Jennifer Wanjiru is a thirty year-old Pet Groomer/ Kennel & Boarding Manager at Very Impawtant Pets’ (VIP) Spa and Boarding in Nairobi, Kenya. Because of her love for bonding and caring after animals, she has attained the nick-name ‘mama bear’. Wanjiru has been a dog groomer since the year 2010, but has been with VIP since its establishment in 2014. She tells Eudiah Kamonjo how working with animals everyday is incredibly satisfying...
What was your childhood like and how did the experiences contribute to the person you are today?
It was very interesting. I was a tomboy who liked playing a lot. I also loved to help at home. I am the last-born in my nuclear family of seven (I have three brothers and three sisters) so mine was a large family. I loved school life and extra-curricular activities like music, drama, sports and health clubs. Even then, I still loved animals, especially dogs. My father passed on when I was only three years-old, so my mum raised me. She was a strict Christian and such a tough disciplinarian. This really helped me become focused from a young age. Having grown up in a large family helps one make friends and understand people more easily. I am a very social person.
Where did you go to school and what did you study after high school?
I went to St. Mary’s Karen Primary School, Muhuri Muchiri Secondary School, then Hekima Senoir (under the National Organisation for Peer Educators and CDC). I studied Community Development alongside a HIV & AIDs Program.
How did you get into what you do now?
After school, I got to work with the youth as a Peer Educator on Sex Education, drugs and other vital issues.
At one point, my brother (who also loves dogs) volunteered at the Kenyan Society for the Protection & Care for Animals (KSPCA), an animal shelter in Karen. Later on, I got to work there and met a friend who was doing dog grooming at the time. She trained me on pet grooming.
What do you love about what you do now? Being an animal care-giver is very fulfilling as I get to take care of helpless creatures that need my love and care. They become your friends and they reciprocate this love in their own way too.
What tips would you give readers planning to get into this field?
Nurture your dream because you will bring so much joy to animals. Your passion matters so do things that will lead you to your goals; like volunteering at animals shelters. One can also adopt a pet for personal training. Always keep an open mind.
Which other people in your field do you admire or think are doing great work?
Our field is one of a kind and so very few people I know can do what we do. I happen to work with the best team and we support and look up to one another. I work with two other groomers, Suzie and Raya and I find their dog grooming skills commendable.
How do you give back or participate in your community’s development?
I am a Peer Educator and work with an organization called RAY (Responding to AIDS & Drugs Amongst Youths). I also work with a group called ‘Shout the Silence’ that fights for the boy-child rights and seeks to eradicate domestic and sexual violence on children.
What can you tell BINGWA readers about accomplishing their goals?
I appreciate BINGWA for the initiative they are taking on mentoring our children, youths and the society at large. Readers should welcome ideas that inspire lives, better themselves and their community.
What are your views on animal rights? We were put on earth to love and care for it and all it carries; animals are a big and special part of life and should be protected and loved.
What are your views on children’s rights?
Today‘s children are tomorrow’s future. We should give children better foundations today so they can be of substance.
What are your views on corruption?
Corruption is like a parent taking the child’s plate of food and adding it onto their own; in the long run, this child will be emaciated and deprived of life. Corruption should be eliminated so that all areas of our country can grow.
I am inspired by: My children (11 and 9 years old). Because of them I pursue my dreams, hope and fight for as better tomorrow for all the children in the world.
Most memorable moment: Every time a happy dog showers me with thank you kisses.
Over the years, I have learnt that: We need to be confident in life and avoid overlooking our talents or the things we love. We should also be loving and giving to all those around us be it animals and people because even animals need love and we should be able to give it.
To be an animal handler, one has to be: Passionate, open- minded, firm with them and informed about the different breeds. Communication and creativity is also key when it comes to grooming.
Favourite saying or verse: Believe in yourself so that you may begin to understand that whatever it is that you want and purpose for in life will be yours.
Matthew 19:26 “For with God all things are possible.”
Favourite subjects (back in school): History and languages.
Favourite colour: I’m a very colorful person but black is a cool color.
Favourite music: Reggae music.
My role model: My mother. My mum taught me to work hard and never give up.
Favourite programme/cartoon/movies: I’m big on cartoons. I’m currently watching Avatar book series, I’m on the Last Air Bender.
First published in BINGWA Magazine Issue 15 2015