At home in ELF-Africa, away from home

All Ikpang Ekpenyong Idongesit wanted was to spread his wings in his career and have a different experience beyond the city of Abuja in Nigeria. An indigene of Akwa-Ibom state, he wanted something more than the opulence and the great taste of luxury that Nigerians in Abuja are known and loathed for.  

Teaching was good for him, but he wanted to work with young people at a different level. He started seeking opportunities for scholarships, internships, and fellowships then, he found Princeton in Africa. 

He applied in October 2022 to Princeton in Africa, and they responded positively. They sent him a list of possible organizations that met his areas of interest, and among them was Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa.  

“I did my research on the organizations and thought ELF-Africa came close to what I really wanted to do – work with young people,” he says. 

He had an online interview with ELF-Africa and was later informed by Princeton in Africa that he had been selected. Then came the big switch to Kenya for the next 12 months. 

“I knew I was on the verge of something new and was therefore not scared,” he recalls.  

Upon arrival, he joined the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme, which targets young public servants.  Under the PSELF program, he works as a Programme Associate assisting with the activities of the programme, such as training sessions, ELF-Africa events, and administrative support. He also helps coordinate seamless transition between different sessions during the training.

If he was nervous, his first impression of the ELF-Africa office helped calm him down. “The office had an African touch to it, complete with pictures of Pan-African nationalists, which I found very impressive,” he said. 

Within no time, he found himself immersed in the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship, a programme the organisation ELF-Africa is involved in together with other partners, including the Public Service Commission in Kenya. 

He found ELF-Africa staff getting ready for the Youth Day of Service (YDOS) in different parts of the country. Though he had been in the country for hardly a week, he was incorporated into the team that was going to Rongai in Kajiado County. 

“I got the chance to meet the staff outside the office, met alumni of the different programmes and even planted trees at a nearby hospital,” he adds.  

Soon after the YDOS, Idongesit was involved with the training for the public servants, where he got the chance to rub shoulders with past and present high-profile career civil servants like former Head of Public Service Dr Sally Kosgey, among others.  

He also realized that young public servants in Kenya are just as driven as those in Nigeria. They want to change the narrative of public service in their countries and be the agents driving change in their various sectors.  

Furthermore, Idongesit finds ELF-Africa as a family, and that stood out for him the most. Passion for work and desire to excel were also key things that impressed him in the organization. For these reasons, he would recommend ELF-Africa to anyone seeking a credible organization.  

Being a PSELF Fellow made me a national hero

By Achola Mourice Otieno

The soft-spoken Mourice Achola has been recognised by the National Heroes Council, a State Corporation that formulates and implements policy relating to national heroes. For Mr Achola, an officer at the Correctional Services department based in Busia Main Prison, this was beyond his wildest dreams.

In the course of his duties, Mr Achola noticed that prisoners who had hearing and speech impairment were getting a raw deal.

 “Their needs were not getting addressed because of the communication barrier,” he says.

Keen to help, he enrolled for a sign language course at the Kenya Institute for Special Education under the sponsorship of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities and became the only sign language interpreter at the station.

He was appointed the Disability and Inclusion Officer at the station by the officer in charge who is also his mentor, Assistant Commissioner of Prisons Omondi Adero, OGW.

“I felt communicating with them was the first step to helping them get social justice,” he says. 

He wrote to the National Council for Persons with Disability to increase the sponsorship of prison officers to study sign language, and they agreed.

Due to this initiative, Mr Achola was honoured by President William Ruto as a National Hero under the Human Rights category on 20th October during last year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kericho County.

Mr Achola believes being a Fellow at the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme played a big role in winning the award.

While nominations for the awards are done by departments and individuals, Mr Achola nominated himself and cited his current training at the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme and was surprised when he was awarded.

“I strongly believe being a Fellow at the programme raised my profile,” he says confidently.

Fueling creativity and imagination through art

There is something about putting a brush on canvas that can bring one’s energy and emotion to the surface.

Art therapy, be it painting, sculpting, or drawing, has the unique ability to help one express himself or herself better than words would have done.

