Kenyan-based Italian Lucia Alessandra made headlines after she chose to dip her foot into the public transport industry , taking a unique path as a conductor of matatus , particularly the minibuses dubbed 'nganya' which plied the Kitengela route.
The Runda-bred girl has however been missing in action at her station of work, the Kitengela matatu terminus , not by choice but because of an ailment that has had her away seeking treatment for the better part of the year.
“It is true that I have been away from the matatus. I fell sick and taken to hospital, I was told that I have some gallstones in the gallbladder,” she told the Standard publication.
Alessandra has been making appeals online to well wishers for financial aid to help her foot her medical bills which amount to Kshs 400,000 that will be channeled to her surgery to remove the gallstones, and for aftercare and medicine.
She stated that she was diagnosed with the condition early on in her life, but it took a turn for the worse in 2017, causing her to be confined to her home hence stifling her income as a tout.
“I was informed when I was young but didn’t take any step because the gallstones were not bothering me then. At the moment, the doctors have recommended that I undergo a surgery to remove them” she explained.
Alessandra who was raised and studied in the city, has always been passionate about her job, and began touting before she was 18, making a name for herself on the streets that led her to become a fully fledged conductor.
“I got into the industry before I was 18, but only became a licensed conductor early this year,” she stated in 2016 in fluent Swahili and Sheng.
“I started by visiting matatu terminus just to observe what happens. With time, I fell in love with noise and how conductors and touts work. In fact, I’ve known some of them for more than five years,” she explained.
Her decision was a tough pill for her friends and family to swallow, especially owing to her upbringing in affluent Karen area of Nairobi County, but her love for the industry remained undeterred and hence her appeal for medical assistance.
“It is what I like doing the most. What I get goes into savings for my child. Drivers and others in the industry respect me and none has ever crossed the boundary. We just joke a lot,” she stated.