In December 2001, then-16-year-old Joseph Ngaruiya migrated from Nairobi, Kenya, to the eastern Massachusetts city of Lowell with his mother, Salome, to join his father, Stephen, who had arrived six months earlier.
He had never experienced cold of the magnitude of a New England winter nor seen snow with his own eyes.
His mother, who had worked as a banker in Nairobi, found work as a certified nursing assistant, and she and her husband worked 90-plus hours a week in rotating shifts to make ends meet. Hosted by an uncle, Ngaruiya’s two siblings joined them the following April, and the six members of the family lived together in a two-bedroom apartment.
Jospeh Ngaruiya remembers feeling out of his cultural depths at Lowell High School, a part of a student body nearly 10 times larger than what he was accustomed to in Nairobi, and while he spoke English, his accent was a communication barrier.
“Coming from a Third-World country to a First-World country was culture shock,” he says. His perseverance was celebrated last fall, with loved ones in the audience, as he received the 2019 Barry M. Portnoy Immigrant Entrepreneur Award presented by the Immigrant Learning Center in Boston.
Recognized for the growth of his business, A Better Life Homecare, now-34-year-old Ngaruiya was among 38 nominees from 26 countries honored for the businesses they founded in Massachusetts. The entrepreneurs were praised for creating jobs, serving their neighborhoods and fueling the innovation economy.
“To be receiving an award in America, that’s a huge thing. The ceremony itself was beautiful. I brought a whole lot of family there. It was a very emotional day for us,” Ngaruiya says. Read More