Get one thing anchors you, No matter how old you are

(Written on the night of 26th February 2020 )

It’s raining tonight, a sign of blessings as we start the Lenten period.

Earlier today, I realized that I was not going make it home in time for Mass along Thika Road where I live and decided to instead wait for the evening one at St. Paul’s Chapel, University of Nairobi, and what a beautiful choice that was in the end!

The last time I was at St. Paul’s was in 1994 when we held a memorial service for my late father, and prior to that was 1990 for my Aunt and Uncle’s wedding where I made my debut into fame as a flower girl (I know, fame is a state of mind 😊, so it was nice to be back at the Chapel.)

What amazed me this time was the incredibly beautiful singing by the university students’ choir. So glorious, filled with the spirit, their voices rising, song after song with rigor, passion, harmony, oneness, zeal and soul! I was mesmerized. The men’s voices, Tenor and Bass, were particularly strong, reverberating through the chapel walls, windows, ceilings, and our very hearts.

We all know how many ‘interesting’ not-very-good things are happening with and to the youth but I’m here to tell you that they’re also in church and they are there happily, willingly, fully. What a reassurance.

The singing took me back to my high school days and I remembered how beautifully we sang at Precious Blood and how much we enjoyed belting out those tunes at Mass, sometimes nearly refusing to end a song if it was just too good, much to the semi-amused chagrin of our teachers and the Sisters.

Oh my, St. Paul’s! The church was full. This was the other thing that made me so happy. Wednesday evening, Ash Wednesday, no less, but yes, a packed church on a weekday. Several congregants were not students, but majority were. How wonderful to see that the youth are going to church, giving their talent, serving and practicing their faith. I was transported back to my own university days and how much my faith anchored me, how I found family in Newman Catholic Students Association where I served and shared faith so similar and so familiar even in the far away land of Wellesley, Massachusetts; far away from Nairobi, that is. We all know how many ‘interesting’ not-very-good things are happening with and to the youth but I’m here to tell you that they’re also in church and they are there happily, willingly, fully. What a reassurance.

Once Mass ended, I sat on the pew transfixed, unable to leave until their conductor signaled for them to finish the last song. As I thought about the message that the priest had shared in the sermon, “Tear your hearts, not your garments,” I figured, ‘Wow, what a powerful clarion call.’ A reminder that we should take this time to focus on our inside and not the external, to seek not praise or earthly reward but our renewal, repentance and rebirth. I reflected on the singing and praying that I had done through high school and college and beyond and felt grateful that I had had a chance to find such refuge, direction and comfort in my youth. It is so good when you have that one thing  that is greater than you; that anchors you and at the same time lifts you, no matter where you are or how old you are. And what a treasure when you find it in your youth! May our hearts indeed be full, open, and ready for tearing.

May we have a Blessed and meaningful Lenten season, beloved. As for the students at St. Paul’s Chapel, please keep singing.

Submitted by:
Elishibah Msengeti Poriot
Manager, Leadership Development and Mentorship 

5 Tips You Need for Successful Personal Development

Sometimes, I wonder why some of us go through life without a plan. Would you have a tailor do your outfit without a plan? Or a contractor build your house without a plan and figuring it out as they go on? I bet you wouldn’t. Why then do you then fumble in life without stopping to think on where you’re headed? You need to plan on where you want to be clearly and make deliberate decisions on the direction you want to follow. The journey to personal development begins with self-awareness. Self-awareness is the ability to understand one’s thoughts, behaviors, motivations, weaknesses and reactions and everything else that makes us unique. You must actively seek to understand your strengths, weaknesses, emotions, motivations and your reactions to various situations. According to Maslow (1970), people have an inbuilt need for personal development which occurs through self-actualization.

For you to be successful you have to study what successful people do and apply it.

Life is competitive and unless we become tougher, we won’t be able to achieve anything.

  1. Set Goals

Personal development is interesting. Having a clear plan of where you want to be in future is part of personal development. It is easier to improve when you have a purpose of doing so.  Write down your goals in order of their importance and constantly review them.

