Dr Stella Bosire currently holds the enviable position of one of Kenya's top medical practitioners, with Queen Elizabeth II going as far as handing her the Commonwealth Points of Light Award on November 21, 2019.
However, unknown to most, the celebrated doctor was once a street kid who used to not only indulge in drug abuse but peddling of various narcotics as well.
Speaking to NTV's Grace Masalame in an episode of Unscripted that was aired on June 6, Stella gave a gripping tale of her journey.
"I grew up in Gatwekera, Kibera, and spent most of my childhood as a chokora (street kid) in the streets of Nairobi.Stellah Bosire (right) with her sister in Gatwekera.Daily Nation
"My mother struggled with a mental health illness, schizophrenia, my dad was absent and by 11 I had to feed my siblings and take care of my mum," she recounted.
"I ended up selling drugs just to keep our family fed during that particular period," she added.
Her childhood memories were of her mother running around naked during her worst phases, and Stella was constantly taunted and branded as the daughter of a madwoman.
She was forced to drop out of Kibra Primary School when she got to Class Five due to financial constraints and the fact that the school could not entertain her drug-filled lifestyle.
“In the ghetto, you could get your fix for as little as five shillings.
“The school I had studied in from Class One to five, Kibera Primary School, refused to take me back. I was on drugs and they knew it. I was also very volatile, would fight a lot and was verbally abusive,” she explained.Students during a lesson at Kibra Primary School. Dr Stella Bosire studied at the school before she was expelled in Class Five.File
Throughout her teenage life, Stella continued to fend for her family in the streets where she collected discarded plastic bottles and sold to manufacturing companies in the city.
She eventually got admitted to Joseph Kang’ethe Primary School where she met a teacher that would be influential in turning her life around.
“Mr Yusuf, my mathematics teacher, emphasised the need for education. He taught me maths by force, and no matter how many times I missed school, he did not give up on me," she recalled with a fond smile.
By this time she had been through the worst kind of trauma imaginable, including being gang-raped.
The trauma was taking its toll on her young mind as she continued using drugs heavily, just to escape her seemingly doomed life.
When she got to Class Eight, she was expelled after a teacher found bhang in her bag.
In a twist of fate, it was actually her street “gang leader” who encouraged her to sit for her KCPE examination.
“I did the exams in a secluded room, a policeman on guard. I was not allowed to mingle with the rest. Our gang leader had bought me a mathematical set," she revealed.
Stella eventually caved in to the pressure and decided to do the exams, and scored 516 out of a possible 700 marks.
"I put the school on the map and was called to State House Girls High School. I remember Mr Yusuf bought me a blouse and a man's shirt, they bought me what they could and fundraised for me to get to high school.
"When I got into this school, for the first time I slept on a bed, alone, with my own beddings. I had breakfast, lunch and dinner which I didn't work for," she narrated.
An entrepreneur at heart, Stella started washing clothes for her fellow students at a fee and used to send the money back home.
After her Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education exams, she went back home to Gatwekera and got a house girl’s job in Lang’ata, where she used to earn Ksh 3,500 a month, despite emerging as one of the top students.
Stella used to teach her employer's (Mama Brian) children mathematics whenever she wasn't attending to house chores. The children's remarkable improvement in the subject caught the attention of the parents.
One day Mama Brian sat Stella down and quizzed her about her background and when she realised how well her househelp had done in KCSE, she was overcome with emotion and broke down in tears.
“She promised me that she would find me something better to do, gave me Ksh 5,000, and asked me to go back home, which I did,” she once revealed during an interview with the Daily Nation.
Mama Brian, who worked with an NGO at the time, soon called her up and connected her to an Italian Journalist who was doing a documentary on HIV/Aids and orphans in Kibera, and had requested for someone to show her around.
One thing led to another and the Italian asked her to tell her story on camera.
The feature went viral in Italy and her life changed forever, with floods of willing sponsors sending requests to cater to her University education in Italy.
She had to turn down the offers to leave for Europe as she could not leave her family, but favour was just pouring down on her leading to a full scholarship to study medicine at the University of Nairobi, through the Levi-Montalcini Foundation - established by Italian Nobel laureate Rita Levi Montalcini.
She has since established herself as one of the most renowned doctors in the region, and a proud mother to her 6-year-old son, Tory James Otieno.
Since September 2013, Stella has served as the Vice-Chairperson of the HIV/AIDS Tribunal of Kenya. In this capacity, she focuses on advancing human rights and access to justice for persons affected and infected by HIV/AIDS.
Watch Dr Stella Bosire's gripping story below:
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