Daniel Maina, who prefers to use his nickname Daman, grew up in the streets of Karatina before a Good Samaritan came to his aid. From scrambling through the garbage bins for food to mugging people in search of daily bread, he has experienced it all. Presently a family man and entrepreneur, Daman narrates to HENRY KAHARA his first-hand experience of life in the streets and how he pulled through.
“I was born and to some extent brought up in a decent family but this changed when my mum parted ways with my dad. We moved out of the premises we called home into a small rental house in Kiawara slum in Karatina. We barely could fit. My mother eked a living doing casual jobs,” Daman starts off this interview with a brief of his childhood.
Daman, the third-born in a family of seven, was only 11 years old but was not comfortable living with his mother and siblings in that small house. He thus ran away from home and into the streets where he would have more ‘freedom’. But it wasn’t the size of the house or the search for freedom that really pushed Daman into the streets. There was another elephant in the room.
“I discovered that different men would come to our house in the dead of the night and sleep with my mother and at times with my sister all in the name of money. I moved out when I realised it was affecting me psychologically,” he shares.
In the streets, Daman survived by begging money from passers-by. One day, he made Ksh1,000, which he took to his mother and asked her to start a business, an idea that she was averse to despite taking the money.
“But you can only beg for so long in the streets as once you grow older, strangers refuse to give you money and rightly so. Once considered a grown up, it is survival for the fittest for the streets are a jungle on their own. Also, there are gangs and to survive you have to join one of them. Here, you will be taught how to steal. One would start by pickpocketing before graduating to mugging,” says Daman who once risked being lynched.
His new behaviour made him rub the authorities the wrong way and this saw him being remanded in police cells countless times. He became a common figure in the children’s court in Nyeri until one day a judge who felt that the boy had become a nuisance to the society took him to a children’s home.
“The magistrate grew tired of seeing me in the courtroom, as I was frequently arrested for petty crimes,” recalls Daman. But to Daman, he preferred the police cells where he was assured of food and shelter.
Life takes a new turn…
Daman’s life took a new turn in 1997 when he was enrolled in Mt Kenya Street Boys Home under the stewardship of Dr Wendy Middaugh and John Bovard.
“I remember well at that point I was around 15 years and didn’t know how to read leave alone write,” says Daman.
It took him a whole year to learn how to read and write before he was enrolled in a neighbouring school where he joined class four. Lucky for him, he was a bright student and he caught up with the rest of the class so fast that no one could have noted he had skipped lower primary school.
At that time, the government was also not very keen on pupils transfer so the school administration did not dig much about his past although his sponsor had briefed them.
“While I looked slightly older, there was not much difference between my classmates and I and this enabled me to settle quite fast. I was also hungry for education. I was appointed the class prefect because of my maturity. I was also very organised,” he notes.
But Daman missed home. He missed his mother and his siblings and he often wondered what became of them. He one day decided to write a letter to his mother just to inform her of the new developments in his life. He gave the letter to one of his teachers who resided in Nyeri to drop it at a popular shop in the town.
“My mum was well known so I knew well that she would receive the letter and she did for she sent one of my sisters to come and visit me as she was ailing at the time,” says Daman.
It had been five years since running away from home and the reunion with his sister was an emotional one. Soon after, his mother succumbed to illness but there was no one to bury her.
Daman approached his sponsor for assistance and she helped give his mother a decent send off. With no parent to look after them, Daman’s siblings wallowed in poverty.
His siblings’ plight touched him so much to an extent that it affected his studies. The home where he was staying took in the rest of his siblings and enrolled them in school.
With the knowledge that his siblings were well taken care of, Daman settled into life with little worry.
He sat for the Kenya Certificate of Primary Education in 2000 and later joined Nanyuki High School. He thereafter pursued music at Kamata School of Music.
“After graduating from college, I reconnected with my father. I don’t have any hard feelings for him especially now that I am a grown up and able to fend for myself. I am also open to support him in case he needs my help,” he says.
Daman urges people not to be too quick to judge street children or even mistreat them as some of them have serious issues back at their homes.
“As individuals, we have a duty to know we are all one and even before you judge them, take a minute and thank God for your life,” says Daman who is married to Caroline Mukami. The couple is blessed with two children.
“I am a musician and I have produced several albums. I also do motivational talks. Besides music, I also run a restaurant in Rongai, Kajiado County. When I was getting married, I feared that my wife may reject me as her family holds family values dearly but I am happy she didn’t judge me by my past,” he says.
When Daman first met Caroline, she was working with a children’s home and so she understood what it meant to be on the streets. She had also seen street children transform for good and so she chose to look at the man he had become and not the boy that he was.
Daman implores those who are able to take care of street children to do so. He notes that millions of children are living in extreme poverty in Africa without access to adequate water, sanitation, education, and healthcare services and people need to help them.
“My testimony is a testament that God is merciful for I am who I am because of His love toward me and I want to extend that mercy to others who need it. I am currently contemplating of starting an organisation to help the less privileged as I can relate to their lives.
I have done drugs so I know what it means to be a drug addict; I know what it means to walk on an empty stomach and so I feel I need to stand with the less fortunate,” concludes Daman, a staunch Christian.
Published January 2017