  1. Assess Your Skills

You now have a clear vision of where you want to go but do you have the necessary means to take you there? First, you need to assess your skills to see whether they are in line with your dream. Constantly work on the skills you have to master the unique ones. Then list all the skills you should improve in order to realize your goals. Do whatever it takes to acquire the skills you are lacking.

  1. Discipline

After you have assessed your skills and acquired new ones, it’s now time to hit the road to your destination. Discipline is the ability of getting started regardless of your emotional state. Self-discipline is nothing but empowering your will and training the brain. After drawing your goals and acquiring the necessary skills, set a target and concentrate on it. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone.

  1. Hard Work

Success doesn’t come on a silver platter, you must work hard. Personal development takes time and hard work. Understand how much work you need to put in in order to fully function. Employ a fixed schedule that you will commit to. Commitment has a positive effect on self-development.

  1. Be Unique

Often in life, we meet people who leave a very deep impression on us and make us admire everything about them. While it is in order to draw inspirations, avoid comparing yourself with them. Ask yourself who you need to be to become in order to be successful. Do what is in line with your vision and avoid the unnecessary pressure that comes from comparing yourself with others.

 

In a nutshell, personal development is a life time investment that seeks to improve your productivity and quality. When you put time and effort in developing yourself, the results are amazing. Personal development helps you manage yourself regardless of the situation you are in. Pick those tips and build on them. Life is competitive and unless we become tougher, we won’t be able to achieve anything.

 

Submitted By:

Shalom Musyoka, Cohort 8.

Susan Wavinya: Bringing Back Hope in her society

Being a mother at 17 was the turning point for Susan Wavinya Wairimu. She didn’t let her dreams and visions to be daunted. Susan, who is currently her cohort’s president decided to try a hand at ELF to see feed her curiosity on everything that goes on in the organization and understand herself in a better way.

“I remember applying for ELF in 2017, half-way though I gave up but found myself applying for the same 2 years later. My passion for leadership, mentorship and governance just couldn’t let me surrender on this chance.”

Susan decided to forward her name as a presidential candidate for her cohort, where she was the only lady contesting. “I didn’t think of myself winning, let me be honest. During the elections I was very impatient and pessimistic. Some of my fellows were raising my hopes of winning; I had to keep calm and wait for the moment.” The elections provided valuable lessons to Susan but one of the greatest lessons was strategy; coming up with good strategies is important not only when seeking votes but in life.

No one is answerable for your failure, if you have faith and purpose then God will surely see you through in what you desire to achieve.

Currently, Susan is a Human Resource Management student at Ngong Technical and vocational College and serves as the charter president of the student’s council at the same institution. Besides this, she formed an organization – House of Hope- that mentors, motivates and advocates for the rights of young mothers in Ngong Mathare slum, where she grew up. In November last year, Susan had her first mentorship session for young mothers in the area and she was able to reach 77 young mothers in the area, did a menstrual talk and distributed sanitary towels. She looks forward to hosting another session this month to celebrate women and gift them with clothing to appreciate their beauty and the efforts they put to raise their kids and sustain themselves.

“I believe that no woman should be discriminated or criticized for making the choice of being a mum at a tender age, what we have to do is give them a shoulder to lean on and allow them pursue their dreams. I am looking forward to having several activities that will help young women earn a living and get into leadership and have soft skills,” Susan

Further, she also leads in the mentorship of young girls who are in school.

“The training that I got at ELF and the sessions that we had also boosted my knowledge and helped improve how I carried out my duties.”

Despite all challenges encountered along the way, she desires to be an ambassador for the youths and young women at the UN or any other organization that will believe her dreams and welcome her to be part.

Susan is not ready to give up on her dreams, she believes that one must fight through all challenges that come along. “Many are the times when we give up on our dreams by complaining about lack of resources but my encouragement is keep pushing for it, if I am able to achieve and impact lives despite all that I go through, then pursue your purpose passionately and the resource and rewards will follow.”

“No one is answerable for your failure, if you have faith and purpose then God will surely see you through in what you desire to achieve.”

We celebrate Susan and her efforts in creating impact in her society.

