From the Streets to the States: Nelson Gitonga narrates how he met U.S. President-elect Joe Biden

From the Streets to the States: Nelson Gitonga narrates how he met U.S. President-elect Joe Biden

Nelson Gitonga is among few Kenyans who have had opportunity to dine with the most powerful person in the world right now, U.S. President-elect Joe Biden.

Gitonga says his encounter with Biden completely changed his life bearing in mind that he once lived as a street boy in Nairobi before the historical meeting.

Life became unbearable for him and he decided to move to the streets of the Nairobi CBD following the death of his mother in 2000.

“After being orphaned at my tender age, I couldn’t live with my grandparents. Poverty was the order of the day and that’s why I decided to scavenge for food in the streets for three years,” he tells Citizen Digital.

He later got an opportunity to go on with his primary school education at Jomo Kenyatta Boys School in Nakuru County after a well-wisher rescued him and his friends from the streets.

“I was later moved to St Mary’s Boys School in Nyeri County in 2008 due to insecurity that was exacerbated by post-election violence,” he recalls.

St Mary’s is a private schools that was started by De La Salle Christian brothers in partnership with other donors in 2010 to help children from vulnerable families.

Gitonga and his classmate Dennis Mwai were selected by the school to represent it in the U.S. in 2010 to speak to students in several schools.

This was after receiving accolades due to an inspirational speech he delivered in St. Chad School in Manchester, United Kingdom.

“We addressed students in several schools in the U.S. accompanied by the school Principal Brother Dominic Jordan and other donors,” he says.

Sidwell Friend’s Schools in Washington DC – one of the prestigious private schools in the U.S – was the climax of their presentation.

Coincidentally, one of the students happened to be then U.S Vice President Joe Biden’s granddaughter, who was elated by their presentation and decided to share the story with her grandfather.

“We received a call the following day asking us if our schedule would allow us to meet Joe Biden,” narrates Gitonga, adding that this caught them by surprise.

“Yes, we are ready to meet him any time, any day,” he remembers telling the caller.

Joe Biden’s aides asked for their details and told them to avail themselves at his residence that evening at 5pm.

Gitonga says Biden showed up an hour later and apologized for coming late.

“I was perplexed to see a Vice President of a powerful country apologizing to mere citizens from a foreign country. He is a humble leader,” he says.

They went straight to the dining table, shared their story and he also shared his story as they partook a meal with his family, including with the granddaughter.

“Biden, listened to us keenly and we could see how he was overwhelmed with joy. His pieces of advice to us after sharing his story was a turn around to me,” he says.

“You may forget what I have told you but please always remember where you have come from. Don’t forget your roots, that’s what defines you,” he remembers Biden telling them at that dinner table.

When he came back to Kenya, he kept on pondering over Biden’s advice and promised to do something in future.

Gitonga is now an author and founder of Shades of Hope Africa, a mentorship organization that focuses on mentoring youth in the country. He has visited several schools in the country spreading the message of hope.

Nelson Gitonga mentoring students. PHOTO | COURTESY
Nelson Gitonga mentoring students. PHOTO | COURTESY
Nelson Gitonga with students after a mentoring session. PHOTO | COURTESY
Nelson Gitonga with students after a mentoring session. PHOTO | COURTESY

His classmate Mwai is currently working as an engineer in Nairobi.

They joined the rest of the world in celebrating Joe Biden’s victory in the U.S Presidential Elections.

“President-elect Biden’s victory is a new beginning to not only Americans but also the rest of the countries. I expect to see more goodies to Kenya,” Gitonga says.

“Never look down upon others, you’ll face storms in life but God has good plans for you, one day you’ll emerge a victor.”

latest stories