No matter where you are from, your dreams are valid
By Gidraf Orenja
I was born and raised in a small village called Mitume located approximately 1KM away from Kitale town Trans-Nzoia County. I am the last born in a family of six. Just like many youths in Africa, I never reached far in my education. I went to a public school which is near our home known as Tuwan primary School to get the primary level of education. I did the KCPE at the same school and got good grades. I was called to Njoro boys high school, but since we didn’t have money, I joined a nearby county-level school called St Columbans secondary school.
My love for technology started at the age of twelve when I saw and played a video game on my way to school. Everything changed because, before that, I wanted to be a doctor. Since then, I loved and wanted to play video games, but we didn’t have one at home, we used to even beg for food, I couldn’t afford it. I had to use half of the money I was given for lunch to play video games, I used to be given 10 shillings for lunch and I would use 5 shillings for lunch and the other 5 shillings I would use for video games. At this point, I didn’t know anything about computers.
At the age of thirteen, I had to look for other means to get money since I wanted to play video games and using my lunch money only made me starve. I couldn’t get cash from my parents neither could I be employed. The only way out was to collect scrap metal and sell them. I collected scrap metals and sold them until I went to high school.
I first saw and touched a computer when I joined high school. I had not seen a computer before I only used to see them in books. My interest shifted to computers and the only thing I wanted was to learn and know how the computer functions and operates. The school administration couldn’t allow us to interact with computers that often because we were juniors. I asked around where I could get a computer and that is how I came to learn about cybers and started spending most of my time there reading Microsoft office documentation notes and playing games. I continued collecting scrap metals to get money to go to the cyber and learn more about computers. I did this until I reached form three where we were allowed to spend more time with computers and thus there was no other reason to continue collecting scrap metals.
All this period I was learning how to use computers, and some small advanced concepts like visual basics. I didn’t know how to use the internet and the internet bill was too expensive for me back then during this period.
After doing the KCSE I didn’t get a grade for direct entry to university and I couldn’t join any college due to financial constraints and I had to start hustling and look for a job.
I went to Coastal part of Kenya to start hustling and earn a living. I was employed in a cyber as an attendant where I used to be paid Kshs 200/= per day. This was the first time for me to use the internet. I learned everything about the internet in my first job as a cyber attendant. I wanted to learn more so I had to find extra time for my studies.
I learned most of the things about the command prompt and terminal in this cyber job.
I worked as a cyber attendant for 3 years after finishing my form four and during this period I managed to buy my laptop with the money I had managed to save.
With my laptop, I was able to learn a lot. The problem I had most was access to the internet, so I went to one of my previous employers in Coast and we agreed I will be using the internet in exchange of assisting him with the work in the cyber. I used to walk from Maweni Mtwapa Kilifi around Coba Cabana beach area to Shanzu Mombasa to get the internet, I can’t approximate the distance but it’s a long-distance to walk every day but given the fact that coding was my passion, the distance was not a problem. I had a longing to get there every day and do the things that I love.
I met a friend while working in that cyber who recommended me to Udacity. I joined Udacity and applied to one of their free courses which were android development beginner track. As I continued to study in Udacity, I received an email from ALC scholarship, I didn’t know anything about Andela up to that point. I applied for the scholarship and I was selected. When I was doing the ALC course, my learning Facilitator told me about Andela and the fellowship program. I did some research about Andela and applied for the fellowship with little hope and expectations since I didn’t have a degree or diploma.
After about 2–3 weeks of application, I was called for an interview in Andela offices, but I didn’t have the money for transport and accommodation. My mum took a loan of Kshs 10,000 and use our only plot as the security so that I could get transport and some money to use while in Nairobi.
The boot camp challenge was so hard but I am grateful I made it to Andela.
Indeed brilliance is evenly distributed but the opportunity is not.
My name is Gidraf Orenja and I am a software engineer in Andela.
Some of my works are:
Learning Management App (LMA)LMA site
I was struggling to keep myself up to speed with new tools and skills that come up every day, during my free time I decided to build LMA so that it can help me to manage my studies well.
LMA can also help anyone to manage their learning/studies. Feel free to create an account and share if you like it.
Android Audio player:
One of the apps I always wanted to build was an audio player, so during my free time, I developed a simple app to play audio on Android phones. The app is live on play store and can be downloaded here, G player.
Andela way publication:
Since I struggled so hard to learn how to code because I didn’t have access to a computer and internet, I did some research and created a nice tutorial to assist aspiring coder to start coding with their phones. The article was published on Andela Way and can be found here.