It was January 18, 1997, almost thirty years ago, but I remember it as if it were just yesterday; the blood was gushing out of my neighbor’s stomach as he lay in front of his house where he had been shot.  This wasn’t the first time our neighborhood had shooting between the gang members, however, it was the first time someone so close and dear to me had been a victim of one.  I remember the terror in his family’s eyes as they helplessly stood there, watching their beloved slowly leave this duniya, going back to the almighty whom the heavens and earth belongs to. It had been too late by the time ambulance arrived and took baba Aziz to the hospital.  Doctors believed he passed away ten minutes prior to his arrival at the hospital. They recorded his time of death as Friday January 18, 1997 6:35pm.

As a ten year old child, it was difficult for me to understand why anyone would want to hurt a man who had never raised his voice in his life. He was a man of honor, respected by everyone in the community. He had loved me as if I were his own son. When I was five years old he would take me out and buy me candy because he knew my parents could not afford to do so. He and I would spend hours together while he took care of me as both my parents worked to feed our family. I am what I am today because of him. I learned from him that a person cannot measure his success based on the neighborhood he lives in, the cars he drives, the brands he wears, the amount of money he makes or the number of people he knows. Instead, a man’s success is measured by the love he has in his life. You know a person lived a good life when there are more people at his funeral than there are chairs available. Baba Aziz’s funeral was by far the biggest funeral I had even been a part of. People from all over Kenya, who had ever been a part of baba’s life, came to show their respects and make dua for his departure from this world to the hereafter.

After this incident my parents decided to move to a town two miles north as they were no longer comfortable raising my three brothers and I in the same neighborhood. My heart filled with joy as I heard the news; it eased my mind knowing that I did not have to worry about one of my family members being the next victim of such violence.

Moving to a new town was very exciting. It had a school that I could go to and a lot of young children my age to play with. Our house had one bedroom, which all of us siblings shared, a living room, where our parents slept, a small kitchen, and a bathroom. Although it may sound very small and dull to you, it was my jannah (paradise). I could not have been happier in any other place. Till this day I feel like a kid again when I think about the ten beautiful years I spent there with my family. Things weren’t always smooth but we made it work.

Back then I could have never imagined that one day I would end up in America where I would be volunteering my free time to be a mentor to the inner city children. I could’ve also never, in my wildest dreams, imagined holding a CEO position at one of the largest nonprofit organizations, I Am, who’s sole reason for existence was to prevent young children form experiencing what i had to experience.