in pursuit of purpose

The last time I had this feeling was 7 years ago in 2012. I felt joy, hope, happiness, freedom name it all when I won an award on “role of  youth in building a more democratic Kenya” organized by UNDP, amkeni wakenya and Youth Agenda. I didn’t have anyone to guide and mentor me on my passion, ELF was not there, rather, I didn’t know it existed, but deep in me I knew I had this big drive of participating, contributing and transforming our society in matters of democracy and good governance.

I followed another route which was more of computer based, profit making and money oriented but I still felt am human centered and I needed to go back. It has been a hustle, going back to school and mastering in courses of projects, participating in forums and fellowships, trying to quite but I had no courage until I met ELF 3 months ago.

So, I quit my job. Not today, 1 month ago, Friday 8/11/2019 was my last day.

My 8 -5 job that was making me good money, and with a good employer, yeah I quit it.

Why?

Because passion, conviction and self-awareness is taking action when you can’t see the whole staircase and all you can see is the next step.

For me, the next step was just to leave that office and start working on my dream job. To be a social entrepreneur and participate, work and surround myself in matters of democracy and good governance. To build my own empire, brand and bring transformational leadership to my land. To follow my dreams. To fail at my own thing. To start over. To succeed against all odds.

The training on self-awareness, leadership, good governance and Pan-Africanism, has contributed a lot to the above decision. Your (ELF) approach is so unique from others, it’s beyond skill or practical based and more of pure self-awareness of the potential we have, opportunity which are there and the direction to follow to achieve your born purpose and passion.

Elf cohort 8 gave me a platform to vie for a president though I ended up being male representative. It gave me a chance to lead a group of diverse ideologies, transformed group and am sure they will make an impact wherever they will go. The interaction with trainers and ELF staff was professional, awesome experience and very engaging. Community service was most unique one and successful since even after the attack by bees we were able to unite and deployed organised team work which made us save everyone and as well achieve our objective.

I may not have enough words to thank you, but just know am launching to my passion. As I step out, I may not talk about my future because it may not be very clear, but one day, I will speak about my present which will be my past while in future. Am forever ELF cohort 8 alumnus.

THANK YOU

 

Daniel Gitau

ELF cohort 8 male rep

Ongoza campaign

Leadership is pegged on the ability to influence individuals, families, organizations, communities and even nations. Everything, we believe, rises and falls on leadership. That is why at ELF we are obsessed with adding tools to the toolbox of young emerging leaders to prepare them for sustainable development of their societies.

Since 2012 to date, we have passionately been churning out values-based leaders across the country, deploying them in their spheres of influence to cause impact.

We are looking to raise 105 million during the Ongoza campaign to enable us scale up our program and shape the future of Kenya.

Milestones: 

In our 7 years of existence, 461 young people have directly been trained and mentored, but here is our key milestone; 108 initiatives have been started across the country. These include; businesses, CBO’s, NGO’s, community empowerment projects, pressure groups etc., which have led to societal transformation, job creation and sustainable livelihoods for hundreds of young people.

Our purpose is to build agency within every youth who comes into our program, to capacitate them to look at their environment and become solution providers; It is worth noting that 98% of our alumni are currently employed, running their own initiatives or involved in volunteerism.

42% of the average 65% alumni who join the program while not involved in anything, have started their own businesses and initiatives. 34% have been employed while another 21% are currently volunteering in different organizations.

Our Case: 

Kenya is very youthful country. The median age is 19 years, and about 80% of the population is below 35 years. To a large extent, this youthful population will determine the shape of the country’s future.

According to a survey by the Aga Khan University; 50% of the youth believe it doesn’t matter how one makes money as long as one does not end up in jail. 47% admire those who make money through hook and crook, 30% believe corruption is profitable, 73% fear to stand up for what is right for fear of retribution, while 35% of the youth would readily take or give a bribe.

That is the bad news, but here is the good news; in our 7 years of existence, and 461 directly trained, we have reached 8,000 youths. Each of our fellows is assigned a mentor who walks with them in their journey of leadership. 84% of our alumni have organized or participated in community service initiatives, taking responsibility of their communities. 61% of our alumni who joined the program while employed, took up new leadership roles during or after the program. Our program has the potential of scalability, as 78% of our alumni are currently mentoring at least 5 other young people. And of those who go through the program, 98% recommend others to join the program.

