James Mugweru, an 84-year-old Kenyan man who returned to the country on Friday after 47 years has spoken about his life in the United States.
Mugweru has lived in the US for 60 years having moved there in 1959 through the educational airlift program organized by the late Tom Mboya and Senator John F. Kennedy, who was later elected as the 35th US president and assassinated in 1963. He was 27 years old at the time.
Since moving to the US, he visited Kenya only two times in 1962 and 1973, when he attended the burial of his mother. After the 1973 visit, the father of three lost contact with his family back home.
When Mugweru arrived at his family’s home in Mwariki, Nakuru County on Friday, tears trickled freely as he greeted some of his siblings, who last saw him when he was in his 40s with his nephews and nieces unable to recognize him. He could barely speak Kikuyu language although he still remembers a few words.
“Who would have thought I would stay that long without ever returning, I am glad to be back. Reuniting with my brothers and sisters is very satisfying for my heart,” said Mugweru.
Mugweru, who studied medical technology at Royal College, currently the University of Nairobi, worked at King George Level Four Hospital (now Kenyatta National Hospital) for five years as a medical laboratory scientist before moving to the US.
In the US, he worked at different fields in hospital departments and later became a taxi driver. “In the US I joined a university to further my education. I graduated as a medical technologist. On completion, I wanted to be a doctor. I briefly enrolled and later quit due to the complexity of some chemistry-related courses,” said Mugweru.
Mugweru, who says life in the US is not easy, explained that lack of enough money was the reason he stayed abroad for many years without visiting home, adding that life became even harder after retirement.
“Life in the US is not a walk in the park though if you are smart, things will be easy for you. I had missed my motherland and to step here I feel comfortable.”
“Being in a foreign land is not a walk in the park. It requires focus, humility, and perseverance, especially in the first few years. At first, I worked in various hospitals, which were paying well. I later became a commercial and taxi driver, which was equally lucrative,” he said.
He said his first wife (now deceased) joined him in the US in 1971 but they later separated due to irreconcilable differences. He remarried later.
“My first wife died in the US and was buried there. My second wife passed on three years ago and my only son died five years ago. I’m now left with two daughters. The last time I counted I had 15 grandchildren. They have never been to Kenya,” said Mugweru.
Mugweru, who admits that Kenya has really transformed, especially on infrastructure, gave indications he will be returning to the US.
“Utah is where my family is and I have become accustomed to the US. I will spend a month in Kenya and go back to the US. I feel a bigger part of my life is there. However, I’m still pondering on my siblings’ insistence that I stay with them now,” said Mugweru.
Christine Muchene alias ‘Madame President’, the Founder and CEO of Shiloh Afrique Foundation in Atlanta, Georgia traced Mugweru to a facility for Senior Citizens in Union City, Georgia after a request by his grandson who lives in Kenya.
Christine took the octogenarian to the Kenyan American Community Church (KACC) headed by Bishop Dr. GG Gitahi where members contributed money to purchase his flight ticket to Kenya.