IMPACT STORY: HILLARY OMUONO

Hillary Omuono joined Emerging Leaders Foundation in 2017, he was part of a group of students whom we had recruited in the run-up to the elections to become ambassadors of good governance.

Today, Omuono runs an organization called G-SETI which donates school uniforms and geometrical sets to school going children besides offering mentorship and counselling to them. He chose to work with Primary School children, arguing that a lot of attention and focus has been given to High Schools and Colleges at the detriment of the little ones.

What started as a Facebook post out of a need he had identified in one of the local primary schools he had visited, has today translated into more than 500 pupils receiving geometrical sets and visits to over 50 schools.

He says that, “ELF introduced me to my true north and allowed me to think as a solution provider. I can no-longer wait for someone else to come and solve the challenges around me, I must be pro-active at all times.”

While talking to the Standard Newspaper he said, “G-SETI has opened doors for me and given me exposure that I wouldn’t have if I decided to hole myself in books. I have traveled and networked with different personalities.”

Hillary Omuono embodies the quality of our alumni; we are polishing young African women and men to become PIONEERS of their own destinies, SERVE their communities and be committed to VALUES in all their endeavors.

Featured Alumnus: Sharon Etemesi

Sharon describes herself as productive, impressive and charismatic. She is a debate and public speaking trainer, Panel Moderator and Hackathon Facilitator working with the  Kenya National Debate Council. She studied hospitality and tourism management at Pwani University.

“My ELF experience was mind shifting, as it focused deeply on my knowledge of self (which is not a one-day journey) and helped me realize just how bright my candle can shine. The mental wellness in appreciating the good and the bad in life while being in control of reactions to these situations is a priceless gift from my ELF experience.” Says Sharon.

Ms. Etemesi trains structured debate to university and high school students and private coaching professionals who are advancing their careers and need polished oratory skills. Her greatest achievement has been being unanimously elected as the Vice Chairperson of the Pan African Council of Debate for Universities. This came only 2 months after her ELF graduation, during her stint at the program, she had learnt more on Pan Africanism and Women in Leadership.

We asked Sharon to share with us a story that stands out to her from her past; “While in standard 7, the school Principal flagged me one day in parade and ordered the whole school to  not associate with me because of how notorious I was. I had no friends, no study buddies- no one in a boarding school miles away from home. I was all alone at 12 years old and I felt depressed. I hated everyone and only found peace in my mother and one teacher (Teacher Ruth) who pulled me up. I acknowledge my mistakes and realize that it was a learning curve for me. The story goes on but the bottom line was that every action attracts a reaction of equal measure.”

If Sharon were to be a color, she would be Orange because she brightens people’s moods and has infectious happiness. Her all time favorite movie is Face Off because of the story line, the movie teaches her to focus on character rather than physical appearance.

Sharon finds time to give back to ELF by training some of our cohorts on debating and public speaking. We celebrate her today and we’re excited about what she’s doing and the prospects of her future.

 

Don’t Agonize, Organize.

The title of this article is a widely used slogan and is credited to the Afro-American woman civil rights activist Florence Rae Kennedy, its popularity stems from two realities; on the one had we cringe at the pain, suffering and indignities afflicted on us, while on the other hand we are challenged as to what we can do in response.

Agonizing is a much-taken path by the youth since its easy to complain, to talk ourselves into believing that nothing we do can bring about any change, and most times we wait for the “right moment” (whatever that means). Constantly procrastinating action and rationalizing it with the fear of timing – news flash; the right time is NOW, if you choose to make it one.

Proper and collective organization is the key to the 75% of youth in Kenya and elsewhere in Africa turning their potential power into REAL power that will end historical political and economic marginalization. There is a lot of talk that the political class should hand over power/ include young people in government, but truth be told, power is hardly ever given on a silver plater, leaders have to EMERGE and EVOLVE over the period of organizing, and it is these leaders who then champion for the beginning an era of youth participation.

In Kericho county for example, a group of young people has started the journey of organizing themselves to engage fellow young people better and to participate in the governance processes of the county. What started in 2017 as a group of fifteen youths identified, trained and sent out by Emerging Leaders Foundation to start meaningful engagement with the county government and move from noise to voice, has now grown into a formidable youth working group. As of last month, the group had brought together representatives from 27 of the 30 wards.

The purpose of the newly formed Kericho Youth Leadership Network is to be the umbrella organization for all youth groups/organizations in the county for effective driving of the youth agenda, enhance youth participation in governance processes and foster attitude change through capacity building and opportunity tapping for the youth of Kericho. In other words, the vijana of Kericho want to mobilize around issues, they are tired of being on the periphery and being turned in mere spectators and cheer leaders in their own territory, they have realized something which I hope resonates with young people across the country; that yes, we can! (Tunaweza) That we are the captains of our ships; masters of our destinies and for change to occur we must desire it, we must trigger it and we must sacrifice for it.

Three key lessons from the youth of Kericho;

  1. Collective action is stronger than individual action – mobilization, clarity and strategy.
  2. We need serious organization to get things done – commitment, effectivity and inclusivity.
  3. Alternative to elected leadership is unelected leadership – leaders without titles.

Agonizing never got people anywhere, it only maintained the status quo. Our aspirations will be met depending on how well and fast we ORGANIZE!

