John Thou may look no different to any other child beggar in Nairobi, Kenya, but the boy has certainly proved himself to have a heart of gold. And when his actions towards Gladys Kamande came to light, they made headlines for all the right reasons.
Thou’s life itself has been tragic, however, since his mom passed away when he was very young. The boy was subsequently left in the care of his abusive father; ultimately, though, Thou couldn’t endure any more time with his dad and so ran away to the streets.
And like the majority of homeless children in Kenya, Thou devoted much of his time to asking civilians for money in order to survive. Beggars in Nairobi tend to approach motorists when they’re in their vehicles, and Thou was no different in that regard.
Perhaps the biggest obstacle facing child beggars in Nairobi, though, is the assumption that they’re criminals, rather than helpless kids who have been forced out of their family homes through no fault of their own. But perhaps the story of how Thou met a woman named Gladys Kamande may change the perception of homeless people in Kenya.
And when Thou approached Kamande’s car in late 2016, their meeting would prove to be a touching one. At first, though, the boy noticed something unusual about Kamande’s appearance: she seemed to be hooked up to a huge machine complete with tubes.
Thou then asked Kamande about the tubes, and she informed him that they were connected to an oxygen tank that helped her to breathe. Her lungs had stopped functioning properly without this assistance, so she needed to carry the equipment with her at all times.
And although Thou was homeless and begging for money on the streets, he was seemingly overcome with empathy for Kamande’s plight. He was deeply moved, it appeared, by the fact that there are people such as Kamande who need the assistance of machines just so they can breathe properly.
Overwhelmed by this realization, Thou burst into tears. He then reached into his pocket and offered Kamande everything that he’d managed to collect that day. In spite of his own problems, Thou looked to believe that this woman needed the money more than he did.
Thou also insisted that he wanted to stay with Kamande so that he could help her with housework. It seemed that the boy could sense just how much of a struggle Kamande’s life had been. And the woman had had her fair share of problems. After suffering from a stomach condition, for instance, she’d been reliant upon oxygen tanks for more than half a decade.
Kamande also had to endure 12 operations, one of which sadly led her to lose her sight. Tragically, her health issues had originally occurred as a result of assaults by an abusive husband.
When a pedestrian spotted the emotional encounter between Thou and Kamande, however, they snapped a photograph of the pair. And after the onlooker posted the resulting image on social media, the shot began to attract a lot of attention – in fact, it ultimately went viral.
Soon enough, people wanted to learn more about the two individuals in the photos and what had happened between them. It emerged that Kamande subsequently took Thou to a children’s home before vowing that she’d return to him once her recovery was complete.
Meanwhile, when Kamande had first met Thou, she’d been in the car with some friends as part of a fundraising campaign. Her loved ones had been doing their best to amass the $70,000 required to pay for a lung-reconstruction operation.
Furthermore, during the period when Kamande’s husband had constantly assaulted her, she had reportedly suffered several miscarriages. The emotions shown by Thou after he approached her car had prompted Kamande to take the young boy under her wing, however. And the encounter would ultimately end up changing both of their lives.
For one, Mike Sonko, Nairobi’s senator, saw Kamande and Thou’s story and felt compelled to help. To that end, he used his official Facebook page to request that local citizens donate money to Kamande’s cause; Sonko even included detailed instructions explaining how people could give funds.
And as the tale spread further, enough money was donated for Kamande to finally afford to fly to India and undergo surgery on her lungs. In total, people in Nairobi and across the globe gave $80,000, which will hopefully allow Kamande to have a more comfortable life in the future.
Across social media, there was plenty of sympathy and concern for Thou, too. “What a big heart this precious boy has!” wrote one commenter on Twitter in response to news of his and Kamande’s encounter. Another described the images accompanying the Twitter post as “beautiful.”
But that wasn’t the end. Nissy Wambugu saw the story, too, after which she made the effort to track down the youngster and adopt him. Wambugu has since provided Thou with a loving home and the opportunity to receive a school education.
As a result, then, Thou’s choice to donate all his money to someone else in need paid dividends. Now he has a loving mother and a seemingly bright future, and he will likely never need to beg for money on the streets of Nairobi ever again.
Thou and Kamande’s tale may well challenge people’s existing perceptions of homeless people in Nairobi too. But, if nothing else, the outcome from their meeting provides some good evidence for the notion that if we put compassion out into the world, we will often receive it back in return.