Joy Mukwanjero: Nairobi street lady narrates how her 23 years in America went to waste


The United States has for the longest time been the top pick for migrants with a sense of adventure and those seeking a new home or looking for greener pastures.

And just like millions of other migrants, Joy Mukwanjero had a similar dream of one day living the best life ever in the US and in 1986 her dream was partly fulfilled when she migrated to the US.

However, after living 23 glorious years in the land considered to be a free society, Joy was deported back to Kenya after immigration officers bumped on her without proper documents.

Born in Meru county and raised in Nairobi, Joy sat down with’s Kelvin Momanyi to share the intriguing story of how her life took a turn and everything came tumbling down for her.

Everything was going well for her as she was taken in by a relative in the US and she enrolled for computer competency classes before she moved in with a friend who wanted a roommate.

Luck continued to favour her and during one of the Jahmuhuri Day celebrations, she met other friends who had gathered to celebrate the day Kenya became a republic.

They talked her into joining them in one of the coastal towns in San Fransisco and she eventually ventured into the hospitality industry. While there, she joined the University of San Fransisco where she was determined to take a course in Political Science before she dropped out to focus on her job and met her ex-husband.

According to Joy, the man she fell in love with introduced her to a party life and slowly by slowly before she knew it, she had become an alcohol and drug addict. As a result, their relationship was affected and gradually became dysfunctional leaving them with no other option than going separate ways and Joy moved to a different town in California.

This marked the beginning of her problems as it was in this town where she was pounced on by immigration officers who detained her while she fought to remain in the country.

While it might have been a tough moment for her, a bubbly joy considered the detention as a detoxing period for her as she no longer had access to the illegals substances.

After two years of trying to find someone who could come to her rescue, she decided she had had enough and together with the immigration department, they settled on her being sent back home.

She was eventually deported back to Kenya in 2009 and on arrival, she started looking for jobs using the experience she had gained in the hospitality industry but no avail.

Desperate to heal and bounce back to life, she checked herself into rehab and while there, undertook a course to be a Chemical Dependency Addiction counsellor.

On completion, she was hopeful things would change for her and that she could find a decent job in one of the rehab centres within Nairobi.

While on a retreat, Joy decided to settle in Nairobi’s Ruaraka area in the hope that she could secure a job with one of the rehab centres next to the United States International University (USIU).

“There are a few rehabs here that I hoped to work with. So even if that did not pan out, I just moved here where I have been staying. We pride ourselves in having a garden setting. I work with the pruner who works here,” narrated Joy

She still could not secure a job and as a result, she settled for menial jobs and for the past six years, Joy helped with the landscaping of the business complex hosting Mahanaim Educational Institute.

Jobless and homeless, she was deserted by family and friends over what she termed as over dependency and not taking time to listen to her story to know what she was going through.

“It is in a public place and I can not be snoring there when people are still at work. I have to wait for people to go home so it is quite enough. It is almost like a homeless person sneaking in,” she added

But through it all, an outspoken joy is hopeful that one day her story will change and things will work out for her.


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