Covid-19 has disrupted a lot of activities across the world, but we should take the disruptions as a reason to pause and just be us. The world has not come to a standstill, it is moving, and with a lot of changes and new challenges.

As the proverbial saying goes, every dark cloud has a silver lining, so must we search for the silver lining in this dark cloud that has been brought about by the pandemic. One precious opportunity the current period has provided to people who are working from home is time. A true measure of time as money will come at the end of this pandemic when the rising question will be ‘Did I make good use of the time I had?’  The answer to the question will bring a whole difference between people who made the value of the ‘silver lining’ and those who in turn saw dark clouds and spent the entire period mourning.

One of the most amazing things that the Emerging Leaders Foundation has done during these times is hosting guests for live tweet chats. For me, it has created a free and great learning platform. As one of the guests, Dr. Funso Somorin once tweeted in one of the interactive tweet sessions, ‘The best time to learn is now…. learn new things to survive. The currency of living in learning. If you want to live through this crisis, you have to learn through it.’ There is a great lesson for young people in that.

When talking about learning, it involves creating new norms. There are so many things we have always wanted to know, do, check out or try, but we always never had time for them. It could be that tummy you have always wanted to get rid of; it could that book you always wanted to start reading, or a novel you wanted to try writing. There are lots of things that we have constantly put in our to-do lists or new year resolutions that we have also constantly failed to achieve. Why don’t you give it a try now that we have money – I mean time.

I chose to explore the world of literature further during this time. I have enjoyed loads of talks and gained new information on the same.  As it comes out, there are so many emerging ideas in the literary world that I never came across in a literature class. Afro-futurism is one of the issues that I constantly brushed over and never took time to dig deep and get a better understanding of the same. The majority of young people never really care to self-educate themselves. Instead, they show satisfaction with the ‘little’ content they studied while in school. They lack curiosity and the hunger to explore further. With Covid-19 with us already, it is time to explore, to learn, and equip our minds.

Youth must also use this time to equip themselves. Stella Cheboi – one of the trainers and mentors at ELF- in one of her tweets stated, ‘Personal development is one area young people forget to invest. You should invest in skills that will give you an upper hand to opportunities that will come in post-Covid-19.’ True to her words, there are new norms that will emerge as a result of the pandemic and there will be new ideas needed. Some of us have already lost jobs and might need a new skill to survive altogether. At our places of work, we have learned how we can technologically do things, and the world will want people who are computer savvies –we have learned how not to waste time on things that took us longer, trying to meet one-on-one or make things happen manually. We will be on a new level, on a new normal, and that calls for us to learn so that we are equipped.


Submitted by:

Andrea Otieno- Founder, Pasha Resource Centre.

“I Wanted to be Great, I just Didn’t Know How”

I was a student leader at Maasai Mara University, leading various societies and clubs and later got involved in students’ politics. Since childhood, I had a great desire to be an agent of change and serve people just like the Renowned icons I looked up to like Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.

Their stories compelled me to be at service to humankind. Before that life at the University, there was a long journey. My fire was dimmed at a point in my life when in 2009 I had to drop out of school for 3 years. I had to go to a construction site to be trained welding by a cousin who thought it would be helpful now that school had failed.

It was a dark time, but I found solace in the struggle. In between, I met people with lost hope. Ordinary Kenyans that grappled with a lot of fear, inferiority, poverty and assault and exploitation by Indian employers. I had a diary, and each day I wrote my experience. I was writing poetry then, and I could get home and pen down a poem about these people, and myself too. I loved reading and so would visit KPLC Training Institute Library, through the help of another cousin who worked there.

I was a wounded man, a lost child who was battling with identity. In the library, I met great books. I read a lot of autobiographies because I wanted to relate with great men. I read from Barack Obama’s ‘Dreams From My Father’ to Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk To Freedom’. From Duncan Nderitu Ndegwa’s ‘Walking In Kenyatta Struggles’ to Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s ‘Sowing The Mustard Seed’. There were many great books and they kept the desire in me alive.

I wanted to be great, I just didn’t know how. I resolved that it was only education that would take me closer to the achievements of my icons. I worked at the construction site with a dream to go back to school. In 2011, God was gracious to me and I went back to school. I took two years from form 3 to 4 and made it to the University, where I had great expectations.

I was quite old, but I really wanted to be there and do all I could. I wanted to be a leader and change something in the society. It was easy to get to the clubs and be elected as the chairperson, or a secretary. I had a desire to serve. Eventually, I tried campus politics, and failed. But the people around me treated me like a leader. They did not lose hope in me. Even the administration worked so closely with me, and I was proud that I still could serve.

Then came ELF. When we began the training, it began with us telling our stories. For the first time, I told my story in public, and it changed everything. It healed me. My friends came to me and told me to be strong, that I was the best. The fire in me was lit. I was ready to move forward. When one Dr. Olu Funso Somorin talked about Servanthood Leadership, I realized where I belonged. I wanted to be in the community, to work with youth and young people. I later founded a resource center, Pasha Resource Center, where we are creating a safe space for young boys and girls and nurturing talent and literacy among young people.

I realized football was attractive to young boys, and so I came up with a club and signed 26 boys. They are currently our ambassadors as we try to push Pasha Resource Centre to the next level. We have had donation of books, and computers are coming soon from friends from the USA. We are also laying foundation for the building of the centre in July, through donation from a church in the USA. Through this centre, I feel at the centre of service. I feel like my dreams are carried by those boys who play in the club, come for the books, and just stick around when I visit the centre. I thank ELF for the training. I discovered my real purpose, they gave me enough information that I need and helped me link up with many like-minded fellows who have helped me grow.

Asante sana ELF.

Andrew Otieno was one of our Changamka Fellows.

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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.