This is what spurred Rehema Njoroge to start Creative Therapies and Intellectual Mapping, an organisation that works with children to spark intellectual and creative development. The intensity, concentration, and random mix of colours help the young ones be in touch with themselves.

Rehema, a Fellow of Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa’s African Biblical and Leadership Initiative, saw a need in the society and responded to it. She realised that children were spending too much time indoors on televisions and computer games. She saw an opportunity to help the children pour out their thoughts and feelings into art. In a week, she hosts about ten children at her family’s residence in Thika, especially on weekends.

They also engage in modelling, playing with pebbles, mind games, Rubik’s cubes, and paintings. Art therapy can also help adults step into their creative thinking, as students from NLA University College in Norway found out. The students who were in the country to explore the country’s history and culture as part of their intercultural studies course improved their moods and boosted creativity as their brushes encountered pottery.

“Everyone is creative and there is nothing like bad painting,” Rehema assured the eager students as they mixed their colours on their pallets.

As they got to work, even those who were hesitant at first could be seen engrossed with concentration on their painting. True to Regina’s words, with patience, the students produced some amazing paintings.

How family unity helped PSELF Fellow bag the Global Peace Award

On December 21st last year, Eliud Karani was honoured and received the Global Peace Award, a prestigious recognition for his efforts in saving a family from breaking up.

Karani, a civil servant in the State Department of Social Protection and Senior Citizen Affairs, is a cohort Two Fellow at the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme (PSELF).

PSELF is jointly implemented by Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa, Emerging Public Leaders, the Chandler Institute of Governance, and the Public Service Commission.

With the help of some religious leaders, Karani helped unify a family that was on the verge of breaking up because one of the partners was HIV positive while the other was negative.

Such couples often face serious sexual and social challenges, and in this case, it threatened to tear them apart even though they have two small children.

 “My heart went out to the two children, and I vowed to do everything possible to help keep the family united,” he said.

During one of the PSELF sessions, Karani recalled one of the facilitators urging them to “find their little thing, then go about the business of doing it.”

This famous quote from the founder of the Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai inspired him to make fighting for peace in this family become his ‘little thing’.

Through his untiring effort that saw the family remain united, Eliud showed the role that mediation can play. It’s a feat he attributes to lessons from conflict resolution at Chandler Institute. Chandler Institute is one of the partners who prepare the curriculum for the training of the Fellows.

“Managing conflict is one of the free courses offered by the Institute,” he says.

Karani, who is one of the three presidents of Cohort Two, says PSELF training has earned him respect from his superiors in the department. Through the training, he has developed Citizen-centric services.

“I can put in extra hours at work if it will help someone who is seeking our services,” he says.

This has helped him register over 2,000 senior citizens in his sub-county. He has also learned the importance of integrity and value-based leadership in his service.

I was allowed to make mistakes and learn from them.

By Peace Koinange

My first encounter with Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa was during a career service week at the University of Nairobi in May. Being a final-year student of Journalism and Mass Communication, such events help in networking. I left my contacts at the ELF-Africa tent and moved on to the next one.

I forgot all about it until I received a call from the organisation about the possibility of a three-month internship. After a vigorous interview, I started my three-month internship as a Communication Associate in the month of July. This was the start of an important season in my life after my academic.

One of the skills I picked from my time at the organisation was that my opinions matter, and my voice counts. At the start, I found it intimidating and often chose the path of silence. But with time, I came to learn we were all resourceful to the organisation, right from the senior management to the lowest cadre. And they valued my opinion, not just as a formality but as a resource.

At Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa I learnt to think on my feet. This helped me improve my communication and quickly adapt to different circumstances. I had a great team of coworkers and a supervisor who saw in me potential far beyond what I thought of myself. I was allowed to make mistakes and, more importantly, learn from them and grow professionally.  

After all, making mistakes shows that you are pushing yourself to solve problems that are new to you. This helped me to see mistakes as part and parcel of growth. Society, on the other hand, has conditioned many of us to avoid mistakes at all costs, and this, in turn, has hindered the growth of many. Not everything in the real world is picture-perfect.

A trying moment was when I was left in charge of Communication during a training session with young public servants. I pulled it off and realised that the power to succeed in whatever we do is in us. ELF-Africa helped me realise this.