Building the Future: 

We foresee a future where young people everywhere take charge of their society, starting their own initiatives, being responsible and sustainably responding to the challenges around them. We see youth taking over leadership and leading with values, young people who can be trusted to keep their promise, who approach leadership as a service to the people, young people who embrace team work, are proud of their African identity and believe that only the best is good enough for Africa. In short, we dream of dignified societies with values-based leaders.

How:

Our model is based on the theory that an individual is best fit to drive social change in their community only after self-discovery, which in turn enables them to connect with others for impact.

Discover: – to lead others, you must first discover and master yourself. We guide participants through sessions of self-awareness.; life mapping and story telling where they get to share narratives from their personal life journeys. This process enables the young leaders to know their purpose in life.

Connect: – establishing a connection with people is the first step to having influence in many communities. We impart our young leaders with communication, debating and personal branding skills for a good first impression. We also help the leaders to connect to fellow leaders, creating a critical mass of change makers.

Impact: – leadership is about results. We guide our mentees to develop individual and collective agency i.e. the ability to take purposeful initiative, each of them becomes a solution in their societies.

We have tested the above theory for the last 7 years and seen it work, as shown in the data previously shared. We believe that with enough resources, we will scale up our program to all the 8 regions of Kenya and reach 7500 youths in 2020. In 10 years, we should have impacted 1,000,000 youths, in the process we will effectively shape the future of Kenya with young people who are rooted in values and are responsible enough to start their own initiatives.

We are asking for 105 million to scale up our program to the 8 regions of Kenya, where we will recruit 200 young emerging leaders and train them in two cohorts of 100.

Why ELF?

So far, we have received credible commendations, mentions and rewards from the following;

  • In July of 2018, President Barrack Obama mentioned the work of ELF to the whole world. Stating that we are part of Africa’s new stories, dutifully taking part in the work of ending poverty and promoting human dignity.
  • We also received the Diversity and Inclusion Award for “Youth in Leadership”, commending our work in ensuring that young people are equipped for leadership and dedicating ourselves to fostering the inclusion of young people in all spaces in society.
  • Recently, the Voice Achievers Award awarded us with, OUTSTANDING AFRICAN IMPACT AWARD WINNER OF THE YEAR 2019, for “your tremendous contribution to impacting the lives of young people in Kenya by providing them with adequate trainings and skills to become future leaders of today and tomorrow. You have excelled in your various engagements within the country which includes promoting human capacity, engaging in business enterprise and charity works thereby giving positive representation of Kenya to the rest of the world.”
  • During a recent expo by My Leader Kenya dubbed “Vijana na Biashara” we merged winner in the category of organizations that are empowering lives of the youth.

How can you take part in the Ongoza Campaign? 

You can make this possible by:

  1. Attending the gala dinner (Register Here)
  2. Or picking any of our sponsorship packages (Sponsorship package) .

Act now to secure the future;

 

 

halima dube; “i lead with conviction”

‘My leadership journey began in January of 2018 when I decided to join the Emerging Leaders Foundation programme. This decision ignited a transformational leader in me: a leader who is keen on the success of all, a leader who has at heart the values and vision to help others succeed -from coworkers, organizations, neighborhood, community and country at large; a leader who is inclusive, strong yet caring, understanding and noble.

Through Emerging Leaders Foundation, I have gained the confidence to start up my own Company; a Social Enterprise ‘Centre for Global & African Contemporary Entrepreneurship’ that seeks to consult and promote Entrepreneurial Development in all aspects. I have also gained the necessary skill to lead various organizations and institutions in different capacities. Through a Corporate Governance training conducted by NEGO (International Centre for Corporate Governance) and initiated by Emerging Leaders Foundation, I have been able gain the mental dexterity that has seen me sitting in boardrooms such as the Women Care Foundation and that of Langata West School among many other roles. Consequently, I coordinate Forum for African Women Educationalists-Kenya Chapter activities within Nairobi Region. Recently, I joined the American Women Association Community Development Committee where I will be spearheading community projects to help develop the nation in terms of community work.  As a Doctorate in Business Student at the University of Nairobi, I pride myself in helping those who are not accustomed to being included. I am working to build bridges of understanding, commitment and affection as I progressively transform myself and those around me.

