Some parents raise their children to become mature adults, while others raise their children to become ‘Giants.’
Just ask Laszlo Polgar, the Hungarian Psychologist who published a book called ‘Bring up genius’ and raised his daughters to become the first females to earn the title of ‘chess Grand master’ by the ages of 21 and 15.
Our Extraordinary Woman – Priscillah (‘Braveheart’ as I love to call her) Waithera Kirugo also believes in raising children to become who they were meant to be at an early age. She believes in instilling all the core and essential values alongside nurturing their talents, while allowing them to pursue their interests honourably.
Even in the face of extremely difficult odds, courageous Priscilla has found a way to come out tops to become a passionate teacher, lecturer and mother of the rising star – Natalie Wambui in Kenya.
Priscilla has a ‘brave heart’ that she seems to have passed on to her daughter.
There is much to be learnt from her story.
NEKITA: Who are you?
PRISCILLAH: My name is Priscillah Waithera Kirugo. I am 31years old and I live in a small town town called Ngong in Kajiado County of Kenya. I am a single mum. My daughter is called Natalie Wambui and she is 9 years old.
NEKITA: Please tell us a bit about your background.
PRISCILLAH: I am the fourth born in a family of 5 children. Three boys and two girls. I took my O-levels in a school in Murang’a County, scored a B- and unfortunately didn’t make it to university immediately. I have worked so hard to further my studies and so far I hold a diploma in Information Technology from the Nairobi Institute Of Business Studies. Currently I am working on my degree at the African Nazarene University.
My late dad was a Bishop and ours was a strict Christian family. Growing up life was not easy because as preacher’s kids there were a lot of expectations from people therefore there was too much pressure. But by the grace of God I have overcome so many challenges and currently I started my own initiative called Achievers Kenya where I take ICT programs to public schools and mostly schools in marginalized areas.
NEKITA: Describe yourself in two words.
PRISCILLAH: I am God-fearing and hardworking.
NEKITA: What’s your best quality?
PRISCILLAH: My best quality is my love for God and people.
NEKITA: What’s your worst quality?
PRISCILLAH: My worst quality is that having had my heart broken by people I trusted and even family I tend to question too much of peoples motives and find it so hard to trust.
NEKITA: What do you do, and what do you hope to be doing in the next 5 years?
PRISCILLAH: As I stated earlier, currently I take computer programs and implement classes in public schools. I enjoy my work a lot because it comes with a lot of fulfilment. In five years time, I hope to have my own resource centre where I will give children from poor backgrounds facilities to come study, learn, research and realize their potential as well as nurture their God given talents and abilities.
NEKITA: Your daughter seems to be a bit of a celebrity these days. Can you tell us how she became a celebrity and even came to meet the president and first lady?
PRISCILLAH: My daughter Natalie Wambui is 9 years old. I conceived her out of wedlock. Her father is from the Luo Community and I am from the Kikuyu community. His people didn’t approve of our relationship and unfortunately he succumbed to their pressure.
We broke up when I was 2 months pregnant. My parents being church leaders were ashamed of me and rejected me as well. I lived in the streets of Nairobi when I was pregnant between 2 and 4 months. At 4 months, a church watchman rescued me. He sheltered me in a church that he was guarding in the city until I was 2 weeks to my due date.
A good Samaritan rescued me from living in a church – rented for me a small place to live and paid my maternity fees. That experience taught me how to appreciate everyone in life no matter their social status.
Natalie developed some heart problems when she was almost 4 years old. She had to stay in a hospital and undergo surgery. She was in so much pain and could not write. The doctors encouraged her to communicate to them through writing and every day she would describe how she felt through writing. Slowly she began keeping journals every day.
She recovered but her passion for writing never stopped. She also loved the idea of reciting everything she wrote about and so I knew she loved poetry and spoken word.
One evening friends came to our house for dinner and they saw many files in her room containing things she had written over the years. They challenged me to publish for her. After much thought, I decided to work hard and I published.
At the time I could not raise the publisher’s fee and so I took up a job in a missionary family to baby sit a child who had cerebral palsy. The child could not sleep well so I would baby sit in the night having left my daughter home alone at night. One day the missionary couple asked me why I was so determined to work at night and I told them how much it meant to me to publish Natalie’s work. They were touched and they paid for 1000 copies of Natalie’s first books.
That is how her first book – Natalie’s Poems came about. Once the book came out, marketing it was very hard. Most bookshops didn’t take it as they said poetry books didn’t do well in the market. I knew I had to go an extra mile. I began hawking the books in the streets, parking lots and petrol stations. I got overwhelming support from people. Gradually I met media personalities in the streets and one interview led to another. One day the president happened to be attending a fundraiser in a church near our neighbourhood and a lady who had bought Natalie’s book called and invited us to the church for Natalie to perform a poem. Natalie didn’t manage to perform a poem because the president didn’t have much time for any presentation but she got the courage to autograph her 2 books and walked to where the president was, knelt down and introduced herself. He was very impressed and he arranged a visit of Natalie and I to statehouse the following day to meet the first lady. The first lady hosted us well and Natalie became ambassador of Beyond Zero which is a program that was started by the first lady to provide better maternal care for mothers while giving birth.
Personally I do not see Natalie as a celebrity and I always keep her grounded. I pray that her values will always guide her. But I know her story and what she is doing with her talent will inspire a lot of other children and people and she will touch and change many lives for the better.
NEKITA: How were you able to raise your daughter Natalie to be so intelligent? Is she naturally gifted or both?
