There were boys whose fathers had been killed in the Mau Mau uprising or had been locked up in detention camps. The girls had stayed at home with their mothers, where they were putting them all into villages in true Kikuyu land. The boys had come to Nairobi to find something to do, and above all to try all they could to see whether they could get some education because in those days education was a great thing! Everybody thirsted for education.
So I thought, well, here we are, something needs to be done about these kids! So in the end, I just got fed up so I went to my master and said to him, do you mind if I do something private in my spare time. And he said, provided you do not ask the government for spare money, and provided it does not interfere with you proper duties, I do not care what you do. So I began looking round Nairobi for a place to begin. The Provincial Commissioner of the day was a very nice man, and he pointed me towards Starehe. I said ok, thank you and I will take it! And then I had to think. Where can I now get the resources I need? And I prayed!
And my mind turned to two young men who had been among the older ones I had rescued out of Manyani. They had been with me at Wamumu, and they had been great helpers in the projects there. Both were employed. One had in the end had been released and then employed by the government, he was working at Othaya in Nyeri. And the other had been released and then got a job with Gailley and Roberts here in Nairobi. But I thought, let me try! and I wrote to both and said: Look, I want to start a school, to help these poor boys in Nairobi. I hardly got any money; all I can do is maybe offer you ten pounds a month, two hundred shillings each. I do not know how long that will last, the whole thing may fold up within a few months, but will you come and help? Here was a wonderful example of faith, because both those two young men, to their eternal honour, they resigned from their jobs, and they came and put themselves in my hands. One of them is now sadly dead, the other one is still currently with me here, as a deputy in Starehe.
Well, we were inundated, with boys of course. The people at Makadara started delivering to us any of their captives. The juvenile court started sending us any boy that came their way. Boys came in walking by themselves, looking for help, looking for hope. The chief sent us boys! Everybody sent us boys! So the one thing we were not short of is boys, but we were of course desperately short of accommodation, food, medical supplies, all the things we needed. But still I felt that the Lord will provide. My colleagues and I had a saying, a proverb which we continually quoted to each other: Faith is a kind of capital. If you have faith, everything else in the end will come. And my word it did!
We were given the two little tin huts to be our first dormitories, and they still stand here to this day and remind us of our roots. And people gave us food, or money to buy food, or to buy drugs. Little by little the place began to take shape. We couldn’t call ourselves a school at that time because we didn’t qualify to be registered, so we hid under the name, first of all youth club, and then later on boys’ centre. It took us five years before we had a permanent building and were able to qualify under the regulations then to become, at any rate, a primary school. And by that time the name Boys’ Centre was well known, so we thought, even though we are now a school, I won’t change the name; we’ll keep on calling ourselves Starehe Boys’ Centre. After that came a whole series of wonders! Now, if this happens once, or twice, or three times, you can call it happenstance, or circumstance or something. But when it goes on happening and a whole progression is logical, you can see the wonderful school that has come out of it over the years, you have to believe, that there is a Divine presence that is ordaining this, there in the background. And it’s a wonderful feeling because you feel that you need never be afraid! But never the less, although we feel this is a challenge, we cannot just sit back and do nothing. The Lord expects us to do our best, and if we do, one has that conviction that it will all come alright! Because if we do our best, he will send the rest and everything will be okay.
This has been the pattern of Starehe and it has been wonderful to see now over ten thousand boys have been through this school or are in it at the moment. More than ten thousand, it is an awful lot of joy. And so many of them are now beginning to do very well out there in the world with the education we gave them. And the Old Boys keep in touch, I read their letters everyday, they write to me from all over the world, not just in Kenya. They come to visit me everyday, they come back to get married in the Chapel, then come back to show us their sons! It is really, really wonderful! And they are rising fast in every aspect of public life in Kenya. I know that in another ten years or so, many of them are going to be at, or very near the top. And I think this is gonna be good for Kenya because they are good boys, they are wonderful kids. The character training here, you know, and again thanks be to God, is great. And they are fine young men. I think they will do Kenya a lot of good in the years to come.