My message to any person young or old would be to consistently persist in all aspects of their lives be it spiritual, economic, physical or emotional.  In whatever they do, small or great in magnitude, let them never give up; except to convictions of integrity, honor and righteousness.’

 

Forwarded by:

Halima Dube Ursuna

Cohort 4

an introverts struggle to be an extrovert

Before I joined the Emerging Leaders Foundation, I had spent a lot of time on the internet looking for platforms that dealt with youth empowerment. I then came across ELF. It took me close to two years contemplating whether I should join or not. Finally, I made the decision.

For a period of time, I’ve always felt like a failure simply because I had not discovered who I am. I am an introvert who has been struggling to become an extrovert since I always thought that to be successful in life you must be talkative. I was wrong. After going through the personality session at ELF, I changed that mentality. I accepted that I’m actually the best version of myself.

For close to 20 years I’ve always associated intelligence with high grades. But guess what? As much as it is true, an average performer can even be more intelligent and of a higher IQ. I’ll tell you why. The moment you realize who you are and make a decision towards being the best version of you, you realize that even if you’ve made mistakes in the past you can still work towards success and become the best there has ever been. I had an inner awakening after realizing that I am actually intelligent and that my personality is still okay and acceptable, there’s is this inner urge that arose from within. The desire to make a difference. A new amount of energy to work towards realization of my dreams and give back to the community.

I understood that it is normal to make mistakes and learn from them. Your past experiences can actually influence your current self and others in a positive way. I chose to let the past be and decided to work towards making the future bright. Getting to listen to other people’s stories and telling my own story was very empowering. I became aware of my passion. Yes! That’s how powerful the life mapping session was. Now I’m able to do something for the community to avoid a repetition of my story.

I met amazing souls who by the end of the day had become acquaintances. Friends who
empowered me a lot by sharing insights on their career growth as well as what they’ve been able
to do for the community. People I can work with to make this country a better place.

To cut the long story short, Emerging Leaders Foundation is the place to be. The positive impact
they make on their trainees is tremendous. They empower the heart broken, those that had given
up on life, those who gave up on working hard because of failures, and those aspiring to be better
versions of themselves.

 

Submitted by:

Shalom Musyoka.

I almost Resigned, but….

“When I joined the African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI) Program, my leadership was in a deep quagmire. I was almost relinquishing my position as the lead pastor of my organisation because we never had consensus in any agenda. All I had was contention after another. When I came to ABLI, I learned how to understand the temperaments of my fellows, to have better business communications skills, to be an innovative entrepreneur, and to lead with compassion. The authenticity of this leadership program is a beacon of hope to those who are struggling in their leadership position. The capacity that it has built in me has raised my inner jolts of strength to walk tall and to believe in the endless possibilities of changing the world than I initially had. From this program I am fully persuaded that I have been properly enlightened to begin pursuing my vision as a responsible citizen.”

Jared today leads a growing congregation at Crossroad Fellowship Ministries in Kisumu, they recently celebrated 8 years of God’s faithfulness.

He is also a budding entrepreneur and committed change champion. Besides ABLI, he is also part of Tunaweza team in Migori, which is a governance and accountability caucus.

 

Submitted by;

Jared Okello.

RUN YOUR RACE, CLAIM YOUR SPACE.

We say we need space, but all we find is empty places as we don’t know what we are in a quest for. Expressively we start seeking the inner peace of discovering ourselves, and before we know it, we are more lost. In that chaos, that’s when we ironically understand who we are. For me, I got lost in the march of 2019, and I think that’s when the occasion of my storms skyrocketed. An unexpected event led to my knowledge of the Emerging Leaders Foundation and the first new page of the rest of my life begun.

Many phases many places may dazzle me, but new faces always put a smile on my face no matter the day and time. Today it was a Monday morning the mother of refreshment cocktails of opportunities, and the faces I saw screamed changes. We began with a fun introduction, in that you had to describe the person next to you and that was an excellent kick-off to team building.

