In a country where poverty is widespread and thousands of people die every year of AIDS, becoming an orphan at the age of three seems like a death sentence. This was precisely where Sam Mbugua found himself, the youngest of five children left to fend for himself in Kenya. After losing both of his parents, little Sam was admitted into SOS Children’s Village Mombasa. There he grew into an inspiring young adult, dedicated to changing the lives of future generations of Africans.
Sam plays with children at the Village where he grew up in Kenya. photo from SOS Archives
Sam graduated from SOS Hermann Gmeiner International College in Ghana and was accepted to Sheffield University in England where he excelled in social and political studies. After graduation, Sam secured two internships with the UN, working in the Office of High Commission for Human Rights in Geneva and in the Department of Political Affairs in New York. These internships, combined with his experience as a child growing up in SOS in Kenya, convinced Sam that international development was his passion and calling.
Sticking to his motto of “daring to think big and act boldly,” Sam has continued to be successful and temporarily returned to Africa to work as a volunteer with both SOS and the UN. He was one of 40 young people selected as a Global Leadership Fellow at the World Economic Forum in Geneva, a program that prepares young professionals for future leadership roles. Sam enjoyed a combination of a full-time position in the WEF and academic courses that led to a Masters degree in World Leadership by the end of the three-year program.
Sam stops to credit his family-style upbringing in SOS Children’s Village Mombasa as the foundation of his success, saying, “it normalized us in the eyes of our friends and peers.” He credits his SOS mother for the value he now places on education. Sam is now dedicated to inspiring educated Africans to return home in order to reverse the “brain drain” created by African emigration. As the chair of the Kenyan Association in Geneva, Sam is developing ways to keep others like him from abandoning their homeland in search of better economic opportunities. Sam is certain he will return home to live in Kenya.
Sam has developed from a young orphan into a future world leader traveling the globe in order to better the lives of future African generations. This makes him an extraordinary SOS success story. He was given a loving and stable family whose support helped him capitalize on opportunities for a brighter future. When Sam is asked how he has come so far he calls upon his inner strength. “My personal philosophy is that you’ve always got to strive to be the person you expect to see. If we believe in ourselves and believe in our own abilities, we can get a great deal accomplished.