Brother John Njuguna was the Principle of St.Joseph Vocational Training Centre Kamuli between 2001 August and 2014 August.
St.Joseph Media had a chat with him on 16th October 2014.
Tell us your full Names?
John Ngigi Njuguna
When did you begin the Salesians services?
Give us a brief history of your Service.
In 1979, a Youth Group was started in our local church by then known as Ol Donyo Mara Catholic Church, I was only 12 years old by then. The leader of the group now Fr. Francis Ngumi Kamau was a very friendly person and he inspired many of the community young people to join the group. We had a number of activities like Bible study, singing church hymns, acting Gospel verses, visiting the sick and helping aged people. It was so nice to be among the pears and with a very passionate guide.
For three years the group had become a very good training ground for many young people. In 1981, I did my primary examination and I joined senior one in 1982. The school was a day school known as Bahati P.C.E.A Secondary school. It belonged to the Presbyterian denomination and it was a day school. As such we had to rent some houses for our accommodation for school was roughly 15km from home.
We could report to the school on Sunday evening and visit home over the weekend. There was a challenge in getting transport to the school on Sunday after 12:00 pm and if one was to travel it was a must that you should get the vehicle before noon, or otherwise you walk the 15km. On the other side the Sunday services was always scheduled for 11:00 am and could end at 1:00 PM. It meant that I was unable to attend the church service and I became lazy even holiday time I did not feel the need of attending the church service.
Completing the four years of Secondary school was a real gamble, at one time I almost dropped out of school for lack of School fees. In one occasion I was sent home to collect the school fees and Mum had nothing, she had not even paid what she had borrowed for other term. She decided to accompany me to the School and talk to the school administration so that they could allow me to study as she looked for the money. Since I did have a good record in prompt payment, the request was rejected and we had to walk back home with her. On the way we talked on different issues and at one time both of us became silent and for long I can’t tell, I remember turning and looking at Mum and I saw her tears rolling. This incident has continued to haunt me until today.
On reaching home we had to come up with a strategy on how to raise the money and best option we could opt for was that of preparing local bear and selling to raise my school fees. We did it and on weekend I could come home and spend the whole Saturday and part of Sunday morning selling the local brew. We could divide the money got according to the various needs and I could take my share to the school and in this way I managed to complete senior four.
After completing my secondary school in 1985, I wanted to join the Teaching profession, I went for an interview but I was not successful even after walking for 10km (Kabazi- Subukia). In1986, I was engaged in different casual activities, like digging for people at home, buying grains on behalf of middlemen among other works. Around November 1986, I decided to go and visit my uncle in Kiambu, near Nairobi where our ancestral land is situated. I talked to him and requested him to allow me to assist him with garden work as he pays for my Vocational training. Things were not easy for the whole of 1987, as I could wake up, Milk the cow, feed them and then move to the Training centre which was five kilometers away. On finishing the one year course in Electrical, I got job in Nairobi but the payment was so low that we could not make the ends meet. I worked for six months, I quitted, I went as a bar man in Juja off Thika Road. The bar belonged to my Uncle, I became so successful in the work that I could sell off the whole of my stock in a night. I asked my uncle to increase the stock to avoid disappointing the customers but he was unwilling. After my analyses, I found that I could not develop myself and also develop the business with low stock. At the end, the bar business was closed and I joined the transport system as a conductor. The whole on 1989, I was ferrying passengers from Gatundu to Nairobi. In this work, there was money but the question of lifestyle confused everything. I could spend all my day’s earning in one night for I was sure that tomorrow I will get more money. Impulse spending was at its high peak.
In December of 1989, I was seated somewhere in Ngara Nairobi which was the stage for Gatundu vehicles, and all over sudden my eyes fell on a fellow bus conductor who could have been in his forties, he looked miserable and un attractive and a flush of though cut across my mind and a warning was imprinted in me which stated, John, if you don’t change you will end up like him. There and there I decided to quit my job basing on the fact that for a whole year apart from the few cloths I had bought there was nothing more to show. It is good to mention that in that same year I had been twice locked in a police cell and in one occasion I spent the night in the cell and appeared before the magistrate on charges of being drunkard and disorderly. I paid the fine and I was sent free on the second occasion I bribed my way out of the cell.