I also learnt the importance of mental health. Every morning, the sessions of devotion provided an opportunity for self-reflection and forced our attention off self-indulgent destructions. They provided an inward reflection and, irrespective of one’s religious beliefs, served as an exercise for the soul.

Finally, the different programmes and events provided an opportunity for networking. I believe that networking can take you further than your academic qualifications, so these moments were greatly treasured.

ELF-Africa has given me the platform to reach out and try new things. Given the chance, I would do it all over again.

I learnt a lot from my hands-on, hands-off boss.

By Emmanuel Yego

When I first walked through the gate to the Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa office in Westlands, off Prof Saitoti Road on a cold morning of July 18th, 2023, I didn’t know what to expect. Was I signing to a life of endless meetings and ploughing through the terrains in Kenya, working with the vulnerable in society?

Anyway, whatever the case, I was sure my experience would make me employable and breathe life into my dull CV. Moreover, I wanted to be productive and move away from the farm in Ngong, where I was currently working as an intern. I reasoned that this Bachelor of Arts in Strategic Development Studies and Social Sciences graduate from the Catholic University of East Africa needed to explore beyond the farm.

A new experience was, therefore, welcome.

And right from Day One, I was impressed. The welcome by the ELF-Africa staff was awesome. From their warm smiles and chit-chats in the kitchen, I was made comfortable. This helped soothe my nerves. The icing on the cake was when I was told that there is no serious dress code, and that smart casual was good enough. I realised there had been no need to shave my dreadlocks.

I joined the Leadership Development Programme as an Associate under the supervision of Stella Cheboi, a Programmes Officer. Beyond her loud voice and serious look, Miss Cheboi was polite and professional in every sense of the word.

She balanced the need for professional independence and support in the workplace. During my three months at the organisation, Cheboi helped me see that you can be friends with the supervisor while maintaining a sense of authority. Despite being an intern, I was given the task of leading departmental meetings and playing key roles during the training sessions with the fellows.

During my time at ELF-Africa, I learnt the value of mentorship, meeting one’s professional expectations in an easy working environment, and taking charge even when there are more qualified staff around.

My next workstation will be better because of what I have learned at ELF-Africa.

Crafting Impact Stories: A shift from conformity to Authentic impact reporting.

By James Njuguna

In any organisation today, nothing demonstrates success and change more than stories of positive impact in the lives of individuals. Any organisation worth its salt should leverage on.

Sharing real-life impact stories, especially ones that tug at the heart and bring about emotional connection with the larger audience out there, including donors. Impact stories through videos and testimonials will not only go a long in recruiting new donors but also give credibility to the organisation.

This is why the focus on stories of change needs a deeper voyage into the true impact of different programmes within an organisation. It’s a journey that transcends the mere breadth of activities to unearth the profound depth of impact on the donor target population.

As a Monitoring and evaluation practitioner, my world revolves around the art of measuring impact and weaving captivating narratives— success stories—detailing how various interventions have woven change into the fabric of our communities.

Crafting stories that beckon donors’ attention is an art, and I will share four time-tested ways of writing impact stories that demand more than just a passing glance.

Select a character that best fits your target population.

In crafting your success story, envision an ideal character who is not merely a recipient but a true hero of change. This character should vividly depict their life before your intervention, highlighting the challenges they faced, the doubts they held, and the knowledge they lacked. Imagine how your programme acted as a catalyst, ushering in a profound shift in their perspective, changing behaviours, and equipping them with knowledge. This character isn’t just a storyteller; they possess the ability to captivate readers, instil trust in partners and key stakeholders, and enhance your funding credibility.

Therefore, when selecting this character, choose wisely, for they embody the tangible proof of the impact you’ve made, and their narrative serves as your most potent tool.

Elicit your reader’s emotions: Your impact story can be a captivating catalyst for stirring emotions. By infusing a tone that triggers emotions, you ignite curiosity in your readers, compelling them to delve deeper into your work.

