Never Underestimate The Power Of A Story; Your Story! By Jim India

One of my earliest childhood memories which has colossally molded my progress this far, is me in class three.
So, I had just moved schools from the village to the city, I could only speak my mother tongue and some rumors of what to me sounded like Swahili. I get into a class of forty pupils, all polished and with well-ordered handwritings, it is important that I mention about the handwriting because I am reliably informed by my class teacher then, that my scribbles could only be described as orthodox, I used to write across the page in a single ruled book! My worst fear was the Reading and Kusoma exam, I genuinely couldn’t read. Back in the village the teacher took the time to translate the test from English to dholuo to aid in our comprehension, in this controlled exam setting dear reader please note that I was number one all through my two years in my village school.
I was the envy of many and most parents used me as an example of the kind friends their children should have- I was the S.I unit for my age mates. My mother was a proud of mom of a bright and promising short boy with an abnormally large head that seemed to have a depression at the center, kids really made fun me and as if that was not enough, I had and still do have unusually tiny eyes for a ‘black king’ like me. Could this be the reason my eyes close when I laugh?
One day the older kids in the village school (Ayaro Primary) scared the heaven out me (I’m not the kind to use words like hell, my Sunday school upbringing does not allow me) they told me that they had noticed that my eyes had gotten smaller with time and there is a possibility that come the following day I would go blind, poor me! Who was I to question the wisdom of the old? After all they had crammed the “times table” and knew the answer to 9*9.
That afternoon as we routinely left school to go grab a plate or cup of whatever we could find home, I wept bitterly for my eyes. On my bare feet, ‘I love my school’ back pack behind me with my two books and my falling shorts held on my waist with my left hand as the right-hand wipes mucus off my face. The longest and most excruciating walk I ever made, I had anticipated that when I get home my mother would have a solution as she always did, my mama inquired of the source of my pain and when I had brought her up to speed with my current predicament and made her fully aware that she should embrace herself to raise a blind son, her rejoinder stunned me but also comforted me, she told me, just like Jesus, to rub mud on my eyes then go wash my face thoroughly with a lot of water and that if I do this my eyesight will be restored. True to her words I have not lost my eyesight close to twenty years later, then y’all wonder why my mother is my hero?
Anyway, back in my city school (Mathare is still part of the city right?) there was Big Bernard, Small Bernard and myself. Big Bernard was…. well, big, funny, strong, a talented footballer and always had five shillings for kaimati during break time which he would share with his many close friends. Small Bernard was, small, hardly showered or brushed his teeth, had no talent that I can mention other than the githeri eating skills he displayed during lunch breaks, coincidentally though he also had many friends who identified with him, most notably was a skinny boy named Edjigidio Macharia – yes that was his name, and he was a different kid, he made his five shillings for Kaimati like most boys his age in the slum, picking nails inside the dirty Nairobi River and selling them, a risky habit but one that he thrived in and he had his once white shirt now turned brown as a mark of his conquests.
The two Bernard’s controlled my class, you had to be loyal to one camp, but not me, I wanted my own crew, but I wasn’t brainy or talented as a matter of fact there was nothing desirable about me at the time, I had a torn short as my uniform with two wide patches at the back that if it were not for my sweater which I tied round my waist, would have revealed dry and not oiled at all tiny buttocks of a seven year old bouncing boy. I was also only fluent in dholuo insults (for all have sinned and fallen short-lest you judge me), so clearly I wasn’t going to fit in any of the two popular camps and neither was I going to have my own crew, such a sad and lonely life! The only person who could hang out with me was my fellow mshamba Geofrey (we are still best of friends to date), we made a resolution to be good at something-anything, provided we attracted all the attention to ourselves. Geofrey went ahead to mastered the art of break dancing and football, I stumbled upon public speaking, music and drama. And we were good at what we did, by the time we were doing our KCPE in that school Geoffrey was the class prefect and I had been the head boy. I was also the scouts’ leader and I had held several other leadership posts before that.
One incident at age seven changed my entire life. A desire to influence, to be followed. A refusal to fit into the crowd but to rather stand out. A journey of self-discovery, to know what I was good at, to accept that it’s okay to be good at something that is not considered cool, but to be so good at it that everyone desires it. It was a selfish ambition, but it’s one that I don’t regret ever having.
It is important for me to provide this context so that you can understand why Emerging Leaders Foundation is important to me, you need to understand where I’m coming from to understand where I’m going.
When I first engaged in the self-identity class on the first ABLI training, I was awestruck, I couldn’t believe that God had allowed me to go through so much and that it all added up to form my personality and lead me to my destiny. Sometimes we feel the need to adopt our current status and forget our past, we feel ashamed of where we have come from, and we fail to appreciate what all our experiences have taught us, and the values they have formed in us.
So own your story, however regular or unique it is, however hilarious or boring it is, own it! It’s your story, your experience, it’s part of who you are and the world needs to hear it. You are the only one who understands it, the only one who has gone through it all and made it out triumphantly. Our stories are still being formed, meaning the telling never stops.
I’m 24yrs and I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of my story. If losing my eyesight made me cry seventeen years ago, its making me laugh now, even as something else makes me shed tears now, I’m patient with my growth process, but I’m determined to tell my story at every opportunity to show that growth is inevitable, but mostly I tell my story to connect with you and for you to connect with me, and out of this network we are able to change the world and cause impact one day at a time.
Now that you know mine, tell me your story.


