Eatery gives hope to desperate children

Friday, June 5th, 2020 00:00 |
Cape of Good Hope owner James Hunja feeds children of Jericho at his Eastlands hotel. Photo/PD/ RODGERS NDEGWA.

Charles Thuku and  Wahinya Henry

Thirteen-year old Nahashon Njogu cut a forlorn figure as he stands outside Cape of Good Hope eatery in Nairobi.

The Standard Six pupil at Martin Luther Primary School in Makadara Estate waited patiently around midday for his turn to get free lunch.

Mathee ni hawker Jericho market. Alifunga kazi ju ya Corona; hatuna food kwa hao (my mother is a hawker in Jericho market. She closed down her business because of Corona; we have no food in the house),”  says Njogu.  

The third born of six recounts the number of times he has missed meals since the pandemic crashed the hawking business of his single parent.

“We initially rarely took lunch due to the Corona challenges and we now make a point to venture into the kiosk and feast on free and well-cooked African food,” Njogu says of the free meals gifted by proprietor,  James Hunja, whom he refers fondly as uncle Hunja.

The eatery gained instant fame after the late Dick Mwangi Wathika won the coveted mayoral seat of the capital city in 2004 and later the Makadara parliamentary seat in 2007. 

The political glory did not deter Wathika from frequently revisiting Kwa Kaniaru or Hilton Ya Mtaa- as the eatery is fondly called- and which was a stone’s throw away from the spacious single room the family lived in Ofafa Kunguni – named so because of swarms of bedbugs common in the housing units.

Hunja, who teamed up with his father to manage the joint, recalls how Wathika spent his time playing a game of cards and draughts with other jobless colleagues as a youth.

Big names in the sporting world among them James ‘Kadir’ Ogolla, Swaleh Ochieng Oswayo, Dan Shikanda flocked to the joint to team up with the late legislator and take part in the games.

Boxing icon and first Kenyan Olympic gold medalist in Seoul, South Korea, the late Robert Wangila, was his other buddy.

“He would turn up here unexpectedly as mayor and later MP,” Hunja says of the leader who helped raise the profile of the joint that served him his favourite meals, githeri and ugali na sukumawiki.

Latest fame

The eatery is now riding on unexpected fame for serving free meals to children of desperate parents. 

 “Parents who survive on menial jobs and entertainment joints are at home. Without income, children are sleeping hungry in this estate. They come in droves begging for lunch and supper. I cannot chase them,” says Hunja.

Hunja’s benevolence at the kiosk, which he inherited from his late father, Mzee Samuel Gakuru Kaniaru, has been the talk of the neighbourhood.

He says he will continue feeding the children as long as the pandemic persists. Located near the junction of Ulu and Nile Roads, the eatery opened its doors to the public in 1978. 

Hunja, an alumnus of Dr Livingstone Primary School and Shauri Moyo Secondary School, said the support was informed by his burning desire to give back to the society, especially during tough times.

“I’m personally touched by the plight of hungry children left by their parents at home when they go to eke out a living through menial jobs. The kids had been coming to the kiosk to beg food from paying customers, which forced me to devise ways to change their lives,’’ says Hunja.

When People Daily visited the kiosk for a candid interview with Hunja, regular staff including David Kamande, James Irungu and Mercy Anyango were being assisted by a neighbour Susan Thuita, aka wa Njoki, to serve various delicious meals to the delight of the children. 

During our visit, the children wore bright faces and ate with relish, no doubt glad to have a meal to keep body and soul together. 

Hunja says his father, who passed on in 2018, aged 83, jump-started the business some 40 years ago with the sale of mandazi which cost a meagre Sh5 per piece.

Hunja also reminisces that there has been security lapses but things have improved. 

Current challenges include lack of enough water, but they get some, thanks to Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko through his Rescue Team.

The food is relatively pocket-friendly, with prices ranging from between Sh50 to Sh80.  

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