The Star (Nairobi)

26 January 2013

Kenya: Day in the Life - I Have to Work Day and Night As a Guard and Porter to Feed My Family

Paulo Mwangi has been working as a night guard since 2007. "Circumstances forced me to take this job," he says. "I could not find a day job and since I had to eat, I decided to do the night shift."

He wakes up at 4pm and has a cup of tea and sweet potatoes which energise him for the night. It takes him an hour to get to work because he has to walk about 8km from his home. His shift begins at 6pm and considering the cold night ahead, he has to dress warmly.

"I have to change into warmer clothes once I get to work," he says. Armed with a torch and a club, he starts patrolling the estate as he can't tell which area might be attacked. The only time he gets to sit down is at 1am when he has a meal which is provided by his employers.

The night-shift guards eat on rotation such that there are always guards patrolling the area. When he gets off work at 6am, he heads back home and takes a nap for two hours before getting up to go look for more work as what he earns as a guard is not enough to sustain him.

He does anything from mowing lawns to carrying luggage as long as the payment is immediate. If he is successful and the payment is enough to afford a meal, then and only then will he have lunch.

The meal itself will depend on how much he has earned and what he can bargain for. There are times when he is not paid for services rendered and on such days he heads back home hungry. From 2pm, he takes another two hour nap, before waking up to begin his actual day. According to him, "This is just life for the common mwananchi.

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