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Giving Kenyans in the UK a feel home experience

Posted by Administrator on January 25, 2012

IT is one of the worst times currently to be a foreigner in the United Kingdom. With the UK’s economy facing threat of plunging into recession with each passing day, jobs are hard to come by these days.


It is even harder to operate a business as an African in the UK. But Milka Rusk, a Kenyan citizen is perfectly doing it, and making a kill out of it.


“My job is ensure that Kenyans in the UK are at home away from home,” says Rusk who migrated to the UK in 1980s to pursue higher education but who is now running three bars and restaurants in three different towns in Britain.


Out of the three pubs, one is fully dedicated to serving Kenyans’ and Africans’ needs. The pub, known as The Rocket, in Midland area of Britain, serves Kenyan foods and beers and also plays local Kenyan and music from other African countries.


“We play all the African songs but we do more of Kenyan music,” says Rusk. She adds it is always a tight balancing act to satisfy all the different kinds of clients who patronise the pub.

Popular Kikuyu musician Kamaru who plys his trade in Kenya will be entertaining patrons at the bar in April this year.


Milka took over the Grand Rocket pub which was a football boozer frequented by a few white customers in April last year. She has now blended the football fans with African cuisine and music in the pub which can accommodate up to 700 people at one time.


It has a newly refurbished conference facility upstairs, a pool table and two large plasma TV screens perched on the wall. The bar area has three teller spaces.They receive between 150-200 customers each weekend attracted by the disco and the buffet menu of ‘Nyama Choma’, ‘Irio’ and ‘Githeri’, she says.


Kenyan demography in the UK, though understudied, has recently changed exercebated by the deep economic stagnation cutting through the UK for the last two years. Kenyans have moved in large numbers out of London to other cities but large numbers are now in the Midlands. That is not to say that London has no substantial population. That recent change has seen Kenyans regrouping to support each other due to severe consequences of the economic slow down.


These enterprising groups converge around business areas like pubs and institutions like churches. There are many social meetings going on during weekends. It is these social groupings that are building blocks in the UK diaspora. Presidential contestants will need to reach out to them in the diaspora through such social places.


As the 2012 election campaigns start and with Kenyans in the diaspora now allowed to vote, Rusk is planning to use her pub as a meeting point.


Already she has been meeting Kenyan presidential hopefuls to convince them to use the pub as a free campaign venue for the 2012 election campaigns.


“All one needs to do is to tell me when they want to visit the venue and I shall mobilise Kenyans to come,” says Rusk in an interview conducted during her visit to Kenya. “The response has been very positive,” she adds.


She has already met three of the presidential aspirants while in Kenya and is hoping to meet more including Prime Minister Raila Odinga before she flies back to the UK.


Rusk asserts that to run a successful business in the hospitality industry, one must be an employee at the same time the employer. “Many people think I am an employee and not the owner of the pub but I like it that way since I am able to know what my customers want,” she says.


Pub business also requires strong management skills and a lot of personal discipline as well as adequate capital base. “If you don’t have enough money, you can’t make it and you have to be credit worthy,” she says.


Rusk adds that in pub business, one must be very kind to the customers because they have many choices to pick from. “You can’t be arrogant in this business,” she advices.


As far as discipline is concerned, in the UK, one cannot be licensed to run a pub business if he or she  has been convicted of even a simple offense such as drank driving.


“You also have to have good communication skills because you are dealing with drunkards and sometimes drug addicts,” she adds.


Rusk, a mother of two and married, is also a practicing magistrate. She is the first Kenyan and second black magistrate in the UK. For Milka, hard work and more hard work and taking risks are the only avenues to survival in a foreign land such as the UK.


“I don’t call myself lucky, it’s out of hard work that one can make a living,” she affirms. “Like now I am in holiday but I have not rested.”


But most Kenyans living there, afraid to take risks, have accepted that they can only work as domestic servants in elderly peoples’ homes and as supermarket attendants.


To young people, Rusk advices that they should not just sit there and wait for white-collar jobs. “If you have a hobby, expand it…try to be creative and see what has not been done,” she says adding that those already in employment must have some business on the sideline of their formal jobs as a fall back mechanism. “That is why I am a waiter as well as a magistrate,” she concludes.


Milka thoughts


1. Though I have achieved much, I will not sit and relax, I am not born like that.


2. I have no fear, I will face anything in this world.


3. Life in Britain is quite difficult at the moment…it’s not  a bed of roses.


4. I have been conned millions by dishonest people but well, they did not cut my hands or brains.


5. Young people sit and say there are no jobs but there are many things that people can do.


6. Go ahead and take a risk…everything in life is a risk.


7. The hardships and challenges are always there but you will always find a way to overcome them.

Source: http://www.the-star.co.ke/business/features/59460-giving-kenyans-in-the-uk-a-feel-home-experience-


One Response to “Giving Kenyans in the UK a feel home experience”

  1. Virgy. said

    Thanks God for you,your hard work has paid,u have encouraged me to go ahead and take a risk,who knows i may succeed in life.
    Thank so much God bless you.

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