 

CHANGE IS HERE

The ‘A’ team. There is a desire to belong, but few can. To a clique? Certainly not, but the struggle to be part of something greater than the persona of self, a movement, mission of purpose, to create, impact and continuously do so. Isn’t this what we strive for? Be part of? Yet choose not to! “How?” you ask. You first think of your-self before our-self, you think of your milestones rather than of our milestones. You dream of being part, however the validity of your dream is dependent on your actions. With such witty thoughts, how do you be part of a mission that requires selflessness, resilience, commitment and conviction?
The year 2018, the philosophy of team work has never sunk so deep. Joining Emerging Leaders foundation, that “ahh” feeling with an end to end smile of satisfaction crossing your face, knowing change is here with us, knowing the toil and effort required and saying yes to be part of the change and more encouraging, the fact that you are not one or two but that you are a community, a multitude of change agents. The ninth wonder that should be included is how the Elf staff synchronize their work, the synergistic transfer of energy to where needed most such as that employed by all-wheel drive (AWD) in Subaru vehicles (it’s okay to google). It’s seamless and delivers quality results. Keep up you are my inspiration.
I celebrate cohort 5 2018 at ELF. You are the life changing experience of my 2018. You are creative, intelligent, persistent, resilient, compassionate, concerned, dependable, reliable, committed persons determined to improve yourself so as to improve their space of influence and community. Driven by Ubuntu, service through leadership and excellence in what we do, you are an inspiration of a team. Whatever you do, wherever you will go and to whom you will interact with keep being the inspiration.

 

Written By;
Lore Kouko – ELF Alumni (Cohort 5)

Youth at the Center of Social Change in Kenya.

You can’t start a fire without a spark! Whenever society is faced with the greatest of threats, it has the tendency to constantly turn to the youth. The energy in pursuit, purity of purpose, clarity of vision and passion in articulation of issues is recipe for successful revolutions.

The last decade has arguably been the worst time for the youth of Kenya, we’ve been leathered from every side, our dreams shattered, the promise of education bleak, the availability of jobs almost nil, the factors of production held in the hands of a few greedy men.

But then I’m reminded that, “the best thing you can learn from the worst times of our life is that it always gets better. It may take a month, a year, a decade, but it will get better if you leave yourself open to it.”

In the last election something happened that went unnoticed or rather wasn’t properly celebrated. First, we got more youth into the different elective positions, but perhaps most interesting is the fact that we had more youth who ran as independent candidates and even a greater number who ran on alternative political parties apart from the two big coalitions at the time.

Sometimes we need reminding about who we are and what we can become, a little pride,a little determination and a true sense of commitment can spur us to demand better for ourselves and our communities. The youth who vied inspired the rest of us, the fact that they did campaigns focused on their manifestos speaks volumes. these young people knocked on doors, sat under trees, engaged youth and women groups, they challenged the common way of financing campaigns by asking the people to support their campaigns. They walked on foot and freely interacted with the electorate. There were no big rallies, with loud music and “chini kwa chini” dance, no big cars with tinted windows.

Perhaps if we do our politics differently by ensuring that we do not give handouts to voters and that every Kenyan is invested in the campaign process from start to end, then we could have a different story to tell successive generations, a story that is devoid of violence, theft and bribery, but one that is full of hope and progress.

I am glad that this change is being championed by my generation and I invite each of you to join the bandwagon, change inevitable.

 

Written by Jim India,

Communication Officer at Emerging Leaders Foundation.

 

 

 

Emerging Leaders

Here is a beautiful poem from one of the leaders we trained from Matungulu Girls, there is no better way to kick-off our weekend.

Emerging Leaders.

Amazing I would say,
What was done in a day,
Light was brought not just a ray,
Allow me to express if I may.

A group,
Not just any troop,
Impacting Change,
Going beyond the range.

Empowering leaders,
Making futures brighter,
Connecting not just inspiring,
Strong leaders emerging.

Training the best,
Who’ll stand out from the rest,
To cause that difference,
Taking advantage of every chance.

 

By Perpetual Wangari.

What does Leadership mean to you? By Victor Odhiambo – Garden of Hope Foundation

I started developing my leadership skills when I was in Primary school. The “Bell Ringer” position meant a great deal to me. The entire school would look up to me on what time they can go for their lunch break, games etc. I remember one day I decided to delay ringing the lunch time bell by 10 minutes, you don’t want to know what happened to me.

 

I was later promoted to assistant school captain and later Captain of the school soccer team. My defining moment came when I was eventually elected for a position I was eyeing for “Head boy” or school captain. From my perspective I knew I had achieved so much, from the bottom of my heart there were other people who were better, and others who could do more. I was in position of “influence” but because of selfish interest I could not give others an opportunity. I would later realize that I was voted as the Head boy because I was popular among the students, but not because of the values I held as leader.

 

Carly Fiorina an American business woman and former Chief executive officer of Hewlett-Packard defines Leadership as “Unlocking the potential of others” This to me is giving people an opportunity to lead, while you as the leader takes the back sit and leading from behind. It does not necessary mean not taking control or being in charge, but looking at the skills and talents everyone in your team has and giving them an opportunity to unlock those skills and talents.

 

I was recently conducting a leadership session with young people from Kibera slum. One of the common questions I ask them when I do this is “Which leaders do you admire the most?” ‘Which leader would best solve a conflict? Which leader communicates best?

 

A common trend I noticed among them was that they chose the most vocal people in the society, they would relate more with leaders who are in forefront during protests, those who came from their tribe and sometimes those who are wealthy.

 

When I asked them their definition of leadership, I again noticed some common words like “Being in charge” “Power” “Strict” etc. While these specific words are not necessarily wrong, I realized my definition of leadership or view of leadership affects the person I will vote for or the people I look up-to as leaders. If my definition is “leadership is being in charge’ I will most likely respond more to people who are always in charge, sometime even if they come out as dictators.

 

Our definition of leadership affects us as individuals and the society as large, this begs the question “Could the current leaders we have in Kenya be a reflection of our individual definition of leadership?”

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.