Grace Njiru is a trained nurse and the co-founder of Chesed Home Healthcare, a nursing agency that provides comprehensive health services at the comfort of one’s home.
The mother of one worked in South Sudan for a period of six years, providing healthcare to refugees. She is also devoted to teaching health-related topics to different audiences.
Ms Njiru shares her career path with Sunday Nation.
Tell us about your childhood and family life
I was born in a small village in the heart of Kirinyaga County to a mechanic dad and a teacher mum. Being the firstborn in a family of five girls, I started taking up responsibilities at an early age, something I have carried on over the years.
My parents made big sacrifices for us to get a good education. I remember my sister and I doing a daily 21km commute to Diplomat Academy until my family relocated to Kerugoya town. This laid a good foundation for me and I later joined Precious Blood Secondary School – Riruta.
It is in these schools that I learned values such as integrity, diligence, and accountability. After my high school education, I joined Kenya Training Medical College (KMTC) for a Diploma course in Kenya Registered Community Health Nurse and later a degree in Health Systems Management.
Share with us your career journey
By the age of eight years, I knew I wanted to become a nurse. We staged a skit where I played the role of a nurse for the late former President Daniel Arap Moi. I asked my mother to make a nurse’s cap with green and maroon stripes on it. I only learned what the colours meant much later.
Upon completing my Diploma course in Nursing, I worked for Nazareth Hospital in the newborn unit for six months before I was appointed an assistant nurse in-charge of the maternity unit and later as the in-charge. I remember my first paycheck was Sh9,000.
In 2008, I took up a tutorial role at the Nazareth Medical College and served as the deputy principal in 2011-2012.
I later co-founded Chesed Home Healthcare Limited, a nursing agency that provides comprehensive services at the comfort of one’s home.
I am mainly involved in overseeing the day-to-day operations of the agency, meeting client’s families, conducting needs assessments, selecting and matching caregivers. When I am not at the agency I teach health-related topics to different audiences.
At Chesed Home Healthcare, we are committed to touching one family at a time by supporting them through the illness or recovery of their loved ones. Whether it is getting full-time caregivers or respite care, we believe in extending a hand of compassion to each and every family.
Looking back, my experiences in all these roles have contributed to what I am today. The invaluable skills and knowledge gained over the years come in handy in pushing the agency forward
What do you remember most about your career journey?
Some of the clients I have served with unique needs remain etched in my heart. While working with clients, I make it my duty to go the extra mile to ensure they get the best support. I also get a special connection with clients and patients alike that enables me to see the holistic being and address the issues that come with ill-health.
How have you progressed in your career over the years?
I opted to advance my career in health systems management since I was taking up management positions more often than not. This has helped me to look at healthcare from a broad perspective rather than from a clinical perspective alone. Working in complex environments has also helped me develop resilience and adaptability to any situation. I have become more accommodative as a result of working in dynamic teams.
What has been the driver of your career growth?
In my work integrity and accountability are paramount. One of my career highlights is my contribution towards the field guide on newborn care in humanitarian settings, a tool that will be used globally to reduce neonatal morbidities and mortalities. As a believer, knowing that God had a purpose for my life helps me align myself with his unique plan for me. We are stewards of His creation.
Some of the people who’ve come in handy in your career growth?
First and foremost my parents and my siblings, who are the best support system one can ask for. They took care of my son when I took up humanitarian work and they are always there for me. My best friend Charity, who is based in the US, has been closer than a sister. She tells me as it is and she can take a bullet for me.
Key decisions you might have taken along your career?
Leaving Kenya for South Sudan was a radical decision but it turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. The opportunity to work with both the host and the refugee communities in Upper Nile State was not only rewarding professionally but also contributed to my personal growth.
I learned to look at things from other people’s perspectives, to be very patient with people and to stretch my limits to achieve goals in a low-resource setting. Living amidst conflict and interacting with people who had lived in war for so many years helped me appreciate many things that we take for granted such as peace.
Taking a year-long break after six years in the humanitarian context gave me time to think through the healthcare system in our country. After prayerfully seeking direction, I took the bold step to co-found Chesed Home Healthcare after identifying the gaps between acute and chronic care.
What would you tell your younger self?
What we are waiting for is not as important as what happens to us while we are waiting. Trust the process – Mandy Hale. Every phase of life comes with its lessons to prepare us for what lies ahead. Many times we often live in the future forgetting to soak in the present where we are at yet therein lies our keys to the future.
What would you advise the youth in Kenya and Africa today?
The youth have a lot of time on their hands and lesser responsibilities, an opportune time to try out exploring the world. I see the world as a global platform for everyone to put their best foot forward and showcase their gifts, talents, skills and expertise. There are no shortcuts to success.
Your future career plans?
I would like the Chesed brand to grow to a one-stop-shop for home healthcare solutions. We are looking into partnering with health care facilities that are keen on improving the facility – home-based care linkage and referral systems, effective emergency response and support in cost-effective ways. We hope to get to a point where anyone can dial a nurse/caregiver just like the Uber services in a safe, patient-friendly space.