Ever been asked to make a decision that requires your feelings and also logic thinking, and you just gazed unsure of your next move? Well, that’s because self-awareness of your emotional quotient and intelligent quotient hasn’t been made simpler to you. Emotional intelligence deals with self-awareness, self-regulation, social awareness, and relationship management. With this in mind, one can understand that mind plus heart equal result, so the next time you are faced with a situation that requires logical thinking don’t put your emotions to it. Some studies suggests doing some personality tests helps one in self awareness and also decision making, in doing so you won’t justify your decisions rationally. We also participated in a storytelling art that aid one to open up to the environment around them. Honestly, it’s a scaring thing to do, allowing yourself to be vulnerable among strangers. What you don’t know is that that’s the safest space in the entire Milky way. On day one what a better way to top the cherry-like having a steamy creamy cup of tea with a bite snack.

Highly effective people have a particular rhythm that guides them in building up character. The freedom of choice inclines towards self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will all of which are either stimulus or response. Besides, these habits are the building blocks of our leadership life as new levels bring about new devils. Having the courage to allow transformation shows the acceptance of being void of capacity and competent to thirst for knowledge. Consistency is key to communication as opportunity favors the prepared, you getting my flow by now.

Ever wondered what people say about you when you not in a room? Keep in mind your name is your brand because how you package yourself is what defines you. Always delivering is a promise of saying I did it once, I can do it again.

**brain teaser read about the elevators pitch**

Gender also shows the critical hierarchy of leadership as there is no real social revolution without the liberation of women. Therefore, one ought to be diverse in culture, socialization, religion, and his/her perception as they are deadly weapons to gender inequality and empowerment. This is almost my third day, and by now some electric current of change is causing my crimson blood and the people I met on day one have found a way to my home. You know the famous saying a home is where the heart is?

The currency of life is learning as the day you stop learning; you start decaying. To be a leader is a reader and a writer as documentation is an art. With the current millennial era knowing how to harness the power of social media and using the right channels strengthens your audience. Aside from social media, public speaking should also be practiced as one has to be one on one at the forefront of change. In conclusion run in your lane as nobody is like you and everyone is destined to bear different fruits.

 

Submitted by;

Faith Nyasuguta

International Youth Day Feature

Anselmn Ochieng, an alumnus of our Tunaweza Programme, spearheading G-SETi.org, has been informed by an inherent desire to nurture emerging school children so that they are inspired to tackle challenges with unrivaled confidence.

Read more

“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.

Interact with him on Facebook

 

Juliet Awuor: Never Lose Leadership Dreams to Unmarked Graves.

I have learnt to embrace rejection, that when I received an acceptance mail from Emerging Leaders Foundation, I decided to make the most of this fellowship.

An eighteen-year-old girl goes to the clinic, accompanied by her first boyfriend, to treat what seemed like an STI. Nothing could have prepared her from the revelation. I tested positive for pregnancy, had an STI and turned out to be HIV positive. My dreams of pursuing education went down the drain. I remember going to the University of Nairobi to apply for the joint admissions board, given that I had scored a B-; and stood a chance of getting into the system. I never followed it through. I had a lot going on.

Life in Nairobi’s City carton slum did not make things any easier. I decided to settle for hairdressing instead. I am someone who hides in work to forget the pain I might be going through. I was the best hairdresser, as I processed the fact that I would soon be a teenage mother. I delivered in the cold of the night, outside, because I didn’t have money to go to the hospital, despite saving every cent that I worked for so that I could go to the hospital. I didn’t know what I had was labour pains, so I never took the money I had worked for. (Story for another day). I lost my beautiful baby boy to pneumonia, at five months. We buried him in an unmarked grave in Langata cemetery.

By 19, I had opened a salon business. I was slowly picking myself up, despite keeping my HIV status a secret. After five months, I suffered a stroke that left me incapacitated. My right side became paralyzed, I closed my salon and stayed home for a year wallowing in a pity party. I tried selling second-hand clothes, charcoal, beans, even sweet potatoes, to get pocket money. Just like other dreams, I buried my entrepreneurship in an unmarked grave.

During this time, I came across the Kenya Network of Women with Aids (KENWA). This is how my volunteering started. I decided to volunteer my time as a community health worker, at a drop-in centre in Kiambiu slum. I saw people who had more tragic stories than myself. I used to share my story with the guests who visited the drop-in centre. This is how I met a US-based organization, Population Action International (PAI). They featured me in a documentary, Abstaining from Reality in 2006.