In 1990, I joined my cousin who was a street mechanic in Nairobi; I wanted to learn the course of motor wiring. My cousin was good in his work and we could indeed earn good money. His major challenge was he was using drugs and alcohol. Partly he introduced me to the habit and I almost became a victim. At the same time, the political situations was becoming very hard in Nairobi as politician we agitating for multiparty system of government. Being arrested for no good reason became a normal thing. Sporadic confrontations between the police and youth sponsored by political activist made Nairobi inhabitable. It was at that moment that I decided to go back home in Nakuru and start a new life. On reaching home, I decided to concentrate on farming where I was growing vegetables and selling to the locals.
In all this time, I had no interest of the church and if I could go, it was for the night mass in December just to disturb others. It was one Sunday that Mum confronted me to tell her why I was not attending the prayer services, I had no answer but I promised her that I would change. The following Sunday, I landed in the church after almost nine years gap. The Youth group, which I was a member nine years back was making some presentation to the Christian, in their signing, the base voice was weak and I felt that I could join them and reinforce the base. After the service I met the group and I was accepted back. Within three months, I was elected as the secretary of the group and using my experience on life issues, I assisted the members to avoid most of the mistakes I had made in my life. I became a practical resource person and parents were really appreciative of my contribution to the group.
In one occasion, we had a youth camp and the priest invited us to kneel around the altar and ask God any favor, for me I asked for the grace to serve God among the Youth and from that moment there was always a strong attraction towards the youth.
Once I was in the Sacristy, I saw a calendar belonging to the Salesians of Don Bosco, there was an invitation to apply if one wanted to join them. I decided to apply and I did it.
One of the Christians, sported me and introduced me to his friend who was in need of a person to work as a property manager. He was about to complete a building of six floors and needed someone who could coordinate the client. I moved from Nakuru back to Nairobi in 1992. The work was good and I was promoted to work as site foreman, given a company house and a vehicle.
In 1993, December, I visited home and I got the reply from my application the Salesians, it was discouraging as it was stated that, they prefer students from their schools who are not more than 20 years old, by then I was 26 years old. I came with the letter to Nairobi and I gave it to one Salesian, Fr. Liptak Edward, who was coming for mass at Kibera Line Saba. He advised me to go and meet the vocational director by them he was Fr. George Kocholical. Fr. Accepted me and we started a dialogue to clarify my motivation.
In January 1994, I was accepted for the Pre- novitiate in Embu –Kenya and on August 15, same year, I was admitted to the Novitiate in Moshi Tanzania where I made my first profession on the 15th Augusts 1995.
After the Novitiate, I did two years of Philosophy and in 1997, I was posted in Nairobi Boys Town for two years pastoral work. In 1999, June I went to India where I did two and half years training in Electrical installation. I came back and took my final vows in 2001 August and was appointed in Kamuli as the Principal.
When did you Join St. Joseph VTC Kamuli ?
Which projects did you implement in the school?
I prefer my beneficiaries to talk about this.
What did you achieve in the years of service in St.Joseph VTC.
I have achieved partial human and spiritual growth in my years of working in Kamuli. I feel proud for the many young people that have gone through the school and they are now living a better life. For the many people who are able to put food on their table because of the existence of St. Joseph. This what I regard as my achievement.
Your name is so Popular, even known by children, How did you do it?
I am not sure what I did in an extraordinary way but what I know is that I always tried to do ordinary things in a different way. I was inspired by this quotation
“winners don’t do different things. They do things differently.” Shiv Khera
Some people Call you the “shining Star” of St. Joseph VTC, what is your view about this?
If people found sense and meaning in what I was doing and in who I am, I am grateful. It is a challenge for me to uphold such an honor and try never to be a dark star.
Any words for the people you left in Kamuli?
Dear Friends, through the love of God we met, He had a purpose as to why He wanted me and you to meet at that moment of our history. You touched my Heart and indeed I touched yours, May the driving force in our life be ever attuned to the love of God who has an answer for any questions and anxiety. He does His work with a Purpose that sometime it takes ages to understand. You are always in my mind and heart.
Leaving Kamuli was painful but I know God has a reason and a better one.
Compiled by Walya Peter