What is said dies with the people, what is written goes beyond a generation. It is on this note that we kicked off the fourth session of the ABLI Mentorship training at Metta on 14 Riverside Drive.

After the session, one of the mentees commented “It was a good reminder of the essentials of writing, sometimes we forget the basics.”, yet another added,” My writing speaks about me,”. The facilitator reminded the group that writing is not a new thing as even the cave men wrote on each other’s walls, he impressed upon them that the models of writing might have changed but its relevance remains at the core of leadership development more so today.

On the social media front, it came out that we are in the ‘New news society’ where information is shared instantly. It was observed that many employers today turn to social media while recruiting their staff, hence the participants were given tips on how to build an impressive online profile. “It’s important to identify an objective in social media engagement” remarked one of the mentees.

Adiema Adiema from the Kenya National Debate Council trained our youths on constructive and concise debating techniques. He asserted that leaders will always be required to debate on issues and sometimes they will even be judged by their ability to debate, Wagae, one of the mentees speaking later said,” Let your speech be better than silence or be silent”

Perhaps the most passionate and thrilling moments came at the tail end when we were training on public speaking, we got the mentees into two groups and they practiced effective public speaking against each other, most them overcame their fear of speaking in front of crowds and Kavesu even resolved,” telling my own story in a presentation will help in effective public speaking.”



Let’s start this journey with a question. Have you ever walked in a room and come out feeling a different person? Or feeling like you can do more? That feeling of a conqueror? Yes that’s the feeling I’m talking about. It’s the feeling you get at the end of each session of the CHANGAMKA leadership training. This is subject to rather as a result of comprehensive leadership training by a team of competent coaches from different sectors that I would describe using the Chinese words: “ShangShangCe” meaning the best of the best options.

The sessions a started by a great training on self-awareness and personality types by Dr. Leslie Brickman who is a certified life coach and trainer. He says that in leadership it is a must for a leader to first know themselves and then those that they lead. Dr. Leslie clearly brought out three types of leaders and their traits i.e. Dependent leaders who are abusive and manipulative, independent leaders and competitive leaders. Finally we were introduced into a comprehensive self-discovery of our different temperaments and their traits as well as emotional intelligence (E.Q) which has a great impact on our ability to lead. I realized that I am an extrovert and intuitive (E.N) and learned on appreciating and dealing with the other personality types.

Dr. Job Mogire the founder of the House of Mastery in his session on self-discovery and leadership journey he did justice to the topic by bringing out different views from birth that we have towards the world, life, people and self. I.e. do we view the world as safe or unsafe? People as good or bad? Life as meaningful or meaningless? Ourselves as worthy or unworthy? He further introduced us to the topic on purpose and the presentation of the six circles theory (spiritual, identity, beliefs, capability, behavior and environment). I resolved to apply the 3P’s principle in my life: To give myself permission to act independent of other people’s negative opinion/vibes, to own the power to make my own decisions and to protect my time, energy, attention and intentions.

In his session on Habits of Highly Effective People Mr. Nelson Mburu the CEO, African Investment Trade and Agricultural Network, made a splendid presentations on the seven habits from Stephen R Covey’s book where he makes this profound statement that ”we are what we repeatedly do, excellence then is not an act but a habit.” Mr. Mburu expounded on all the habits from being pro active to sharpening the saw in a way that provoked the leader in me to do my damndest best to cultivate all this seven habits (be proactive, begin with the end in mind, put first things first, think win-win, seek to understand then be understood, synergize and sharpen the saw)of which the first three habits constitute private victory, next three constitute public victory and the last is all about self investments. Aftermath: I have resolved not to respond to the weather but create my own weather and to work and live my mission statement.

I started by posing a question to you and admitting that after each CHANGAMKA session I feel a different person and at this point I feel I respond to quite a number of titles the latest one being “a feminist” yes you read that correctly. You must be wondering “but why a feminist?” According to Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie a renowned Nigerian novelist points out in one of her TED talk presentation that; “We Should all be feminists.” Well being a man in a patriarchal society I couldn’t help but disagree not until Nafula Wafula the Founder, Tetezi and a Feminist in one of the sessions: Gender and Leadership did justice to the topic and convinced me otherwise by practically letting us draw my ideal woman , the major gender stereotypes that we have and what we think either of the genders can’t do in leadership. Think about that. What is it that a female leader can’t do that his male counterpart can? End point I believe that a great mind or a leader’s mind is that which is androgynous.

