Something had to change after I had my 2 sons - Kenyan dad’s wake up call

A dad’s mission that is shaping kids in society

#YouthMtaani: Lawrence Mungai formed D-naZZarites to mentor kids in Dandora through music

“Watoto wa siku hizi!” loosely translated to say “Kids nowadays!” is a very common expression used when a child has done or said something that is considered derogatory.

Other times you’ll hear someone exclaim “Wamepotea! (There’s no hope for them)” and very little is done to guide these children.

Lawrence Mungai “Lorenzoh” has called Dandora home for as long as he can remember and at 40-something years, he is raising his two sons in the same estate.

At the first meeting, what you immediately note about him is that he is determined. After speaking with him for a few minutes you realize that he is on a mission.

Lorenzoh sat with this writer at our Pulse offices for a chat on the work he is currently doing with kids in his “geri” (neighbourhood).

Where it all begun

Having grown up in Dandora (“D”), Lorenzoh admits that the place is renowned for very high crime rate, poor sanitation because of the Dandora Dumpsite and low income households.

He cautions that just a walk through the neighbourhood is enough to tell any person of sound mind that D is not an ideal place to raise kids right. His wake up call came when his sons were born, he admits that he wouldn't like them to become what they see in D and unlike some, he decided to something to ensure they don't.

“Everything changed when I had my sons Clarence and Leorence. I looked at them and it dawned on me that I may do all the work necessary to instill good morals in them but they will go out and meet friends from the geri and be taught all the wrong things.

“You know, kids don’t learn what you tell them, they learn from what they see and what they see is what they will do,” he cautions.

He took it upon himself to be a mentor to as many kids as he could gather from the neighbourhood.

“So the kids, whose parents allowed, started coming to me after school and I started to instill in them the right morals. For instance, the other day the kids came and told me that one of them has been hurling unmentionable insults. I sat with the boy and spoke to him but the sad part is that when I told him that I was going to inform his mother, the boy turned to me and told me I could go right ahead but I would not find her anywhere. I had to just let that boy go, without cooperation from parents it becomes difficult to instill discipline,” he narrates.

Clarence is now 10-years-old and Leorence is 6-years-old and Lorenzoh says that his mentorship project has been going on for as long as they have been alive.

The birth of D-naZZarites

Lorenzoh is a videographer by profession, operating his business in Nairobi. He mentions that he also produces documentaries, one of his productions was used as a case study in a popular media house.

It is his profession and a need to keep the children he mentors occupied that prompted him to form the kids’ band, D-naZZarites in 2019.

“The ‘D’ is for Dandora and the rest we got from the Bible. There’s a passage in scripture where the question ‘Can anything good come out of Nazareth?’ is posed. I know people also wonder if there’s anything good in D, this project is here to show them that there is.

“I wrote the song and brought it to the kids and they enjoyed it. The good thing with children is that they get things quickly. So within no time we were ready for the studio and through the help of my friend Alee I was able to hire some cameras and shoot our first video, it’s on YouTube.

"I see this as something that we can look back on and remember, I'm also hoping that through the music we will pull more kids from the neighbourhood to the group and if at the end of it at least 1,2 even 3 lives are changed for good then I'll be happy,” Lorenzoh explains.

From that excitement, Lorenzoh tells this writer that one of the kids got carried away and started spending all his time at school writing songs.

“I had to discourage that because he was under the impression that school was no longer important and all his work now would be to become an artiste. I’ve told all the children that I am the one who will write the songs and tell them when we are recording. I make sure that their studies are not interrupted by this project.

“For example, we will be working on a new song during the week when they will be on mid-term and I have to make sure everything is completed before they go back to school.

“Of course only the parents who have given their consent for me to work with their children are the only ones who will participate. I’d wish for all kids in D to be part of D-naZZarites but I also respect the parents in the neighbourhood who don’t want their children to participate,” he stated.

What next for D-naZZarites?

Lorenzoh has big dreams for the kids who now call him “Mwalimu” (teacher). He is not out for fame or fortune but he would like to see the next generation of youngsters in D grow up with strong moral values.

“My joy is seeing the kids become teenagers, leave the group and make something of their lives. I’d like to invite anyone out there who is willing to shape the next generation to work with me.

“I know none of us is perfect but there are those of us who are committed to being a good example to the next generation. Those are the people I’d like to work with on this project.

“I’d like to give these kids hope and more than that, I’d like to expand their thinking. I want them to know that they are equal to those kids who get to visit these big malls and play all those fancy games. In fact, if I could hire a bus and take them out to such a place for just a day I believe it would make a difference to them because after all, they are just kids and those are the things kids should do,” he notes.

As we conclude the interview, Lorenzoh intimates that he would be happy to see the D-naZZarites project reach even more children and expand its scope of activities to ensure kids are guided in the right way.

Lorenzoh surprised this writer earlier on in the week with the studio edit of D-naZZarites’ upcoming release. It did not disappoint!

Find D-naZZarites' first song here.

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