Ben’s life Story as Contributed by Henry Otunge (Savings Scheme member, Korogocho) and Aggrey Willis Otieno (Brother)
Benson Erick Osumba lived a short but fulfilling life. Though we are deeply hurt and in inconsolable grief and disbelief, hidden in all the pain and sorrow that we feel, we celebrate him for having touched our lives in a million ways.
Benson Erick Osumba was born in Nairobi on 28th February 1980 to the late Richard Odhiambo Osumba and Peninah Awino Osumba, and so begun the life of the man that people gathered here today were proud of to call their husband, their father, their son, their brother, their friend and leader.
In his early childhood days, Benson grew up in the sprawling slums of Korogocho without beating his siblings. He was very playful and humorous that his mum would quickly forget punishing him when he was in the wrong.
Benson Osumba joined Scouting at a tender age while in primary school and was an active member of Tegemeo Scouts Center, he was appointed a patrol member and a stave master of their unit / troop. He was among those of his troop who represented Nairobi Province in the National Inter Patrol Competitions. He underwent various Leadership Trainings; in the words of the founder of Scouting, Osumba did his best in leaving the world a better place than he found it.
As early as he was 9 years old, Benson started exhibiting a sense for indulging in community service by becoming a Cub Scout member in Ngunyumu Primary school. He moved up the rank and file of the scout system and eventually not only became a cub scout but also an admired troop commander. He was also a talented stave commander. This talent made him to be called upon on several occasions to lead the passing over parade by Boy Scouts during public holidays in front of the second President of Kenya, H.E Daniel Arap Moi.
As Senior Wang’ombe recalls, “the most memorable moment was when President Moi put some cash inside Benson’s pocket at State House during one of the public holidays”.
Benson started his schooling life in 1986 when he joined St. John’s Nursery school. He joined standard one class, at Ngunyumu Primary school in 1987 and left in 1992 to join Jina Primary School where he continued with his studies for Standard 7 and 8. Having excelled in his KCPE exams in 1994, Benson got admitted to St. Theresa Boys High school, Nairobi in 1995 and sat for his KCSE exams in 1998 in the same school.
Benson had a checkered illustrious career; Benson was a well liked and respected young man. He dedicated his entire life in serving the urban poor where he sharpened his leadership and problem solving skills. He has served in the boards of various Non- Governmental Organizations notably being Pambazuko Mashinani and Muungano Support Trust.
Though many within the civil society remember him as an urban poor advocate. Benson Osumba was also an entrepreneur in his own right. He registered Bencastro Engineering firm in 2008. Through the firm, Benson has left behind a number of buildings that he drew their architectural designs the latest being the telemedicine centre that belongs to his elder brother – Aggrey Willis.
Benson was a bit of a perfectionist in everything he did, he liked things to be just so. While not engaged in community service, Benson dedicated his time to perfecting his architectural drawing skills. To quench his thirst for more knowledge in the same field, he enrolled for a distance learning course.
Osumba joined Muungano wa Wanavijiji in April 2000 through his local savings scheme, Korogocho Needy; in Gitathuru Village, Korogocho Network, Nairobi Eastern region. He joined the group after an enumeration exercise conducted in Korogocho settlement under the supervision of Muungano federation and the Korogocho people settlement.
His enthusiasm to learn the Enumeration tool unveiled by Slum Dwellers International, Osumba was selected as an Enumerator representing the Gitathuru Enumerations team. His hard work during the enumeration exercise was noted by the Gitathuru community leaders; he was approached by the settlement leader; Martin Okumu to join their group, Korogocho Needy, who were in need of a group secretary.
Benson agreed to be the group’s secretary; he was deputized by the Late Tobias Ndege. Osumba embraced SDI’s concept of savings for a better life out of poverty and a developed well knit Korogocho settlement. Despite the fact that he lacked a job and a steady source of income, Osumba set aside every penny he could afford, so that he could save and be a good example with his savings group.
Benson managed his duties very well as the group’s secretary until 2005, when he joined the Federation to help out on Data Entry Training and Enumerations team, in Nairobi’s Eastern region by then. His brilliance and his ability to analyze perspectives on a broader perspective, gave his the opportunity to take part in numerous enumerations exercise in various towns and settlements in Kenya and abroad.
In his capacity as Secretary of Korogocho Needy; he together with the members set up systems and structures that would ensure all members get access to loans, ensured proper documentation and filing, transparency in running the group’s affairs and more importantly he ensured the role of women in the management of the group was achieved.
That very year, 2005; Benson opened himself up to attend the federation’s workshops, trainings on savings, community organising and lobbying and advocacy. His confidence and passion for community processes and participation matured.
In August 2005, Benson left Korogocho Needy group and formed a new group, called Cup Kenya, of which he was able to maintain his membership until his untimely death. Osumba managed to organize many groups in Korogocho and outside and within Kasarani District; such as Kariadudu United, Bsucola Youth SHG, Laundy Youth and Hunters in Korogocho. Kariadudu United and Hunters picked up momentum and are performing well.
Benson took life in his stride and appreciated what life offered him. Alongside countless people from Muungano wa Wanavijiji, civil society, global networks, and community-based organizations, Benson traversed the country and the world, trying to conceptualize and support poor peoples’ initiatives.
In 2007, the Nairobi Regional Council members of Muungano wa Wanavijiji, from both Eastern and Southern regions held an election to elect the Nairobi Regional Chairperson. Benson was then elected as the Nairobi Region Chairperson, where he was given the mandate to address the plight of the urban poor in the city.
In May 2008, the federation (Muungano wa Wanavijiji), decided to restructure its organizational structure, that would see a more vibrant and all inclusive and people centered movement. After the reorganization of the federation’s structure, and election was called for. Benson was elected the National Chairman of the Kenya’s Slum Dwellers Federation (Muungano wa Wanavijiji) for a renewable term of five years.
His experience garnered at national and international SDI processes, Benson implemented the operationalisation of the new look federation. Benson also transformed himself to a critical thinker, strategist, activist and a brilliant community organizer, a unique trait indeed.
It is out of these special character traits that; in May 2008 Benson was nominated by the Kenyan Federation to sit on the board of Shack/Slum Dwellers International, representing Kenya. Benson served with dedication as Chairperson of Muungano wa Wanavijiji, and SDI Board Member till his untimely demise.
Martin Nyawina Okumu a grassroot community leader; Korogocho describes Benson as a best friend. “He was born a leader and a listener. He went out of his way to help the poor regardless of their status or affiliation to the federation, we will dearly miss him”. “Henry Otunge, a member of Muungano Korogocho network and advocacy team, remembers Benson, as a brave community organizer and coordinator, when he had money he called himself, “Osumba will pay”, when he had no money he called himself,” Osumba will organize”, we went to the extent of nicknaming him; OKEW GI YESU!
The late Benson Osumba was in perfect health until March 2013, when he started ailing and immediately started the prescribed treatment for his illness. Benson began getting better and returned to his normal duties.
On 15th April 2013, his health deteriorated and was admitted in Hospital where he was getting specialized treatment. His health deteriorated on 17th April, 2013 and he succumbed to his ill health. Benson went to be with the Lord.
Despite his ill health, Benson was never at any one given time discouraged; he was ever jovial, vibrant, energetic and charismatic. Benson was full of life and valued every moment he spent with his family, regardless of his busy schedule to serve the Federation of Kenya’s Urban poor as their national Chairman.
He has left behind a wife and four children, namely Cynthia Awino, Marion Atieno, Fidel Odhiambo and Victor Ryan.
Benson will be laid to rest on 4th May 2013, at his Yala home, Gem.