Consider this: “In Kenya, ten thousand people die of malaria every year.” This statistic packs a visceral punch, stirring powerful emotions compared to such a statement, “In Kenya, many people are infected with Malaria.” The choice of words matters; it’s not just about stating the problem but painting it vividly with descriptive language.

Share the story with your team for review; Think of a second pair of eyes as your narrative’s secret weapon. They’re like the “story whisperers” who can gauge the true impact of your story just by their reactions and non-verbal cues.

But the magic doesn’t stop there – a review isn’t just about their response; it’s about giving your story the clarity it deserves.

When you review, it’s like stepping into the shoes of your audience, making sure your thoughts are crystal clear. It’s about wielding words that are not just powerful but effortlessly understood, creating a narrative that leaves an unforgettable mark.

As we wrap up, it’s essential to recognize that development partners are no longer just crunching numbers; they’re seeking the profound impact we’ve etched into the lives of those we serve, leaving an indelible mark of transformation.

Be Intentional – Jane Mutheu

It has been with so much greatness to be a part of ABLI as there was always a take away every Tuesday. I am Jane Mutheu Musembi passionate about Tech may it be in the morning, evening, or noontime. The one thing that got my attention with ABLI was the leadership journey which was coupled up with so many things.

I have interacted with a former ELF alumnus (Steven Muasya) and the leadership skill he portrays in different situations are always outstanding. We always know that when we need someone to talk to the youth he was the one because he would do decode heavy messages using a simple language understandable to his audience.

My journey started when Stella Cheboi called one afternoon as I was buying a movie with the question, “If you were a bicycle, which part would you want to be?” My eyes started to look for a bicycle nearby so that I could relate well, given that it’s not the one thing I interact with daily. You can be sure after that I was ready to start the sessions.

We started with introductions of who we are, what we do, and what we like. This was the perfect pace-setter for the sessions. I was challenged by some of the profiles my fellow ABLI mentees had and this made me more eager to know what made the difference.  The two things that I was expecting from the sessions were, “What does ABLI have for us and what can I learn from the others.”

Personality-types was the first session we had with the facilitators and it was a very interactive session. Getting to know who I am in terms of my personality gave a lot of meaning as to why I do things in a certain way. Emotional Intelligence came after, which was so deep that we ended up having the discussion at our Youth Ministry at AIC Kasarani. We spent 3 weeks just trying to understand the mind-blowing topic. I still carry the discussion in both sessions with me every day. It is so amazing walking and interacting with people and you just get to understand where they stand. For sure it does away with unnecessary conflicts and misunderstandings thanks to ABLI.

Storytelling and life mapping came in with Jim India as our facilitator and it took us back in the days and it gave us a view of how life stands out both negative and positive. As I thought of what stood out for me I realized that life will always be empty and it’s up to you to fill it with beautiful memories and experiences. Letters to self, a session we also had, still holds the record of the longest assignment given to me by me. Those who were in the session can easily relate to that as I am still counting months to when I get to open my letter.

Every other session that we have had has always come with its weight and awesomeness. Let’s take public speaking, for instance, the facilitator made sure that we all had something to say before the session ended. I had my fingers crossed throughout the session so that am not given a hard question to speak about and luckily enough the charm worked but you can be sure I answered a question before the end of it all.

The things I have learnt from the sessions  are so many that every day, I plan to share lessons around. I am grateful for the opportunity. To ELF and BSK, thank you for getting this training out here.


By: Jane Mutheu, ABLI 2020

“Give your very best wherever you are, whatever the time” Maurice Omondi

Maurice Omondi is an international expert with sixteen years’ experience working in the non-profit sector. He has served as an Executive Director, Interim Country Director, Regional Fundraising Advisor, Sponsorship Funding Coordinator and Program Officer. He has experience in leading non-profit organizations strategy, coordinating multicultural teams and resource mobilization. Besides, he is a husband and a father.

He enjoys providing mentorship in the areas of personal development, non-profit sector leadership and philanthropy.

To him, mentorship is about shared learning between the mentor and the mentee. “It is about the mentor sharing their career journey, the lessons they have learnt along the way and some tips on how they managed to overcome obstacles. It is also providing inspiration to the mentee and enabling him/her to discover their own path and pursue it to the fullest. On the other hand, the mentee gets a chance to share their own dreams while seeking for guidance where necessary. The mentor also gets a chance to learn new things from the perspective of the mentee.”

