A former street boy from Nyeri County in central Kenya is now earning a living by making jewellery from electronic wasteDavid Nderitu says his venture into the profit-making jewellery business can be attributed to motivational speakers who always visited a youth empowerment centre where he had been taken in.
The centre, he says, gets professors from universities like the Pennsylvania State University in the USA and the University of Nairobi in Kenya, to give talks on entrepreneurship.
That was where he got his idea from, he says.
At 16, Nderitu was picked by an administrator to join a children’s home where he first realised that there could be a life away from the streets. He was then enrolled into a welding programme at the centre from which he got the unique idea of making jewellery from e-waste.
Nothing good comes easy, he says, adding that he has a keen interest in environmental sustainability and he feels bad when the soil is “poisoned” by such wastes. “It makes ecological sense as well as economic sense to recycle waste materials instead of disposing them to cause hazardous effects to the soil,” he says.
He notes that the end results of poor soil is poor crop yields.
Nderitu decided to collect waste materials from computers and cell phones to make jewellery for women and children, earning some money out of it and helping to make his environment clean.
He says his life has been turned around by this venture. He leads a decent life from what he was used to as a street kid. “I was once on the streets. And it was hard for me to imagine that I would ever get this far,” he says as he displays his handiwork.
His greatest support comes from his sponsors and friends who offered to source materials for his e-waste jewellery venture. “I always thank God for them,” he says, noting that his abilities got him sponsorship to go to high school.
Sometimes he gets his materials for around US$6 and he buys the earring hooks from the Maasai market in Nairobi at an affordable price.
He adds that he has attained a grade three certificate from a welding course that he did previously.
Despite his tight school schedule, Nderitu is quick to add that he is able to run his business as well as create time for his studies.
He manages to make 60 pairs of earrings from the scrap materials in about 15 days. No business comes without challenges and his is no exception.
When he started, he barely sold any of his products as he had not yet found a niche market for his unique jewellery.
He did, however, manage to raise US$23 from his first sale; a tidy sum for a young man like him.
Although his products have not yet penetrated the larger local market, he says that sponsors from the Pennsylvania State University in the USA always get the earrings in bulk after their annual visits to the centre.
A pair of earrings sold abroad by his sponsors would fetch him about US$11 while locally he gets US$4.
“There is always a way out of every situation no matter what,” says Nderitu, urging other children in the streets to embrace change and do something for themselves.
“I chose to venture into producing e-waste jewellery after discovering my potential while in my new home. The little I get gives me the energy to keep on going,” he adds, expanding that he has dreams of joining a reputable university for an engineering course.
“I will keep hitting the rock until it breaks,” says the former street kid.