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Kenyan Businessman Wins Ronald Reagan Republican Gold Medal Printable Version PRINTABLE VERSION
by Antony Felix O. Simbowo, Kenya Mar 17, 2006
Education   Short Stories
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Mr. Wilfred Saroni, a Kenyan living in the US State of Massachusetts, has been honoured with the Ronald Reagan Republican Gold Medal. The award is to be conferred upon him by senior members of the US Congress. Mr. Saroni’s recognition arose from his hard work and resourcefulness, through which he established a pioneering nursing college that now trains over 1,200 students per year. The college, known as the Holden Health Career Training Centre, was started in 1997 as a staffing agency supplying temporary personnel for some of the many job openings at local US hospitals.

Speaking to Kevin J. Kelley (Sunday Nation Kenya, 1st January 2006) in New York, Mr. Saroni said he realized that “the nursing shortage in the US was not a result of a shortage of potential employees, but that of trained employees”. Thus, with the assistance of his wife, Sarah, he embarked on a mission to build one of the most promising nursing colleges in the US. The institution has a staff of 67 and operates on an annual budget of more than US $ 2 million (about Kenya Shillings 150,000,000).

In less than 10 years since entering the United States, Mr. Saroni’s self discipline and determination has allowed him to earn an MBA through online studies. Within the same period, he has also married, raised a family and founded two different successful businesses: Holden Healthcare Staffing and Holden Health Career Training Centre. The nursing college has three campuses, with two located in the state of Massachusetts and one in the state of New Hampshire, known as Bay State and Granite State respectively. Mr. Saroni’s innovation has led him to planning an expansion of the college into having university status, offering degrees in diverse fields.

Mr. Saroni, a former travel consultant in Nairobi, remembers his modest schooling at Kimana primary and secondary schools in Kenya, where he walked about 10 miles a day to and from school. He later on moved to Nairobi to start a travel consultancy firm with a friend. The firm, whose clients included the National Bank of Kenya and the Central Bank, was later to be sold by the two in the mid nineties when the Kenyan Shilling plummeted at the demands of the International Monetary Fund for accountability from the then government. The Kenyan-born entrepreneur then moved to the US to attend Regis College near the home of his Kenyan aunt. Three years after moving to America, he launched the business venture.

Mr. Saroni was able to acquire a US work permit due to his wife’s status as a Green Card holder. He is eligible for American citizenship next September, but says that he does not want to lose his Kenyan citizenship. He is hoping that the Kenyan government will quickly introduce the much awaited provision for dual citizenship. He plans to raise funds in the US for some Kenyans seeking elective office at home. On his choice of Republicans as growth partners, he said, “I like the Republicans’ approach of encouraging small businesses”.

The Kenyan, who has political ambitions of his own, hinted to Mr. Kevin J. Kelley in the ‘Sunday Nation’ interview thus, “Even though my wife would probably not like to hear this, I hope to, one day, play a vital role in Kenya’s politics”. Mr. Saroni chided his fellow expatriates in the US saying that, “Kenyans can’t just be involved in politics by simply talking about it during social gatherings. We have to get our foot inside the political system if our needs are to be met”. As he goes back to Kenya in August, Mr. Saroni hopes to recruit business partners to finance the construction of a tourist lodge in Kajiado district. He said that such an initiative, “will be a way of giving back to a community that has done a lot for me”. Of the award he reiterated, “This is an award I want to share with all Kenyans”.

Mr. Saroni’s vision of succeeding in the land of opportunity, and leaving a mark in it, as well as in the rest of the world, saw him lay the foundation of his dream in 1998. The dream finally unfolded in 1999 with the healthcare staffing business venture. This took the Saronis through various risks, such as the possible rejection of their high cost investment; composed of a well structured rented building, necessary equipment, and employed staff by the board of education. As the college progressed, he was surprised that, “many of the Kenyans went to the competitors, and the Americans and immigrants came to our school”. He says that they probably, “doubted we would give them a legitimate certificate”. The Saronis’ efforts have seen many people, whose desire it is to earn a better living through learning, blessed.

Mr. Saroni’s father, Saroni ole Sane, is also a successful educationist. The senior Saroni established the Kunoni Education Centre in Ngong, just outside Nairobi. His wife, Sarah, is herself an accomplished nurse, having graduated from the Nairobi Hospital School of Nursing in Kenya. She is also

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Antony Felix O. Simbowo

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