He is driven into mentorship by a deep desire to nurture and see every human prosper and excel while at the same time making the world a better place.

Maurice further states that everyone needs a mentor in the current world which is fast moving and changing. “One gets the opportunity to learn about themselves, their strengths and areas for improvement and what they can do to solve some of the pressing problems in the world right at the point where they are in. Many people expect someone else to solve the problems around them and end up not doing anything themselves. Through mentorship, an individual gets a chance to learn from the mentor new ideas, or a new dimension to a problem and then devise practical solutions to overcome them.”

Mentorship, however, is not all fun and laugh. Mentors experience low moments in the journey and so does Maurice. “I have experienced low moments especially when I am not able to immediately provide a solution to a mentee or when I am going through a situation which I feel might not be inspiring to mentees. I have figured out that I am human and therefore, experience ups and downs in life. I have thus shared my low moments with my mentees and in fact received what I can call reverse mentorship!”

His advice to new mentors, “Everybody has something to give out. You do not have to be in a big position somewhere to be a mentor. You do not have to be famous or have material riches. What you need to have is the readiness to listen and to offer advice when requested. Your otherwise ordinary life experiences might help someone else struggling with finding a bearing in life. You can share your own successes however small. You can inspire someone to embrace the common good irrespective of your religious or cultural background.”


Lessons from Eliud Kipchoge’s deferred victory

How are you today? Have you recovered from the shock wave after the Sunday London Marathon? I still feel unwell and numb. I have tried moving on, but it is taking me longer than I had anticipated. I am optimistic that I will get over it. The world was watching and taking Kenyan tea. And Kenyan tea gave #LondonMarathon a new lease of life as we accompanied our athletes at the comfort of our homes during the race.

Like many other Kenyans, I was so sure Kenyan all-time favourite, greatest Marathoner of all times, Kenyan legend, history maker, the mighty Eliud Kipchoge was definitely going to win the 40th London Marathon that took place in London, on 4th October, 2020. Not only did he postpone his win, but he also was not anywhere close to the top three. He finished the race at position eight. Imagine that!

People remarked and expressed their utter shock. Of course, it was shocking, not only for Kenyans but for the whole world. How possible could it have been that Kipchogi (as the commentators were calling him) was not bringing home the much-awaited victory? How? What had happened to him? I followed the various conversations online, and yes, we were all racing with him, adrenaline levels rising and finally making peace with the fact that Kipchogi was not making it. I prayed, I paced up and down and hoped for a miracle, but alas, no, this time around, it wasn’t his chance. The odds were against him. I made peace as my eyes shed tears. For a while, I had forgotten that there was another Kenyan on the race, Vincent Kipchumba because my eyes were glued and fixed on the G.O.A.T, Eliud Kipchoge. I found the commentators very boring and annoying. I wished they kept quiet and let Eliud be. Later, I understood, just like the rest of us, they too were in shock.

After the race came to an end, I tried reflecting on what had just happened and wondered if at all there were lessons I could pick out of Eliud’s postponement of the big title. These are some of my take-homes. My friend Ngele Ali, whom we conversed about the race, said, ” Well, we can co-write this blog post. Let’s share our lessons.” So here we go. The first three are my most significant take-homes, and the last three are Ngele’s.

