Photo of Sammy Ngatiri
Brandon Cooper

Sammy Nganga Ngatiri has struggled on two different continents, but still wants to improve the world that has often been cruel to him.

Ngatiri, who is from Kenya, was a banker by trade and even owned his company at one time. Now he usually sells papers on the corner of 17th and K Street. How he got from banking to that corner is startling.

Sammy was a victim of the 1998 bombing of the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi. With two broken legs, he lay underneath rubble for three days before rescuers were able to extricate him from the ruins.

“I was just praying,” Ngatiri said.

Three years after the bombings, Sammy came to the United States to testify against the alleged executors of the bombing, and returned to America in 2007 to participate in a conference hosted by The Center for Strategic and International Studies on protecting civilians from terrorist violence. Ngatiri was a panelist at the conference and, after it was finished, decided he wanted to stay in this country.

Not long after, though, Sammy found himself homeless. He started working as a vendor for Street Sense soon after and has found inspiration and meaning from selling the newspaper.

He says his favorite thing about selling the newspaper is the knowledge that he is part of an organization that is helping people.

Sammy is still homeless and usually stays in the Community for Creative Non-Violence Shelter. Despite his warmth toward Street Sense, he misses his grandchildren and family in Kenya and is waiting patiently to save up for a plane ticket to move back. He hopes to be going home by October.

When asked what he is going to miss about the United States after he leaves, Sammy talked about all of the free things people can get.

“In Kenya, nothing is free – you have to work for it,” he said.

One thing Sammy hopes to take back with him to Kenya is the idea of Street Sense. Ngatiri wants to start his own street newspaper in Nairobi and will accept donations to help his cause. He also wants to create a community library in his neighborhood and would like to start collecting books.