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Archive for April 14th, 2010

Last week I met with about a dozen former colleagues of mine from the Alliance for a Healthier Generation for dinner at Lauriol Plaza.  I like this place, but I don’t understand the mania around it.  If the weather is nice, everyone goes there and it is not unusual to be told that there will be a two hour wait.  We were lucky that we didn’t have to wait two hours.  After dinner a few of us went over to Kramerbooks for dessert.

After we finished I asked our waiter if he would participate in the Year of Giving, but he said he was slammed and didn’t have time.  So I wandered inside and through a small door that leads to a cozy café / bar where I found John sitting by himself fidgeting with his phone.

John at Kramerbooks in DC (Photo: Reed)A patent litigation lawyer from Irvine, CA, John is in town for a law conference.  He started his own practice with some partners in 2006.  He handles all kinds of cases, although the examples he mentions are mostly in the area of technology and biotech.

When he is not practicing law, the 35-year-old says he enjoys sports, movies, and photography.  In fact he had a nice Nikon camera placed in front of him at the bar.

John and his wife also are involved in giving.  They help the Teen Leadership Foundation.  Specifically he tells me about one set of kids that are with a foster family where the mother has cancer.  In fact he says that he is going to give the $10 to her.

I asked John if there was anything you could help him with for the Lend a Hand section.  He said no, but then thought for a minute and said, “Actually I really could use a responsible, hard-working personal assistant that I can trust to handle confidential materials.”  So if that sounds like you or someone you know and you are in Irvine area, let me know and I will connect you with John.

We shook hands and thanked one another and I started walking home.  About half way home I realized that I never gave John the $10!  Oh no!  I hustled back to the café hoping to find him still there.  Sure enough he was there and was totally cool about it.

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Aftermath of the 1998 Nairobi embassy bombingOn the morning of August 7, 1998, Sammy woke up, did his chores, and went about his day like any other day.  Unfortunately, August 7th was not just another day.  Not if you lived in Nairobi, Kenya or Dar es Saleem, Tanzania.  

Between 10:30 am and 10:40 am local time, suicide bombers in trucks laden with explosives parked outside the US embassies in both cities and almost simultaneously detonated their payloads.  In Nairobi, more than 200 people were killed, and an estimated 4,000 wounded; in Dar es Salaam, there were 11 killed and almost 100 wounded.  Despite being targeted at Americans, the victims were largely local citizens.  Only 12 Americans were killed.  Osama bin Laden is said to be responsible for the attacks.

Sammy working at 18th and M in DC (Photo: Reed)

Unfortunately Sammy was in the wrong place at the wrong time.  He ended up under the rubble in Nairobi for three days.  He survived with only two broken legs and some other minor injuries.  Sadly he lost three business associates that morning.

In 2001 Sammy came to the US to testify in the trials against the alleged perpetrators of the horrible massacre.  He then came back in 2007 to attend a conference but ended up staying due to the violence that erupted in his home country after incumbent President Mwai Kibaki was declared the winner of the presidential election held on December 27, 2007.

Now homeless, he has been here since then selling the Street Sense paper.  You can usually find him around the intersection where Connecticut, M, and 18th Streets come together.  His goal is to return to Kenya by the end of the year and start a street paper similar to Street Sense.  “There are almost no homeless in Kenya” he told me.  People may stay with family or in what might be considered substandard housing from a US perspective, but they don’t have hardly anyone he said that you would find sleeping on the streets of Nairobi. 

Sammy let me ask him a few questions on camera.

As you saw, Sammy plans to save my $10 and put it toward his street paper venture in Kenya when he returns next year.  If you have any interest in helping Sammy start his paper, he is actively looking to work with partners and individuals.  Drop me a note and I can connect you with him.

Despite the terrible events of August 1998, Sammy manages to keep an optimistic spirit and maintains hope for a better tomorrow.

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