In the small town of Mtwapa, Kilifi County, the story of Samuel Mwawato unfolds, a narrative that weaves through the clouds of high-flying aspirations to the grounded reality of a garbage collector.
At 58, Mwawato’s life is a testament to the unpredictable turns that fate can take.
Mwawato’s journey began with dreams of soaring through the skies. Before venturing to the United States in 1990 on a scholarship from the East Coast Methodist Church, he had already tasted the aviation world as a cabin crew attendant at Wilson Airport in Nairobi.
In the US, he embraced the opportunity to learn to fly various planes, engaging in recreational flying and sharing his expertise with aviation students.
Fifteen years later, armed with a wealth of experience, Mwawato returned to Kenya in 2005, ready to continue his career as a pilot. However, bureaucratic hurdles stood in his way.
The process of converting his commercial license for Kenyan employment required 10 hours of day and 10 hours of night flying.
To finance this endeavor, he took a loan of Ksh500,000, only to face a setback. Despite his efforts, he could only complete 10 hours of daytime flying.
This unexpected turn of events led Mwawato to an alternative path—far from the cockpit and closer to the streets. He found himself working for the Responsible Citizen Initiative, a community-based organization, donning the uniform of a garbage collector
. The transition from the glamorous life of a pilot to the gritty reality of collecting refuse was undoubtedly challenging.
Mwawato’s challenges extended beyond his professional life. His personal life took a hit when both his American wife and Kenyan wife deserted him.
His American wife chose to remain in the US, leaving Mwawato with no communication with her or their two children, who are now 26 and 24 years old.
Despite these hardships, Mwawato remains resilient and hopeful. He believes that his life will take a positive turn soon.