  1. After crying, I wiped my tears. In every race, there will always be a winner. If you are in the race, always remember, there will be two outcomes. You could be the winner or someone else could. Whether you win today or win next time, as long as you stay the cause, you still win. Focus on the finishing line. There were many odds against Kipchoge. London Marathon always takes place in the Summer. This time it was taking place in a very unfamiliar setup. Training in high altitude then racing in low altitude in autumn (cold, windy and wet grounds), new circuit, his main person Kenenisa Bekele had pulled out of the race last minute, no fans to cheer him on board and assure him that he was doing just fine. In a usual setup, more than 500,000 fans will be gathered along the circuit cheering on the runners. COVID-19 happened, saw the marathon postponed and now only a handful of people were present. The marathon appeared jinxed from the word go. Christmas comes once a year. Eliud will give us more than one Christmas in a year. We must not forget this. It is no mean feat holding titles for more than five rounds. We still have a reason to celebrate him for keeping our country on the map. We know Kenya as the ultimate #HomeOfChampions. No one debates about this.
  1. It is tough being a winner. It’s even tougher being an all-time winner in public. Here is the problem with multiple wins because it comes with expectations and pressures. Your fans world over think you can never lose. But you know what, victory is for those who stay the cause! Eliud Kipchoge did precisely that! Life is a series of wins and losses! Your biggest success isn’t how many times you win! Success is a measure of how high we bounce after hitting rock bottom. Eliud Kipchoge has achieved a lot, and we can only wish him the best after his promise that “I will be back.” He, therefore, is #StillMyHero. “London loves you,” said the commentator as she interviewed him at the finishing line! I fought my tears as I watched Eliud Kipchoge struggle to express his disappointment! I, too, could feel his regret. But, be consoled Eliud. We are happy and proud of you. Be encouraged! This is only but a slight setback!
  2. Sometimes as human beings, we are so blinded and only focus on our perceptions of what success looks like, we miss the bigger picture. Yes, the majority of us had all our eyes glued on Kipchoge, we forgot that we had a full list of Kenyans who represented us at the London Marathon. And while at it, we had Brigid Kosgei who won a Gold medal in the Women’s race. We had Vincent Kipchumba who came third and won Kenya a Bronze medal in the men’s race. We also had many others including Vivian Cheruiyot, Marius Kipserem, Gideon Kipketer, Benson Kipruto, Edith Chelimo, Valary Jemeli and Ruth Chepng’ etich. We must not mourn Eliud’s loss and forget to celebrate these winners. They too worked so hard and deserved all the accolades on earth. Eliud proved to us that he is human and it is ok to fail. All human beings have their share of ups and downs. But we must also learn to accept the reality of life, that life is a mix of ups and downs, highs and lows, wins and losses. In every win and loss, there are lessons to be learnt. Mighty is not the man who wins all the time, but one who falls and picks himself up, ready to fight another day. Eliud promised, ‘I will be back.’
  3. Well, my big lesson from yesterday, life has no guarantees. As humans, we plan, but God is the ultimate chess player. Also, nothing just happens. What are the odds that Eliud with all his fitness regimen would have a muscle cramp and an ear blockage after he started off so well? Kipchoge’s experience reminded us that he is human, and sometimes the odds against us can be insurmountable, but it’s our will and resilience that gets us to the finish line. I learned a great lesson in perseverance.
  4. Eliud taught me yesterday that humility and grace are what set us apart from the crowd. As we win, we are called upon to be graceful and humble but imagine being able to exercise the same at a moment of defeat! I guess it takes a great sense of humility and grace to carry us forward onto the next challenge even as we miss the mark, and our success is deferred. As he recounted his experience, I loved his sense of sportsmanship – as he quipped “that’s the nature of sport” a true realisation that we win some and lose some, sometimes.
  5. In my observation, Kipchoge has reached his Ikigai – his “reason for being”. Kipchoge’s sport isn’t just about winning a race, it’s far much more profound, and it’s about humanity and shining light, especially where hope and aspiration lacks. The 2020 London marathon will remain memorable, not because the G.O.A.T was “dethroned” but because of the lesson, I learned through Kipchoge’s experience – even when one’s spirit feels defeated – show up!. His difficulties at the much-anticipated, most-watched marathon delivered some valuable lessons to us. When we find out our true reason for being, a deferred victory or success becomes nothing but a speedbump. His phrase, “I still have more marathons in me” sums up what a purposeful life’s journey is all about and I can’t wait to see him back on the track once again!

Writing this blog post felt very therapeutic for me. In Dolly Parton’s words, “You will never do a whole lot unless you are brave enough to try.” Are there any lessons that you picked from Eliud’s incredible performance last Sunday? Please share.


Written by Patience Nyange; Board Member and Mentor at ELF, Council Member at Media Council of Kenya and a #CheveningScholar2019.
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