If a woman or man is leading and doesn’t have followers then probably they are just having a walk. Yes, even Jesus Christ as a leader had followers. If you love reading the good old book you probably must have come across the text where some of the followers (disciples) of Jesus had a sort of debate on who is the greatest rather a leader and in his rejoinder Jesus said that “whoever wants to be the greatest must be a servant” (Mark 10:43-45.) In the Session: Servant hood and Leadership Dr. Funso Somorin who is the Regional Principal Officer, African Development Bank and ELF trainer insisted that the quality of the followers determines the quality of the leadership and we should desire to serve because leadership is about service not title. It is a general knowledge that when you drop a pebble in an ocean it produces a ripple effect that is unstoppable the same way I have resolved to drop myself in an ‘ocean’ of servant leadership and create a service ripple that will affect others in turn and make the world a better place.

Now allow me to tag you along a journey backward, a decade to be exact. I remember some years back in high school history class we had these cool stories of African elites from different countries who started Pan-Africansm movement during the colonial period in Africa but unceremoniously the story ends after independence leaving me with questions like what next? Why are the whites still considered by many as superior? What’s in for Pan-Africanists if there are any left since most of the early ones rose to power and became the oppressors? Back to present time, in one of the CHANGAMKA session on Pan-Africanism, Mr. Michael Orwa a Governance and Democracy Expert and also a Pan-Africanist posed a question to us that I will also pose to you; who will liberate Africans from their liberators? Well based on the foundational principles of Pan-Africanism i.e. humanity, freedom, dignity, equity and non-discrimination and social justice, I have resolved walk the talk and take up yet another title: Pan-Africanist since being black is not a matter of pigmentation but a reflection of mental attitude so is Pan-Africanism.

Matters governance is a session that I walked out wiser as well as being on the know that I hadn’t done much as pertaining on playing any important role in governance as a youth. Mr. Collins Odhiambo the Deputy Manager Actionaid Global platforms and his counterpart Miss. Stella Agara a renowned Tax Justice Advocate on the sessions on Youth Engagement in Governance, they pointed out that as much as young people are the cornerstone of Africa’s development their role in governance has been reduced to unconstructive criticism and irrational demonstration to protect those in power, blame it on the ignorance of the youth on even the functions of their immediate leaders e.g. the MCA’s and MP’s. Mr. Collins further provoked the youths to be involved in the policy making by engaging in the processes both online and in physical platforms.

Mr. Arnold Maliba an expert in policy making as well as a former UN Youth Representative and Currently the Manager, Strategic Partnerships and dialogue under Emerging leaders foundation and coordinator of the CHANGAMKA Mentorship program has been playing a great role in helping us engage in different platforms during and even out of the training sessions. With all the knowledge acquired on matters governance engagement I can confidently identify a problem, its root cause, plan on how the message get to the right ears, identify stakeholders for in engagement one can’t afford to be selfish, do community mobilization, alliance building and implementations.

You see I just love on how the sessions in the CHANGAMKA are organized, just when I was getting so political, well I mean engaging in handshakes with my co-trainees which is basically networking and engaging of course, the sessions transpose to matters entrepreneurship another interesting topic. In her personal Journey and lessons Akinyi Odongo the Founder Akinyi Odongo Kenya and a Mentor insisted that the youth have the solutions to the problem in Africa and further states that it cost us nothing to dream and all businesses begin from an idea as she alludes to the “Black Panther” movie that Wakanda is here, wakanda is no longer fictional and it is up to me to make my wakanda real. Well when I thought this was about to become a business studies class, then comes Major Boke, the executive Director Jeff Hamilton Security and former Kenya air force officer, he introduces to us business patterns, models and technique and further takes us through his entrepreneurship and personal branding journey. Major Boke insists that being an entrepreneur is a mindset and our mindsets determine how far we go.
In his presentation Major Boke captured how he began his security firm and made it one of the best in Kenya with a turnover of over 2 million within a few years. He uses his Jeff Hamilton model to explain key points on entrepreneurship. He argues that as much as education is not that important in entrepreneurship, it however increases our propensity to be better entrepreneurs. A lot of jobs keep asking youths for up to 3 years working experience, Major Boke urges youths to start getting the experience while in school by volunteering / interning in our line of business or profession and of course with the right attitude since attitude is like a flat tire you can’t move unless you correct it. He continued by urging us to get a mentor in our line of business to mould and inspire us. Key point and an eye opener to me was the point that we should know when to stop, it is actually okay to quit and get back to it when you are wiser and ready to do it differently rather than struggling and holding on with limited options. On matters branding Mr. Boke says that it’s all about how you package yourself. Well I choose to shut up, work on myself and let my success speak for me. I choose to be great by not accepting that I’m or my business is small or young for no one cares nor celebrates small, and as an entrepreneur I have resolved to create the future in my line of business.

The journey is not over yet but I am wiser and optimistic for much greater things ahead. This is my CHANGAMKA story and as the CHANGAMKA slogan goes; I am fired up , and I’m ready to go.

Nguka Ojwang’ is an alumnus of Mount Kenya University with a passion for youth mentorship. He is also the founder, Brook of Hope Foundation, a CBO that deals with youth mentorship, charitable services and community reach out programs.