Just after midnight on Sunday morning I was on my way home when I was approached by two men as I walked through Dupont Circle. Tyrone approached me and said that his friend wanted to talk to me. His friend, Josh, approached me and they invited me to join them in threesome! Oh my God.
I got a bit nervous and kept walking to a more lit area. The two men followed me there and I tried to change the subject and told them about my project and offered them the $10. They weren’t interested in the ten spot. I said goodbye and headed home. Never a dull moment living in Dupont.
The next morning I got up early and headed over to the Dupont Farmers Market. I weaved in and out of the various vendor stalls and looked for someone that caught my eye. I didn’t find the right person though. And it was really hot and I was getting impatient.
I left the market and just as I crossed the street I saw David selling the Street Sense newspaper on the corner of Q Street and Connecticut Avenue.
Originally from Western Kenya near Lake Victoria, David came to the United States in 1997. He was working in banking at the time and thought that Delaware would be a good place to live to learn about corporations since most companies are incorporated in the “First State.” He later moved to DC in 2000.
At first he stayed with a professor friend here in DC while he studied at Strayer University. He hoped to eventually become a doctor. “I like medicine a lot. I even used to volunteer at George Washington Hospital,” David said with a pronounced British accent. He went on to talk about genetics. “They are the key to living longer, eliminating disease and improving intelligence.” In five years he hopes to be a medical researcher.
Like many Street Sense vendors, David is homeless. However, unlike many of the other homeless that I have met, he chooses to sleep in shelters. He currently stays at the Mitch Snyder shelter at 2nd and D Streets. Mitch Snyder was a homeless advocate who was the subject of a 1986 made-for-television movie starring Martin Sheen. After nine years of homelessness David says that shelters in DC are improving. “There’s been a lot of changes that started in 2004, like installation of air conditioning, spraying for bugs and improved services.”
It’s been 13 years since he left Kenya. He said that he misses the food. “A typical meal back home is broiled or roasted corn. We put lemon pepper on the corn and eat it with coffee or tea.”
One of six children and the only son, David has lost touch with most of his family. “The last time I saw my dad was 1985, my mom raised us.” He said he would like to know what happened to his father: Tom Nyamongo. “I know that he went to Harvard in the 1980s, but he had some type of government job and his life was quite secretive.” He hasn’t spoken to his mother in several years. Although he hasn’t been able to confirm this, a sister of his told him in 2001 that she had passed away.
In addition to learning more about his parents, David would like to find a cousin of his that was like a big brother to him. His name is Ben Bella Jaoko and he is in his mid forties today according to David. “He moved to Poland in the 1980s to study. With the internet today maybe somebody can find him,” he said with hope in his voice.
Before saying goodbye, David told me that he was going to use the $10 to buy him a nice meal consisting of some Italian sausages and some bread, a beer and put the rest toward a pack of cigarettes.
Although I met David at Connecticut and Q, he says that he is usually at 17th and K if you would like to stop by and say hello.
UPDATE 10/04/2011: Since my initial encounter with David, the most incredible thing has happened. Someone who was going to a job interview at a company in Poland Googled the hiring manager for the job to learn a little more about him – something we all do today, right? The hiring manager’s name was Ben Bella Jaoko!
Well, would you believe he found my post about his cousin David and at the end of the interview asked Ben if he knew that he had a cousin in the U.S. who was looking for him. Completely shocked, Ben wasted no time contacting me and we connected by phone and I put him and David in contact.
From that moment on Ben worked tirelessly to make arrangements for David to get back to Kenya to be reunited with his family.
This morning as I sat working away at my kitchen table, I got a phone call from Ben. I didn’t immediately recognize the voice but when I heard David’s name mentioned I connected the dots. “I’ve managed to raise enough money to purchase the airfare for David to come back to Kenya,” he told me. He explained to me the rest of the details and asked for my help to take him to the airport and help pay for luggage fees, etc. I am sure there will be some other incidentals that will come up too as he prepares to return to Nairobi. If you would like to help us reunite David with his family you can donate $10 by clicking HERE or the yellow DONATE button on the top right side of this page.
We hope to have everything completed for David to depart by the end of the month. With your help, we can make that happen!
I hung up the phone and sat for a moment in silence in my apartment. All because of a simple blog post that I made back a little over a year ago David has is about to leave the streets of Washington to be reunited with his family. This is what it is all about!
UPDATE 11/15/2011: David will be flying home to Kenya on Tuesday, November 22nd. He has been away for nearly 15 years. Thanks to so many of you who have offered to help support these efforts. I have organized a going away party for David on Monday evening at One Lounge (1606 20th Street, NW – Dupont) in DC from 5:30-8:00pm. Please stop by and meet David before he embarks on this exciting new stage of his life. We will also be accepting donations if you would like to contribute to covering some of the costs associated with getting David back home. I hope to see you next Monday!!