Ex-Street Boy Clothes the Poor in City Slums

Samuel Omollo, better known as Omoll, lost his parents aged nine in 1994. And through the intrigues of life, he got into street life, and it took a toll on him. Coupled with peer pressure, he rebelled from the fostering by his aunt, and for a long time, the street would be his abode.

Sniffing glue, scavenging garbage at Dandora dumpsite, wearing rugs and living on food alms. This was the life he knew growing up. But Omoll, nicknamed Torres, later fell into the hands of a church and rehabilitation home, which took him to school. He also managed to earn a diploma in journalism. Rehabilitation did not just trigger the thirst for education; it also triggered passion for philanthropy. His work continues to pay off, and in 2020, the Star selected him as one of its persons of the year.

In 2013, as he walked through Korogocho slums, he would see women and children in a single outfit day in day out, week after week. Moved by the excruciating poverty in the slums, he felt he could do something to help, though poor and jobless himself. The now 35-year-old father of three started collecting his clothes and those of his wife that they did not need and donating them to the families. After that, he placed a notice at the gate of his estate in Nairobi’s Luckysummer area for neighbours to drop clothes they did not use at his door so he could collect them and distribute. This initiative grew and he called it Mng’aro Mtaani. He later registered it as a philanthropist entity, seeking to dress those not having clothes in the informal settlements.


When he sat down with the Star for an interview just before Christmas, Omoll said he is not an activist but a humanitarian who cannot stomach people struggling yet he can do something about it. “It pained me that women, young children and men are living with limited collections of clothes. It is not that they like it. They genuinely don’t have clothes,” Omoll said. Instead of complaining and whining about the squalor in the slums, Omoll did something about it. Mng’aro mtaani has served close to 40,000 people. Powered with a team of volunteers, Omoll uses Facebook to solicit clothe donations. He has rented a store in Luckysummer for the donations and for over five years now, has gained renown in the major slums in the city. In fact, in seasons of festivities, women troop to his store to get better clothing. “Like now, mothers from Korogocho slums and their children are coming to my house, asking for better clothes for Christmas and to travel upcountry,” he said.

And because slum areas remain one of the highly volatile areas during political contests, Mng’aro Mtaani uses clothe donations to foster inter-ethnic coexistence and peace. “When we give the clothes to people of different tribes, we remind them that they were sourced from people of different ethnic groups, so we need to regard one another as brother and sister,” he said. “We call it ‘clothing for peace’.”


The entity’s activities have grown diverse, responding to the needs in slums. For example, they collect menstrual towels from well-wishers and donate them to girls in slums under their campaign against gender-based violence. In the Covid-19 season, they have also reached out to the vulnerable with support packages, using social media to solicit donations from the public. “We have no resources of our own. We are only armed with passion to do good and selfless volunteers,” he said. However, real struggle plagues the relentless efforts to do good. The group’s office space and store are staring at the risk of eviction, as they have not paid rent for six months. The volunteers are often given Sh200 for facilitation but since the pandemic struck, this has not been feasible. “I don’t have any earnings. As I help out, my three children are struggling as I don’t have a job. But people think I have money,” he said.

Mngaro Mtaani is looking for partners to work with them to help reach as many people as possible. “I’m really hoping organisations such as Safaricom, Telcom among others partner with us so the programme becomes sustainable and we put cheers in the faces of many more people,” he said. The new partnerships, he said, would widen the scope of their reach and touch more lives as well as making the programme sustainable. “Though I have a diploma, I’m still jobless, but I can make films and videos and edit them. But even more important, I desire a chance to pursue a degree so that my knowledge base, skills and worldview are enlarged to be more effective,” Omoll said. Though they receive donations in kind, he said he would appreciate cash donations as well to support the various needs of their programmes. “So we can pay the office space, remunerate some staff and professionalise the operations,” he explained.

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