .
Hailing from a humble single parent family , Pete’s hopes of joining Ringa Boys Secondary School shrunk as his mother could not afford school fees.
“Death had robbed me my father at a very tender age. Mum was just a housewife and was left with nothing to take care of us. Whereas few on my classmates proceeded to join secondary school, mine was a different case. I just heard of a new school life but never set foot in the compound. I bitterly wept, but how could I blame my mother of all the misfortunes,” recalls Pete.
With dashed hopes, Pete, a soft spoken short man, threw in the towel and begun a new journey towards realising his dreams.
“ For me, it was a catch 22 situation. I didn’t know whether to repeat class seven or to proceed to other areas of life. After a deep soul searching, I decided to move to Nairobi and open a new chapter in my life,” he adds.
A year later, Pete bundled his old rugged clothes in a small paper bag and took off to Nairobi where he would reside with a relative as he looks for casual jobs.
Pete’s reception in Nairobi’s Kibra slums was a story far much different from what many expect about the city. Life became harder for the young tenacious boy. However, he kept faith and responded with determination.
“ I secured a job at a quarry in the east lands of Nairobi, my boss would pay me anything he wishes and at times even refuse to pay me. I decided to quit and join the Jua kali industry in Gikomba’s Solidarity area,” he adds.
After two years of intense training, things started changing for Pete who had mastered the game within the industry. He could now work on contractual basis and make some cash daily.
“ Financial discipline helped me a lot. Unlike most young people in the Jua kali sector who squanders their money without any plan because they know they will get more the following day, I opted to make daily savings. Within only three years, I opened my own shop,” he says.
37 years below the line, Pete has grown a heart that is rare to meet in the sector. Apart from his personal initiatives, including constructing rental houses in Kibra, he has trained many youths willing to ply their trade in the sector for free.
This he says is something he does as a way of thanking God for bringing him that far. Pete now says he is sorry he missed a chance to go to secondary school but feels the same should not happen to other families.
“Jua kali has changed my life. I feared my children would undergo the same ordeal I underwent but through this, I have managed to educate them. I have also trained many youths. I don’t charge them a coin, my goal is to impart the skills in them and enable them create their own jobs,” he says.
There is a new dawn in Pete’s rural home as he has managed to construct his mother a modern house and invest in agriculture.
George Okello, who also plies his trade within the same area, is a true testimony to the golden-hearted Pete. When Okello arrived in town and begun his hustle, He met Pete who trained him for year and offered him employment when he finished.
“ He accommodated me in his workshop and encouraged me to make savings from the little I earne. After a period of time, he helped me secure a location and I established my own workshop,” Okello says.
Okello now attributes all his success in the sector to Mr Pete, a statement he make with all smiles.
“Were it not for him, I don’t know where I would be today. He has helped me to get this far. I am proud of him,” he says.
With over 40 years of experience in the Jua kali sector, Pete says there is a big business for people who have a vision.
“ The Jua kali industry is a sector with great potential. It gives room for creativity and job creation. However, most young men in the sector find it hard to invest because they lack financial discipline, perseverance and love for the job,” closes Pete.