PRISCILLAH: I always nurture her talent. I do this by buying her as many books as I can. I also take her to events where authors hold forums. Natalie takes part in many poetry functions and spoken word events from other artists. Above all I pray for her and encourage her all the time.
NEKITA: What advice would you give to parents who equally wish to nurture their children’s talents?
PRISCILLAH: I would advice parents on this: Spotting a gift in your child is one thing, nurturing the gift is another.
“As parents we have to invest our time and resources to encourage the talents in our children. And it’s always good to know that Talent without discipline is useless.”
This all requires a lot of work.
NEKITA: I noticed you and your daughter are very patriotic. Where does this come from?
PRISCILLAH: Yes we love our culture. I personally feel that our culture and diversity as the Kenyan people is what makes us stand out. We should not try to change or copy too much of borrowed culture when our own is equally good for us. Its time we embrace and love ourselves for us to be loved by the outside world. We have beautiful sceneries, wildlife and resources in our country. The people are full of love and warmth. Why would we forsake all these things that God has given us?
“I know Natalie will travel far and wide globally in her journey of life but she should never forget who she is and where she came from. She should carry the positive Kenyan spirit and be a true and proud African.”
NEKITA: What advice do you have for others who wish to follow in your footsteps?
PRISCILLAH: My advice is that people should not be afraid to dream and after they dream they should be ready to put all the work required to make their dreams come true. Nothing good comes easy but with God, discipline and consistency, all things are possible.
NEKITA: What has been your major career milestone?
PRISCILLAH: A big milestone for me was when I was nominated for an award called The Good Samaritan Award in June last year for the work I have done with public schools and three months later won the award. It felt good to know that no matter how much I struggle to the point of almost giving up at times, there is always someone watching and hard work never goes unrewarded.
NEKITA: How does your family support your career?
PRISCILLAH: My nuclear family is only Natalie and myself and she is very supportive and understanding of what I do. It makes me love her more. My external family and I have reconciled and we are in the healing process of our relationship. We are taking it one step at a time.
NEKITA: How do you balance your career and home life?
PRISCILLAH: Natalie is a very independent child. She is able to look after herself and help out with small chores at home. I always try to give her my love and attention whenever we are both together. We spend each day with gratitude knowing it’s a gift from God. This gives her the confidence to know that I love her even when I am away at work. For parents it’s good to keep reassuring your love to your children as it builds their confidence, self esteem and prepares them to face the world in future.
NEKITA: Which female inspires you the most?
PRISCILLAH: The female that inspires me the most is the late Nobel Laureate Prof. Wangari Maathai. She overcame so many obstacles and fought for what she believed in which was the Environment. She said her ‘’little thing’’ was planting trees. We all have our ‘’little things’’ that we could do to make the world a better place.
NEKITA: What is the greatest lesson you’ve learnt in life?
PRISCILLAH: “The greatest lesson I have learnt in life is that we all fail and make mistakes but true success comes to those who rise every time they fail.”
NEKITA: What has been your biggest accomplishment in life?
PRISCILLAH: My biggest accomplishment in life is my daughter Natalie. Being a mother was like an awakening for me. I love being a mother. It’s a life long journey.
NEKITA: What has been the most trying obstacle that you’ve overcome in life and how did you overcome this?
PRISCILLAH: My greatest obstacle was when I was in the streets pregnant and later being hidden in a church by watchman. I feared giving birth in that situation and my daughter and I being a ‘’street family’’. I always prayed and read Gods word which comforted me and gave me hope. Faith has played a big role in my life.
NEKITA: Everyone has a sense of fashion and personal style. What’s yours?
PRISCILLAH: My style and fashion is quite simple. I buy what I like and I try it on and it looks good on me I certainly buy and wear it.
NEKITA: What is unique about you?
PRISCILLAH: Having lived in the streets, once a month I invite about 30 street children for a book reading where I create a forum for motivational people to talk to them and make them feel that their situation is not permanent.
NEKITA: What do you do in order to relax and unwind?
PRISCILLAH: I watch movies and listen to Christian Contemporary Music.
NEKITA: Tell us a secret about yourself that no other person knows.
PRISCILLAH: No one knows that I love day dreaming but now you know!
NEKITA: Tell us in two sentences what you think of sex, love and marriage.
PRISCILLAH: Love is from God because God is love.
Marriage is a holy institution given to man by God and sex is best enjoyed within the confines of true love and marriage.
NEKITA: Which movie has inspired you the most?
PRISCILLAH: I love the movie War-room. Am inspired by the power of prayer and how prayer is able to overturn life’s situations.
NEKITA: Which popular personality inspires you the most?
PRISCILLAH: As I said earlier the late Prof. Wangari Maathai’s determination inspires me a lot. Also the late Mother Teresa and all she did for humanity.
NEKITA: What is your life’s slogan?
PRISCILLAH: Dream, Dare, Believe.
NEKITA: If you had the power to change the world in one way, what would you do?
PRISCILLAH: I would provide equal education opportunities to all children.
I leave you with one of Natalie’s poems:
“As I grow older from year to year
Began thinking of the number of years I turn
Kept wondering what I do with them
But still God keeps adding me….”
Priscilla’s Facebook page is called ‘Natalie’s Poems.’ She created it to support her daughter.
Both Natalie’s books are on Amazon. Look for ‘Natalie Wambui.’ The first book is called ‘Natalies Poems’ and the second one is called ‘Kenya; My Country, My Story.’
Here is a link to one of her TV interviews: