Sammy Gitau grew up in a crime-ridden slum in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya. At the age of 13, following his father’s murder, he became the family breadwinner. He turned to selling drugs as there was no other option.
Sammy almost died after a drugs overdose and says it changed his life. “After the drugs put me in a coma, I remember hearing hospital staff telling me I was going to die and when you are dying, you make a deal with God. You just say, ‘Get me out of here and I will do anything. I will go back and stop children going through the same kind of life as me.'” He left hospital and began a project to help children in the slum where he grew up.
In a rubbish dump in the slum he found a prospectus for Manchester University and he decided that one day he would get a degree from Manchester. With only two years of formal education, no one took him seriously.
His project in the slums brought him to the attention of European Union officials working in Kenya, who, on hearing of his dream, helped him apply to the University of Manchester’s School of Environment and Development. The university decided his vast experience on the ground made him eligible to study and paid his course fees; his living costs were funded by charitable donations.
In 2007, Sammy was awarded a MSc degree in international development project management. His aim is to use his education and direct his energies at improving life for others in Mathare slum. Mathare is the most crime-ridden of all Nairobi’s slums where organised outlawed gangs reign supreme.