My Turban and I

Today I wore a headwrap;
A colleague asks me,
Why are you wearing a headscarf,
And yet your hair is so neatly done?
Why are you covering it ?
Because I want to, I said.
Because I can.
Because wearing a headwrap,
Is fashion too.
It’s my Tuesday morning style, is that okay ?
It’s not about bad hair or good hair.
Where do we get these notions from ?
Can’t one just wrap her head ?
Ah, the life of a woman.
Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.
If I shave, I’m making a statement,
If I straighten, I’m making a statement,
If I leave it in Afro, I’m making a statement,
If I put it in dreads,
Or plait it in braids,
Or have it in corn rows, I’m making a statement.
Well, no, not always,
Sometimes, yes, sure,
But sometimes I do whatever it is because I can.
No need to make assumptions,
And don’t worry about it,
Or about me,
My head and I are okay,
My hair and I, we’re actually just fine.
And the red, it wasn’t to make a statement either.
Later I took it off,
To make a statement,
That I was now ready,
To take off my headwrap,
My headscarf,
My turban,
Because I could,
Because I wanted to.
That’s all.

#IWD2020

Submitted by:
Elishibah Msengeti Poriot
Manager, Leadership Development and Mentorship 

Another chance at life, Thank You ELF

As I type this, I can gladly say that ELF saved my life. But how? You must be wondering. Well, let me tell you my story. Exactly one year ago, I had hit rock bottom. My hope was completely at zero and as each second passed, more and more suicidal thoughts crossed my mind. I had just lost a child through ectopic pregnancy and I was in a very dark space. It was even worse because my parents forbade me to talk about it.

Being an extrovert, I thought my parents would notice that something was wrong with me as I had become completely withdrawn which was unlike me. I was drowning in pain and everybody was moving on with their lives like nothing happened. I opted to slitting my wrist as a way of channeling the pain that was inside. One evening, the pain was overwhelming, and I couldn’t slit my wrist anymore because I already had too many bruises. For me, suicide was the only way out but to be honest, actualizing the thought is not as easy as it seems.

If anything, I felt relieved; I felt at home. I felt loved and I knew that ELF was now my second family. Here, I made friends for life and I knew that this was my second chance in life.

I lay on my bed with tear-filled eyes scrolling my phone with no agenda. My dad sent me a link to a YouTube video, and I thought to myself, “Let me watch this video first then I can think of a good way to commit suicide.”  As I think about it now, I can’t help but laugh. My dad knew how much I liked public speaking and he had sent me Caren Wakoli’s speech at St. Andrews Turi. As I watched the video, I couldn’t help but admire how well Caren articulated her speech and I got curious about this smart lady. Remember, at the back of my mind I wanted to complete watching this video and still think of a smooth way to end my existence. God works in miraculous ways.

After the speech, I decided to google and know more about Caren and that’s when I bumped into ELF. Little did I know that my focus was slowly changing from suicidal thoughts to curiosity about ELF and what it does. Amazingly, recruitment for cohort 8 was ongoing and I made my registration. At this point suicide was out mind since I had turned my focus to be part of ELF. Nonetheless, I still used to slit my wrist from time to time, as a way of coping. During the cohort 8 open day, is when I knew that I had really found a place to call home. Stella Cheboi was the first person I met and if you know and have interacted with her, you must agree that she gives the warmest welcomes. You know those deep welcomes that are hard to ignore, those that you’d think someone has known you for a while. I heard Jim India and Stella Nderitu speak and I couldn’t help but admire how well they picked their diction and articulation of words. It was impressive and at that moment, I concluded that I am in the right place.

As Sofina took us through the first session of life mapping and storytelling, I knew that I was in a safe space and that was the first time I shared my story with complete strangers and didn’t feel judged. If anything, I felt relieved; I felt at home. I felt loved and I knew that ELF was now my second family. Here, I made friends for life and I knew that this was my second chance in life.

Thank you, ELF. Keep impacting and changing lives because you never know how many more lives you will save.

Joyce Selim, 

ELF cohort 8 Fellow.  

Oliver Barasa,”Embrace any small opportunity that comes your way.”