2007 started on a high note for me. I got my first job as a volunteer in Behaviour Change Communication Advocate with PSI- APHIA II. My job was using my story to educate the community on HIV prevention. On women ’s day, I spoke in London parliament, during the launch of the documentary. May, I spoke in Ottawa at the Canadian parliament building, during the American launch of the documentary. October, I went back to Canada to co-facilitate a workshop at the College of the Rockies, with a friend I met at KENWA.

Throughout these high-level meetings, I met networks which I wasted. I didn’t have a mentor to advise me on using my networks to my advantage. I was just a girl from the slum, with a tainted past. This is the problem with a victim mentality. You never see past your experiences. Without good mentors, you can be stuck in the same spot, despite carrying great potential.

I picked up my dream of going to university, and through fundraising initiated by a friend I met at PAI, I enrolled at Daystar University for a diploma in communication. I had to embrace rejections even when applying for internships, and jobs. After my graduation in 2011, I went back for my degree in 2012. A self-sponsored student, volunteering as a church administrator, with a loan of 30 thousand shillings from the church Sacco -talk of faith in action. God provided the scholarships to take me through and in 2015, I graduated. To top it up, I received the creativity award for Nairobi campus.

I got my first formal job at 31, proving that despite the many rejections, you will find someone who will believe in you. I built my parents a semi-permanent house in Kisumu and relocated them from the slum. I still knew I had leadership in me, and just wanted to get guidance on how to develop my leadership skills.

Still applying for several leadership programs, and receiving rejections from all of them, I did not give up. I knew I had leadership skills in me which needed to be nurtured. I kept on trying. My target was to get into a leadership program before hitting 35. Every application came back with the same regret mail. I even stopped trying. I remember last October, on my 35th birthday, just reflecting on how I have been trying for opportunities and facing rejection.

Then I saw the advert for ELF Cohort 6 in November last year. I applied for it on my phone. This was a paid mentorship program, but that did not stop me from trying it. I went for the interview and presented myself, my story. I remember encouraging my fellow interviewees to be themselves during the interview. I was accepted for cohort six when I had buried my dreams of being part of a leadership program in another unmarked grave.

The sessions at ELF just proved that my journey was preparing me for a higher purpose. The sessions were informative, like self-awareness, storytelling, life maps, letters to self, communication, transformational vs transactional leadership, and even good governance. We were given tools to assess our talents and leadership strengths and weaknesses. My convictions were proven by scientific talent assessment tools. I have been a leader all along. I honestly think ELF is the best investment I made in myself.

This was the first time I vied for an elective position. I have always been comfortable with working on the background, and not putting myself out there. I stood and campaigned with others. Although I lost the election, that bold step of allowing myself to try something new gave me such fulfillment.

All fellows were paired to mentors who would help us achieve our goals. My mentor is a lady who runs a social enterprise improving the lives of the community through health programs. I aspire to run a social enterprise educating young people on Teen sexuality and reproductive health. With the rising cases of teenage pregnancies and HIV infections among the youth, someone must educate our young people. I have a resolve to dig out my dream of leadership from the unmarked grave. I am the one I have been waiting for to make a difference.

Juliet Awuor writes at mwanadada.com
You can also connect with her on Twitter , LinkedIn and Facebook .

Never Lose Leadership Dreams to Unmarked Graves.

I have learnt to embrace rejection, that when I received an acceptance mail from Emerging Leaders Foundation, I decided to make the most of this fellowship.

An eighteen-year-old girl goes to the clinic, accompanied by her first boyfriend, to treat what seemed like an STI. Nothing could have prepared her from the revelation. I tested positive for pregnancy, had an STI and turned out to be HIV positive. My dreams of pursuing education went down the drain. I remember going to the University of Nairobi to apply for the joint admissions board, given that I had scored a B-; and stood a chance of getting into the system. I never followed it through. I had a lot going on.

Life in Nairobi’s City carton slum did not make things any easier. I decided to settle for hairdressing instead. I am someone who hides in work to forget the pain I might be going through. I was the best hairdresser, as I processed the fact that I would soon be a teenage mother. I delivered in the cold of the night, outside, because I didn’t have money to go to the hospital, despite saving every cent that I worked for so that I could go to the hospital. I didn’t know what I had was labour pains, so I never took the money I had worked for. (Story for another day). I lost my beautiful baby boy to pneumonia, at five months. We buried him in an unmarked grave in Langata cemetery.

