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The Shoe Seller

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David Njenga is sitting at home--a dank, claustrophobic room in Rongai--with his wife and two young children. Perhaps ironically for a man whose legs have been ravaged by polio, he is a shoe seller in the local market.

"Business is hard," he says, "one day you make some money, the next you don't make anything." This sentiment will be familiar to the other locals who hawk their goods alongside him. Rongai market is like any other village market in Kenya: densely packed with stalls selling a variety of fruit, vegetables, plastic bins and basins, bicycle tyres and, of course, shoes. Trade can be very slow, especially in a village like this where transient customers are minimal.

David has been selling and repairing footwear for eight years now, but he says that life, as well as business, is difficult. "It's very hard, every day is a struggle." As a cobbler, he made a special pair of orthopaedic shoes to help himself walk and he says that now he prefers to use a crutch instead of the wheelchair that sits folded in his room.

He did relatively well at school, completing secondary education with a C-grade average. But that wasn't good enough to qualify him for a state university scholarship.

So instead he decided to leave home and look for work, he travelled around western Kenya for a while before coming to rest in Rongai 10 years ago. "It was very hard at the start, I spent three years not working." He says that it was extremely difficult for someone in his condition to get any capital to start a business but eventually he managed to secure KSH 1,000, about $10, with which he bought some stock to get started.

Now he says he would like to go back to education, to university maybe, if he can get the money together. But in a country where tuition fees are as much as $10,000 he says it's "unlikely" he will ever be able to afford it.

On top of that he has his two young children to consider. They're sitting with their mother on the couch opposite his seat, literally three feet away, the width of the living room. Behind them is a curtain, and behind that a bed--the entire home.

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