Life often presents us with challenges that seem insurmountable, yet there are individuals who defy the odds and carve a path to success.
James Karanja, known by his alias “Maasai,” is one such individual.
James went from the harsh streets of Nakuru, Kenya, to self-sufficiency through beadwork business .
Here is his story as told by WOK.
From a tender age of five, Maasai found himself on the unforgiving streets, fleeing the hardships he faced at home.
Like many children living on the streets, he soon found solace in the company of fellow street children and the allure of drugs, which helped numb the pain of sleeping on the cold pavement.
“I recall I was hooked on glue to the extent that all well-wishers who were ready to help me get back to school gave up on me. Every time I enrolled into a school I would be there for only a month then go back to the streets. Eventually I quit school all together,” Karanja said during a past interview.
Despite the adversity he faced, a turning point in Maasai’s life came after 25 years of street living.
Frustrated by the constant confrontations with law enforcement, regular fights with other street children, and the dismal living conditions, he made a resolute decision to transform his life.
In a twist of fate, his transformation began during a period of incarceration when he was rounded up by the police along with other street children.
The three months he spent in prison became a crucible for his newfound skills in beadwork. Maasai emerged from prison with a marketable skill and a renewed sense of purpose.
Upon his release, he embarked on a mission to build a better life for himself. He took on various day jobs to save money, which he then invested in beads and other essential tools needed for his craft.
Maasai’s artistic journey proved to be a turning point, one that would ultimately lead him to a life beyond the streets.
“I decided to start doing beadwork as a way of earning a living. Life in the street was hard and I needed something to get me out of this place,” Karanja recalled.
Today, at the age of 32, Maasai has successfully transitioned from a life of uncertainty to a stable livelihood.
Through his beadwork, he earns up to Ksh 3,000 per day, crafting a range of items that have found a market.
His creations include affordable bracelets starting at Ksh 100, intricately designed serviette holders priced at Ksh 1,000, and handbags that range from Ksh 500, with prices varying depending on size and design.
The income from his beadwork not only enabled Maasai to secure a rented house in Bondeni estate but also provided him with the means to meet his basic needs.
Remarkably, he reinvests the surplus funds back into his business, ensuring its growth and sustainability.
He envisions his craft as a potential solution to Kenya’s unemployment crisis.
With aspirations to expand his small business into a thriving enterprise, he dreams of creating job opportunities for hundreds of unemployed youth across the country.