I don’t feel the weight-I enjoy my job
It is at 7:00am in the busy muddy pavements of Nairobi’s Muthurwa Market and fruits and vegetable vendors are lined up in the various points to transport their stock.
Piles of onion nets, pineapples and water melons greet you as you enter the market located on the outskirts of the Central Business district, off Haile Sellasie Avenue. The area is visibly busy with vendors, porters and individual shoppers competing for the limited space despite the morning cold.
Patrick Shilingi, a 39-year-old porter who has worked in the market for four years pants as he walks fast, past us, seemingly oblivious of the weight of the 90kg sack of oranges that he carries on his back. “I am okay. This is an easy load,” he says as he puts down the luggage after about a 200-metre walk through the busy market. Sweating profusely, Shilingi continues: “This is my sixth luggage since 5:30am when I arrived here, and for these three you see here, I have earned Sh120,” he says, wiping his face with the edges of his red shirt.
The father of four wakes up every morning at 4:00am to attend to his full-time job at Nairobi’s Muthurwa Market. “I leave my house in Kibera every day at 5:00am so that I arrive here by 5:30am. You know, most of our customer are on first come first served so if one is late, you do not get customers,” says Shilingi.
He has done the work at Muthurwa market since 2012 where he reports every day until 2pm when the market is closed. “Before then, I was working in tea plantations in Kiambu where my uncle had gotten me a job. This was after dropping out of school at Class Three.
On a good day, Shilingi makes about Sh800. He, however, points out that between July and December are the highest season for him. “During other times of the year, I usually earn between Sh300 and Sh500 per day.
The seventh born in a family of 10 says despite the harsh conditions surrounding his job, he has managed to pay for his monthly bills. “In a month, I make approximately make Sh21,000 which allows me to pay school fees for my children and pay my other bills.”
Shilingi dispels the perception that people who do jobs like his are more prone to illnesses and that they have a shorter lifespan. “In this job, you just need two things: eat well and be faithful to your clients. Otherwise, people in this job live longer and hardly get sick,” he adds.