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ONE PIECE OF GARBAGE WINS STELLA KSHS 500 MILLION

By Patrick Alushula
Kibera. I cross a dribbling brown stream in search for the champion and everything comes to life.
A ramshackle settlement built from materials discarded by the rest of the city. Confusing
alleyways and mishmash structures lean into and grow out of each other. Kids careen down the
rocky, dirty streets at full speed, giggling and weaving between food stalls. Music soars out of a
set of speakers at a record store. This is the journey in search for the millionaire.
Her name is Stella. For all the 25 years of her life, she has known no other place to call home
other than Kibera- one of the vast slums in Africa. She lost all her parents in an inferno. A
menacing flicker of orange flames consumed their little hut when she was only five. But just one
number, 6/36, is on the verge of rewriting her destiny. Two weeks ago, her husband flushed her
out of the house for what he termed as continuous wasteful spending on unrealistic game of
Africa Lotto. He even threw away the lottery ticket worth Kshs 200 describing it as mere
garbage. It took the frantic search of her seven year old son, Derrick, to recover the ticket from a
dumpsite situated next to their house. One mans trash is another mans treasure.
Hapa ndio nyumbani, Stella welcomes me to a shack where she has been living with her two
children, Derrick and Susan. She is in high spirits as I duck into a doorway formed from mud
filled walls. She moved here with her two children since her husband chased her away. She has
been selling groundnuts to provide for her two children. The news of winning Kshs 500 million
had got her by surprise. Plastic plates are lying on the wooden table. A horde of neighbours and
curious onlookers gather.
Having won a jackpot of Kshs 500 million, how do you feel? I ask Stella.
I am short of words. After so many attempts, I cant believe I have won it. I have lost track of
the number of times I have participated. Im so happy. Hii ni zawadi kutoka kwa Mungu (This is
a present from God). Responds Stella as she breaks into tears.
All this time, her children are struggling to get their hands on my microphone. When I ask their
mother how she intends to use the money, she says:
I will donate part of it to the children home. I plan to take my children to school and also buy
land in a better place. I too will go back to class and fulfill my desire of becoming a nurse. I will
also seek financial advice on the best investment project. It has been a terrifying life. I desire to
make the best out of this rare chance. She humbly responds.
Neighbours are at the top of their voices. Its the struggle for the microphone but I move it to
Derrick who says, I am delighted. Even after my father threw away the winner ticket, I
recovered it from the garbage.

The little Susan is afraid of the microphone and only clasps to her mother. Her torn dress and
unsure eyes sums up the difficulties the family has had to endure. The neighbourhood is alive
and some break into a song. As I move the microphone to the crowd, its the game of survival for
the fittest. One neighbor who only identifies herself as Mike says, Ushindi wake ni wetu sote.
Tumelelewa pamoja kama ndugu na najua hawezi kutusahau (Her success is our success. We
were raised together and I know she wont forsake us)
Tumeishi naye kwa muda mrefu. Asambaze kakitu (We have lived together for long. She should
give us some money) adds another neighbour.
The crowd is in a frenzy state. With the dark cloud of anguish and despair still hanging over
their heads, all they seem to be suggesting to Stella is that just a little piece of the cake will
brighten their day. For them, so many uncertainties have made their lives a big puzzle. As I leave
Kibera, the residents have only one message:
Hata sisi tunangojea simu (We are also waiting for the call)
For a 25 year old mother of two, Kshs 500 million is a fortune she wouldnt wish to squander.
One can only wait to see how she will handle such money and whether her husband who threw
her out of the house two weeks ago, will surface or not.

- By Patrick Alushula

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