The journey of a thousand miles…
It started with a formal phone call one Friday afternoon as I was carrying out my dignity project in Shaurimoyo. I was quite engaged but I excused myself to take the call. At first I thought maybe it is one of those sales people trying to sell me a holiday destination, considering it was March and in a weeks’ time schools would be closing. I hesitantly hit the receive button and on the other end was an enthusiastic young lady. “Hallo, my name is Stella Cheboi and am calling you from Emerging Leaders Foundation. Am I speaking to Kevin Alando?” those were her exact words. I immediately recalled making an application to Emerging Leaders Foundation to join their mentorship program some few months back. It never crossed my mind that I would be accepted and the call surely caught me by surprise. After a brief conversation Stella told me she had sent me an email a few weeks back and we concluded that I would check it out and get back to her. That evening I searched through my emails and eventually found it. That marked the beginning of a six-month journey that would change my life.
Finally, the long-awaited day arrived. It was the first day of the program and I had no idea what to expect. The weather was quite chilly that morning as it had rained the previous night. I began having second thoughts and even tried to convince myself the weather was a sign that I should sleep this one out, but my will to go was stronger than my desire to sit back home. Despite being indecisive and nervous, I made my way down to YMCA. I knew I had to show up even if it was just to make up my mind whether the program would suit my needs. Nevertheless, I arrived a bit earlier just to familiarize myself with the place and get comfortable before everyone else arrived. This turned out great as I got to interact with the organizers while I helped finish setting up the place. By the time the other fellows were arriving I had already blended in and I was freely interacting and getting to know a few of them. When the first session kicked off we were each given a manifesto, I read it and signed it as the words ignited something in me that made me feel invincible. By the time we were breaking for a lunch, I had learned more about myself than I had known for the better part of my life. The rest of the day was amazing and I was left speechless. I got make new friends who inspired me to be myself. On my way home that evening I felt like a different person. I felt challenged encouraged and motivated, I could not wait for the second session. I had made the first step, the first step in my journey of a thousand miles.
The journey at ELF has turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. Apart from learning so much from the mentors and fellow cohorts I managed to get out of my comfort zone. I found the one thing that I had been searching for, a place to explore my capabilities without feeling weird or out of context, somewhere I could have meaningful discussions without fear of appearing too smart or too dumb. I knew this was definitely the place for me. Deep down I never had the courage to stand in front of my peers to make a speech. The most I could do was to introduce myself and run off the stage as fast as I could before my knees became weak and I started sweating all over the place. That was until I was put to task to share my story with my fellow cohorts. I managed to hold myself together and by the time I went back to my seat I was sweating all over. It was not as difficult as I anticipated and the experience only made me realize that my greatest enemy all along was fear. I had finally mustered enough courage to overcome the fear that had crippled my desire to lead. Six months later I have had the privilege to share a podium with the cabinet secretary for labour Mrs Phyllis Kandie, where I gave a speech to represent the youth on behalf of the World Youth Alliance Africa. Since then I have spoken at several other events to audiences way older than me without fear or doubt.
Networking and engagements with my peers and mentors has helped me understand that there is more to life than hiding away from the world. Just like the quote by Christopher Abraham, “A butterfly is incapable of flight until the struggle to free himself from his cocoon has given his wings the strength he needs; the hardest you’ve ever struggled is the strongest you’ll ever be”. I resorted to find strength in my struggles. I made a plan for my life and the support and encouragement from my mentors is helping me follow through. The commitment that I signed on the first day of the program keeps me on toes. I recite it whenever I feel hopeless and it reminds me of the fact I’m the captain of my ship and the author of my destiny. Sometimes it gets difficult for me to wake up in the morning, sometimes I feel like giving up on my dreams but I know that am accountable to my peers, my mentors, my generation and most importantly to myself. The program has transformed my thinking tremendously, and I know the decision to make something of my life lies with me. I now understand that as a leader, young people look up to me and whether I’m aware of it or not my actions influence their lives in one way or the other. The encouragement to read has challenged me to be more ambitious in life because we can only achieve as much as our mind can perceive.
I have had worthwhile moments that has strengthened my relationship with my peers. Our community service at Mully Children’s Family brought us together to share wonderful memories. My engagements with the kids and young people at the centre taught me that our past and where we come from should not dictate the outcome of our lives. The hike to Sleeping Warrior and Mlima Ugali cemented this relationship as we got the chance to bond more and share wonderful experiences. We have shared lots of happy moments, meals and adventures that have taught me to live life to the fullest. The program might have ended but for me it is the continuation of my journey of service and doing what I love. A journey that ushers a new beginning for me and all my fellow cohorts, to live a life of shared values and principles with new friends and colleagues who are true to their cause. Now I walk with my head held up high, knowing that every effort I make does not go to waste. It is a seed that I have planted and with time it will grow into something wonderful. As Caren always reminds us, “A leader always takes initiative.” I have taken the initiative and I’m now preparing the ground to plant a seed in my community that will grow and change the lives of thousands of young people in the place I have always called home.