A Christian of strong faith, a liberal thinker, a biomedical laboratory scientist by profession working with Gertrude’s Children Hospital at Muthaiga. Besides my profession as a medic, I also actively engage in different projects with young people who are like-minded and ready to champion change in their area of influence.  I am passionate about matters leadership and governance, especially political leadership. Currently, I am a member of Young Aspirants Kenya, whose aim is to shape the political path for young people to engage in governance so that they can be able to chat their future through policy making.

Following my training at ELF, I feel renewed and transformed as a person through the informative sessions I undertook. ELF allowed me to define and understand myself. This is a milestone step which has enabled me to step out with confidence and boldness.  I was able to understand the importance of personal branding and effective communication. Before joining ELF, I had failed in interviews due to lack of communication skills but after going through the program and devoting myself to reading books, I am proficient in handling such situations.

One of the biggest reap from ELF was getting a mentor. I got a mentor who is passionate on better healthcare for our people. Currently, through my mentor’s initiative and partnerships with other consultant doctors, we are running an advocacy on health especially on the rampant cases of misdiagnosis and training people especially in rural areas on health matters.

Through ELF, I was able to join a group of young people who are passionate on policy development to address the issues concerning county government leadership. Currently, I partly help Imara Africa run a project on social accountability audits in the health sector in Kericho County. This was a success after redefining my values through ELF training and also having taken a pledge that I will use my passion to help those around me and to serve my society using my voice to speak for the voiceless.

To every young person; when life gives you a lemon, always make a lemonade out of it. Don’t let opportunities go past you, embrace any small opportunity that comes your way.

I have also recently joined Tunaweza programme, Bungoma county, where we are involved in matters of advocacy and empowering youths to participate more in governance.  I have also started a mentorship programme for young people. I resolved to use my free time to meet, chat and guide young men on self-leadership and career guiding.

Business-wise, I’m working on improving a medical clinic that I started in Bungoma. This is down to the entrepreneurial knowledge I got from ELF on how to build a brand and how to strike partnerships. In health care, I am working on setting up a facility to help mothers deliver safely and end maternal deaths.

I live by Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”

To every young person; when life gives you a lemon, always make a lemonade out of it. Don’t let opportunities go past you, embrace any small opportunity that comes your way.”

 

#Never give up.

 

What it takes to be a global citizen

One thing we can all agree to is that we live in an increasingly interdependent and interconnected world. As a result of this, all we see around us are young people starting to identify more as global citizens. Think about it for a moment, from the time your day begins to the time the sun sets, you may have interacted with several international brands already. Just analyzing from your clothing, the labels could already represent two continents or more. It could be in the food you eat every day especially the imported spices used to create that unique flavor, or even the citizenship of the people you interact with on a daily basis. It could be just through the internet whereby at the touch of a button you literally have access to the world. So really, what does it mean to be a global citizen?

There is an upcoming term that you may have heard of in ad campaigns, a company’s mission statement or when making an international scholarship application. Although we do not have a definitive definition of what global citizenship entails, there are common elements that qualify one to be a global citizen. Kathy Short, a professor in the University of Arizona’s said, “Global citizenship is a stance or perspective that we bring to our interactions across cultures. That stance is first and foremost a stance of open-mindedness and stands in contrast to narrow, self-absorbed judgments that are based in unexamined and biased assumptions about others.”

Unlike a normal citizen, a global citizen may participate in international debates on social media, cross-country forums on international policies or even sign petitions towards a given course in a different country.

When talking about a global citizen, it’s important to understand what is a global community? It refers to the connections you encounter in your individual life, the local space and the larger world. Therefore, to be a global citizen you have to be aware of your global community. Be wary of how the world works and respect different cultural and values diversity. This could be simply appreciating the diversity of different religions and sexual orientations. A global citizen, after being aware of their surroundings, takes up an active role in taking responsibility especially of their actions on both the global and local platform. It could be joining a social enterprise or conducting networking on an international scale. It’s learning to speak against social injustices and taking relevant action to make the world more sustainable and equitable. Unlike a normal citizen, a global citizen may participate in international debates on social media, cross-country forums on international policies or even sign petitions towards a given course in a different country.