By 19, I had opened a salon business. I was slowly picking myself up, despite keeping my HIV status a secret. After five months, I suffered a stroke that left me incapacitated. My right side became paralyzed, I closed my salon and stayed home for a year wallowing in a pity party. I tried selling second-hand clothes, charcoal, beans, even sweet potatoes, to get pocket money. Just like other dreams, I buried my entrepreneurship in an unmarked grave.

During this time, I came across the Kenya Network of Women with Aids (KENWA). This is how my volunteering started. I decided to volunteer my time as a community health worker, at a drop-in centre in Kiambiu slum. I saw people who had more tragic stories than myself. I used to share my story with the guests who visited the drop-in centre. This is how I met a US-based organization, Population Action International (PAI). They featured me in a documentary, Abstaining from Reality in 2006.

2007 started on a high note for me. I got my first job as a volunteer in Behaviour Change Communication Advocate with PSI- APHIA II. My job was using my story to educate the community on HIV prevention. On women ’s day, I spoke in London parliament, during the launch of the documentary. May, I spoke in Ottawa at the Canadian parliament building, during the American launch of the documentary. October, I went back to Canada to co-facilitate a workshop at the College of the Rockies, with a friend I met at KENWA.

Throughout these high-level meetings, I met networks which I wasted. I didn’t have a mentor to advise me on using my networks to my advantage. I was just a girl from the slum, with a tainted past. This is the problem with a victim mentality. You never see past your experiences. Without good mentors, you can be stuck in the same spot, despite carrying great potential.

I picked up my dream of going to university, and through fundraising initiated by a friend I met at PAI, I enrolled at Daystar University for a diploma in communication. I had to embrace rejections even when applying for internships, and jobs. After my graduation in 2011, I went back for my degree in 2012. A self-sponsored student, volunteering as a church administrator, with a loan of 30 thousand shillings from the church Sacco -talk of faith in action. God provided the scholarships to take me through and in 2015, I graduated. To top it up, I received the creativity award for Nairobi campus.

I got my first formal job at 31, proving that despite the many rejections, you will find someone who will believe in you. I built my parents a semi-permanent house in Kisumu and relocated them from the slum. I still knew I had leadership in me, and just wanted to get guidance on how to develop my leadership skills.

Still applying for several leadership programs, and receiving rejections from all of them, I did not give up. I knew I had leadership skills in me which needed to be nurtured. I kept on trying. My target was to get into a leadership program before hitting 35. Every application came back with the same regret mail. I even stopped trying. I remember last October, on my 35th birthday, just reflecting on how I have been trying for opportunities and facing rejection.

Then I saw the advert for ELF Cohort 6 in November last year. I applied for it on my phone. This was a paid mentorship program, but that did not stop me from trying it. I went for the interview and presented myself, my story. I remember encouraging my fellow interviewees to be themselves during the interview. I was accepted for cohort six when I had buried my dreams of being part of a leadership program in another unmarked grave.

The sessions at ELF just proved that my journey was preparing me for a higher purpose. The sessions were informative, like self-awareness, storytelling, life maps, letters to self, communication, transformational vs transactional leadership, and even good governance. We were given tools to assess our talents and leadership strengths and weaknesses. My convictions were proven by scientific talent assessment tools. I have been a leader all along. I honestly think ELF is the best investment I made in myself.

This was the first time I vied for an elective position. I have always been comfortable with working on the background, and not putting myself out there. I stood and campaigned with others. Although I lost the election, that bold step of allowing myself to try something new gave me such fulfillment.

All fellows were paired to mentors who would help us achieve our goals. My mentor is a lady who runs a social enterprise improving the lives of the community through health programs. I aspire to run a social enterprise educating young people on Teen sexuality and reproductive health. With the rising cases of teenage pregnancies and HIV infections among the youth, someone must educate our young people. I have a resolve to dig out my dream of leadership from the unmarked grave. I am the one I have been waiting for to make a difference.

Juliet Awuor writes at mwanadada.com
You can also connect with her on Twitter , LinkedIn and Facebook .