BOSTON (CBS) – John Maina’s journey began in a village in Kenya ten years ago.
He was an assistant school principal with a wife and three boys.
Joe Mark was three.
“Joe was not able to talk. This made us think something was not right” says Maina.
Doctors said it was Autism. In Kenya, in 2006 that was like mentioning the boogey man.
“Many people actually think having Autism is the result of a bad omen. That it’s the result of you doing something wrong.”
But Maina knew better, even if he didn’t know what he knew, or didn’t, about Autism.
“So I’d go to the cities to the Internet cafes to start surfing and get more information.”
Maina decided he’d have to go to America and would have to leave his family behind.
“My son meant everything to me.”
Maina came to Boston. He got his masters degree in Special Education and then a job teaching kids with Autism at the Higashi School in Randolph.
Every day he’d Skype with his sons teachers in Kenya to share with them what he was learning.
“Because I knew this was the only way they’d be able to help Joe Mark.”
Maina did this for six and a half years until finally in 2014; his family was allowed to could come here too.
Two and a half years later, Joe Mark is in Middle School in Randolph. He’s getting the help he needs.
“He’s phenomenal. He loves basketball. He loves being around us.”
On cue, Joe Mark starts rattling off NBA players and their teams. He knows his superstars. And he lives with one.
Dr. Maina (Did I mention he got his PHD?!?) was invited to speak to the United Nations on Friday for the beginning of Autism Awareness Month.
“It evokes emotions of what I’ve gone through. It has taken so much from us to get to where we are, but I’m hopeful that Joe Mark will have a better life because we invested in him.”