"Life is What You Make It," are words that best describe the story of Jackson Maina, a Kenyan whose video singing along to a gospel song while donning US navy uniform went viral.
Maina considers himself as one of the luckiest Kenyans as his life took a 360-degree turn, which saw the former watchman in Nakuru become a member of the world's most powerful militaries.
Kenyans.co.ke took at the journey of the serviceman, whose determination to lead a better life paid off after he secured a green-card lottery.
Maina was born in Nyahururu in a low-income family. His parents struggled to put him through school and often relied on well wishers to stay in class after being sent home over fee arrears.
He joined high school and given his plight, most expected that he would put in extra effort to uplift his family. However, that was not the case.
Like most teens, he was often glued to his phone and when he sat for his Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education (KCSE) in 2016, the candidate reaped what he sowed.
"I scored a D plain. My father was very disappointed in me and even broke into tears because he consistently told me to focus on my studies but I was always busy with my phone and girls," he stated.
In a bid to make things right, he left home and went to Samburu to be his own man. Maina realised that his dream of quickly securing a well-paying job was all a facade without papers.
He did several manual jobs including as a bar attendant before he left for Nakuru where he was employed as a construction worker.
A friend then connected him to a logistics company where he was a turnboy of a lorry ferrying goods from Nairobi to Uganda. His first purple patch came in 2019 when he joined the National Youth Service (NYS).
"I joined NYS and my hope was to join the plant operation contingent because I always wanted to operate construction machinery. My prayer was answered," the NYS trainee said.
During his breaks, his father asked him to apply for the US Diversity Visa - a green card. He submitted his application but was unsuccessful.
Tragedy struck his family in the same year; his father died. Propelled by the dream of making his father proud, he carried on with his training and graduated in 2020.
His misfortunes grew as he failed to secure a job owing to the pandemic that swept across the world. Maina returned to Samburu where he enrolled for the Kazi Mtaani program.
In the meantime, he kept on applying for jobs and even tried out for the National Police Service recruitment. Finally, an opening came in Qatar.
"I met an agent who was honestly trying to help me but he needed me to pay Ksh100,000 to process my travel documents. I sought help from friends and families but couldn't meet the target," he narrated.
The loss of a lifetime opportunity pushed him to look for a job and was employed as a watchman in Nakuru, earning Ksh8,800 a month. From this, he would set aside some money for the next opening.
Amid his tribulations, he remembered his father and took a second shot at the green-card lottery in October 2020. Meanwhile, he kept on working hard to increase his pay.
"I would work as a construction worker by day and watchman by night. When the results for the DV visa were out, I was shocked to find my name among the winners," the former watchman explained.
With the help of a few friends, he began the process of applying for a visa and looking for a host. He found one in Pennsylvania in March 2022.
In America, he landed a job at a warehouse. Maina applied for the Selective Service, a requirement of all DV winners below the age of 25.
The American immigrant went through training in Chicago and was posted to the US Navy.
Today, he runs a YouTube channel where he motivates Kenyans going through the same plight as he did. He also provides guidelines on how to apply for the green card lottery.