Meet Hellen Nyongesa the female mkokoteni operator in Nairobi’s CBD

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Hellen Nyongesa, a mkokoteni operator in the city, caught the hearts of many Kenyans after a photo of her pulling a hand cart in Nairobi’s CBD made rounds social media.

The 35-year-old pulls a handcart full of ripe bananas on a daily basis from Nairobi’s Shauri Moyo estate where she lives to hawk them around Agro House in the city centre.

She says she encounters rogue drivers, choking fumes and nasty remarks from people on a daily basis but that has never broken her spirit.

All this she does with her daughter perched at the back of her cart. Hellen who has other two children, all girls living in the rural area says she struggles so that she could just fend for them.

She says she first came to Nairobi around 2005 courtesy of a villager who took her as a house help.The employer however became turned harsh on her forcing her to return to the village and get married.

Sometimes in 2009, Hellen and her hubby relocated to Nairobi for greener pastures and settled in Kawangware where her husband worked at a mjengo, but he was knocked down by a speeding car along Waiyaki Way in 2016 and died.

She was soon kicked out of her house in Kawangware forcing her to live on the streets with her youngest child who is now a pre unit pupil at St. Peters Clevers.

While on the streets Nyongesa narrates how she started attending a certain SDA church around Gikomba market.

It is here that she would meet church elders who would feed her and her daughter.

“One day an elder gave me Sh200 that opened my eyes. I spent Sh150 on food and kept Sh50. That day, I knelt down and prayed to God,” she narrates.

Hellen woke up early and went to Wakulima Market where she met a Tanzanian fruit seller from whom she bought some fruits to hawk with the ksh.50 she had left.

“The woman gave me two small sacks of fruits. I headed to the city centre, luckily a woman saw them and bought all at Sh100. I went back and met the same woman who gave me another bunch, again a man saw how tired I was and bought them for Sh1,000,” she said.