According to Jane Mwangi, a former career Banker, currently, the Director of the Willing Way Wellness Center, the true path of destiny hangs around and about us all the time, from the cradle to the grave.
These words reflect Jane’s life, and the years gone by, as she grew up, interacting and working in a traditional village setting in Kyeni, Embu County.
Jane is the lastborn in a patriarchal family of seven boys and two girls.
This is the setting in which Jane the little girl played, roamed and interacted freely with her siblings and fellow community members, more so at home, with her brothers.
But her brothers soon left home to pursue their dreams in education, career and marriage.
Jane’s loving interaction and nurturing by parents and community, especially the interaction with her brothers, she says, wired her and brought out an aspect in her life that has influenced her life’s turns and twists.
It instilled in her the desire to search out why people, especially men, tend to take on an alienated lifestyle, often taking to drugs and other destructive habits.
This harbinger and force to reach out have been in Jane’s life for as long as she can remember.
Her learning and career path haven’t dimmed it out.
She feels she was fashioned for holistic compassion and empathy towards the lonely souls, drug addicts, victims, and others society often saw as social misfits.
Looking back, Jane says this should have informed her career choice and path from the start, but it’s always better late than never.
Jane pursued a secretarial course and joined the banking industry, where she spent many years.
At Barclays Bank now Absa Bank, she was the Branch Manager’s Personal Assistant. She often gravitated towards colleagues’ welfare, challenges, and issues like drug and substance abuse in the community.
She often wondered how she could be of greater help in reaching out to help and set the wayward in the straight and narrow path, away from oppressive addictions.
This urge escalated as she took up youth mentorship responsibilities as the youth patron at her local church, the St. Barnabas Catholic church in Upper Matasia, Ngong.
Jane wonders why it took her that long to discern her calling to the hurting in society, especially men.
She rues the missed opportunities where she could not understand or take time to hear out the many addiction victims whose solutions to challenging issues of addiction, she felt, she carried on her bosom.
The solutions later came, in what she was to start doing years later, as a response to that unmistakable call of destiny.
This discerning of the call took too long to settle, but Jane’s sensitivity to people did not go unnoticed in her workplace, church, and society, more so by her daughter, Julia.
Just as she toyed with the idea of going back to school in search of life’s deeper meaning and purpose, her daughter quickly noticed it, and she responded to her queries by urging her to pursue further education and training in psychology and counseling.
This, she affirms, “…would aid and equip her to work among those addicted and troubled people who she was always concerned and fixated with.”
These words, like the long-time attachment and desire to help those in addiction, helped chart the path to her psychology and counseling class at the University of Nairobi.
Writing her final paper on the effects of drug and substance abuse was another milestone in fulfilling her calling.
She found out that drug and substance abuse had found their way into the workforce and that one of her colleagues struggling with addiction was almost giving up and getting sacked after many failed rehabilitation efforts.
The man had seemingly slipped beyond help in the organization, and his fate was falling off.
He was tottering on the edge of a disastrous and premature job loss because of a deceptive and systematic addiction that could have been prevented.
Challenged by that and similar experiences, her final year at the university was especially spent reading widely on drugs and substance addiction, treatment, counseling and rehabilitation of those affected.
She sought to obtain every bit of information that could be of use to her now driving force and sure call of duty, the rehabilitation of addicts, and preventative awareness in the society.
“After graduation,” she says, “the urge to reach out and help the drug and substance abuse victims weighed heavily upon me.”
She volunteered lots of time and services at the Mathare Mental Hospital, among other treatment and rehabilitation centers.
Thirsty and hungry for more information on drugs, gender issues, and the reasons for the explosion of drug use in institutions and communities, she returned to college for a master’s degree but now on the complimentary study of Gender and Development issues.
This, she hoped, would further fortify her newfound calling and purpose of creating awareness, treatment and rehabilitation of both people and their social environments for a balanced, equitable, peaceful, and just society.
“At the Chemical Dependency Support For Addiction and Treatment Preventions in Africa Institute, I learned how medical, psychological and other factors align in helping the addicted navigate their way out of their predicament,” she explains.
Jane says her father’s words that “none of us should judge anybody because of how they are today, for there is much that we do not know,” have inspired her greatly along the way.
“It is my father,” she points out, “who showed me that there is no significant difference between men and women, especially regarding the mental issues.”
She had learned that she could excel in everything if she were disciplined enough to persevere.
Heeding her father’s words on getting to know people well before judging them, Jane has engaged and gone to great lengths to discover how individuals, lifestyles, environments, and upbringing conspire to drive some into addiction and others out of it.
Saving lives, restoring dignity
With drug addiction being such a big issue, she is working daily and trying out new ways like sports outreaches to the young, to help mitigate its spread in the community around Ngong, upper Matasia region.
Like with many in current society, Jane’s calling loosely hung on her life, though she could not understand or comprehend it in her early years, even as she went through her initial studies and a career in banking.
The Willing Way Wellness Center, situated a few kilometers from Ngong town, is the climax of her lingering but newly discerned purpose in life.
The center is a place where drug and substance abuse victims are aided to rise from the doldrums of drug and substance addiction.
They re-discover love, hope, peace, and vision, cheered on by the appealing sight and sounds of birds, trees, nature, and the visibly imposing hills of Ngong yonder.
Jane’s parting words are both inspiring and upbraiding.
She strongly defends and maintains that society should not use the scourge and pressure of drugs and substance abuse to brand, segregate or cast out a part of its productive population.
She says today’s social disconnect in families is reason enough for society to look within that it may adjust its perceptions to be of help to the addicted and all those who are at risk of becoming future victims.
She is adamant that the government and society must go beyond mere talk and engage all stakeholders to create alternatives and remove the factors driving multiplied youths to drugs and depression.
“It’s not enough,” she strongly maintains, “to engage administrators and security officers in destroying sub-standard brews, hunt down addicts and sellers of harmful substances.”
The whole Kenyan society, she says, must find out when and where the rains started beating it so that it may trace its way back through long-term solutions, to rescue this generation.
Raising today’s children
A loving mother to children who identify as millennials, Jane feels theirs is a generation that needs to be given space to grow and bloom as the older generation learns to walk with and help them in their struggles.
Beyond the hue, cry, and activism of drug and substance abuse, Jane finds time to relax by engaging little children in simple mentorship lessons and games in a field within her community.
She says simple things like games kits, balls, talks, and similar outreaches can significantly impact the direction that today’s children and youths will take in the near future, away from all addictions.
“Parents have to be thoroughly informed on these issues in order to erase negative attitudes which hinder their involvement in the lives of their children,” she says.
She adds that society must be made aware of what is happening behind the scenes, the causes and effects, and the toxic environments that have become key breeding grounds for vice and negative virtue.
“Treatment and rehabilitation,” Jane feels, “does not always address drug addiction issues in victims and their families especially if all the involved do not come on board to help tackle the menace.”
She asserts that absent parents, guardians, and role models often wrongly delegate their responsibilities, only to discover it when it is too late.
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She concludes the interview by recalling nostalgically, in real-time, how the community once owned all children, how it sustained itself in peace, and how it must re-discover itself to overcome the scourge of drug and substance abuse in the workplace, institutions and everywhere else.
“Society must rise and chase away hovering birds and marauding hyenas that have returned to haunt it in the form of drugs and other harmful substances, and to save its own,” she gives her parting shot.