FROM THE SLUMS OF KIANDUTU TO THE TOP OF THE WORLD; THE SUSAN GITAU STORY.

Susan Gitau during an interview by the Thika Town Today Team
For most people, being born from a humble background translates to being poor for ever. It means living in a life of poverty all your life and eventually your generation inherits the poverty and the story goes on and on.

Susan Gitau found herself  being born from a very poor background but deep inside her she decided that her parents' fate would never kill her dream to succeed in life. Susan was born of  two great parents and lived in plenty for the first seven years of her life. Her dad had a good job and family business which used to take care of the family until sometime when Susan was about seven years old. Her dad developed some mental illness that saw him lose his job, health, income, friends and relatives. Living with a mentally sick dad was highly stigmatising both at school and community. This situation was made worse by the fact that, her mum having been forced to leave the company house after the chronic illness of her dad, took the entire family to Kiandutu slum in Thika.

The shift to Kiandutu slums was the beginning of the family's nightmares and for Susan too. The slum life life was hell. Talk of witnessing broad day murders, unrelenting noisy drunk community, robbery with violence among other vices were the order of the day and it still haunts Susan to this day. Susan knew no other relative from the lineage of both her parents by then so her nuclear family was all she knew. This led her to get so close to the slum dwellers, at least, despite all the drama there were.

Growing up in traumatic poverty never hindered Susan Gitau from achieving her dreams. In their stay at the Kiandutu slums, most of her family members turned to alcohol and lost hope in life. It hurt her so bitterly to see them lose it in desperation. She had no choice but to suffer silently. At school, she never wanted to be associated to Kiandutu due to the stigma and humiliation they went through. The entire Thika community looked down on Kiandutu residents and every evil was associated with them. At school, they would be implicated in all manner of ills even by the teachers themselves. Susan was all along dying slowly from the inside when everyone treated them in contempt.

 By the grace of GOD, Susan was able to see through primary school.  She was lucky to secure a scholarship with the Visa Oshwal Community for high school and survival income from Fr. Ruarie O'connor of Mater Hospital (died in 1997). She pursued her first university course in the University of Nairobi, thanks to Higher Education Loans Board (HELB) she managed to study bachelor of arts in education and later majored in commerce and economics.

She got her first job as a teacher at Muguru Secondary School and later and Gakarara Secondary School in Murang'a County and Kilimabogo TTC before joining KCA university as a lecturer. Currently, she is a lecturer at Africa Nazarene University - Kenya.
Susan Gitau in her work place

As fate would have it, slum life consumed her two brothers and both of her parents are dead (her dad in 1996 and her mum 1999). This affected her so much that at one time she hated Kiandutu with passion. She had even dared never to step back to that place in her life when she left school. Her younger brother's death changed all this. She had to be called from work to collect his lifeless body after he had been murdered mysteriously in the slum. She was so traumatized that it has taken her ages to get over it.

Several years down the line she did some soul searching and felt that she had an obligation to the community. She felt that she would not want anyone else to go through what she and her family went through as a result of poverty and the lack of anyone ever caring about the plight of slum dwellers and the hardships they go through on a day to day basis. 

It is for this reason, Susan decided to go back to the slums to give back the little God had blessed her with. Despite moving to Makuyu as her home now, she identifies Kiandutu slum as her home village and takes pride in the same.

Currently, Susan teaches Counseling Psychology and she is majoring in Multicultural counseling Practice, clinical supervision and counseling Practice, child and adolescent counseling as well as trauma, crisis and emergency intervention and counseling (it's no wonder you find her in the hearts of consoling victims and survivors of disasters across the country).

With a heart to give back and create opportunity for further studies for Counselors and needy students, Susan founded International Professional Counselors Centre (IPCC)  in 2006, which later gave birth to Africana College of Professionals (ACOP) and Community Counselling Resource Centre which offers free counselling services to the poor in Thika urban poor areas. 60% of the students in college are sponsored by IPCC to study in ICT, life skills, entrepreneurship and counselling.
Kariuki and Bonface one of Susan's pride of the power of mentorship. Kariuki is now with Equity Wings to fly and Bonface, cooperative bank, both studied in Kianjau primary school

Since most of the Kiandutu Slum youth never completed primary and secondary school, Susan has registered 40 of them to receive adult literacy teaching at ACOP beginning September, 2015.  She has two volunteer teachers from IPCC and is looking for more volunteers or well wishers to meet the tuition fees for the remaining 5 needed teachers.

Her aim is to offer a second chance in education to those who dropped out of school, reduce idlers who are lured into crime and alcohol and drug addiction, reduce early marriages as well as empower the scholars in job creation and placement. IPCC offers free counseling services to Kianjau Primary School, a school at the heart of Kiandutu Slum. Through her advocacy, the Kenya Defence Forces (KDF Thika Barracks) in collaboration with VIVO Energy Kenya (formally Shell Oil Company) renovated the entire school .Together with her German colleague therapists, they purchased cooking pots (sufurias) for the school's feeding programme which is currently sponsored by Macheo Children Centre.

She also plays the role of social advocacy to empower parents, teachers, pupils and the girl-child through psycho-education and is currently doing entrepreneurship mentorship for 22 promising young people in the school. Despite the big burden of seeing her siblings stabilise in life, Susan spares some extra cash to support others too. She believes that  no one is too poor to give nor too rich to receive.
A group photo at Kianjau primary school

With a pupil at Kianjau Primary School

With her colleagues from Africa Nazarene University, supporting her work in Kianjau primary school


Susan with Mutua, the child cobbler in Kianjau primary school
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