In conclusion, I could say that global citizens care enough and hold themselves accountable to ensure that human rights are protected and upheld around you and all over the world.

Having this in mind, are you ready to take up that torch of global citizenship?

 

Submitted by

Sofina Merinyo,

Assistant Programs Officer-ELF. 

 

 

The Importance of Self-Love

To all my single friends, your WhatsApp statuses and Facebook are probably stocked with your friends ‘baes’ and various gifts that they have been showered with. Don’t let lack of a significant partner make you dread this day. So today, I want to talk about self-love. Self-love is the most important form of relationship in your life. It is genuinely accepting yourself which in return creates a strong bond in your other relationships. It is about looking after your body, mind and spirit. You’ve probably heard of “love your neighbor as you love yourself”. So, treat yourself today. Get yourself a bouquet of roses and chocolates. There’s nothing wrong with being single as you wait for what you truly deserve. Being in a relationship is not a measure of worth neither is it an achievement. You deserve to give yourself all the love so don’t be afraid to spoil yourself and shower yourself with compliments.

Self-love is about:

Accepting yourself

Self-love is the willingness to accept who you are; both the good and the bad side. It is giving yourself as much as you are willing to give to others. It provides you with inner peace and happiness that can be affected by the opinion of others. It helps you make healthier choices and decisions across all relationships in your life. Self-love lets you celebrate others and appreciate their achievements rather than being jealous.

Self-love lets you celebrate others and appreciate their achievements rather than being jealous.

Knowing your value and adhere to it

Knowing your value and self-worth means you don’t see it as a privilege when you interact with people of higher status than you are. We self-sabotage ourselves in relationships and work places because we don’t ask for what we deserve. We feel that we are lucky to work at a certain organization or have some people in our lives.  Demand to be recognized be it in work places or in romantic relationships.

Teaching others how to treat you

If you find yourself unhappy on how people are treating you, it’s time to have a meeting with yourself and do a self-check. I have learnt that we attract who and what we are. People treat us the way we let them. If people insult you, take you for granted, use you or even abuse you it’s because you let them do it. You comfortably let it slide without confronting them about their actions. Maybe because you thought they were too important and you’d lose them if you questioned their behavior. Truth is, no one is more important than yourself. Let them treat you they way you deserve otherwise show them the door.

No one in the entire universe deserves your love more than you do. Self-love is the perquisite of all form of love in your life. You can never experience true love without genuinely loving yourself first. Let go of anything that makes you believe that self-love is selfish and egocentric. Loving yourself is a win-win. It is accompanied by unmeasurable happiness and joy that no else can offer you but God. So, if nobody treated you this valentines don’t wallow in self-pity. Wake up and treat yourself to a nice meal, a movie or even do a note to self.

There’s nothing wrong with being single as you wait for what you truly deserve. Being in a relationship is not a measure of worth neither is it an achievement. You deserve to give yourself all the love so don’t be afraid to spoil yourself and shower yourself with compliments

For those in relationships, don’t get into the whirlwind of valentine’s day and forget about yourselves. Self-love is the greatest love of all. Romantic love may come and go but self-love lasts a lifetime.

HAPPY VALENTINES!

 

Submitted By:

Shalom Musyoka, Cohort 8.

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Opportunities Galore: Conserving the Environment While Saving for the Future

In 2017, William Wanjohi who was then a student leader at the Maasai Mara University, partook in a mentorship programme, Changamka, with the sole aim of improving on his public speaking skills. William, however ended up gaining more than he had anticipated in different areas.

“To me, the program was so outstanding. I came to understand my strengths and weaknesses, my personality and life measures which I had never discovered before.  My lifestyle changed, I became a new ‘me’ and the only way to shape the path was to let the things I used to do fade, break and disconnect in order to discover myself more, follow my dreams, be an ambassador and be an impact driver,” William.

According to the him, ELF’s training was a noble course which marked a turning point towards his success as an individual. Since leaving the programme, he has started several community-based organizations and youth groups in areas that he is really strong at.

At the ELF, I got to pick a lot. I could write a 500-pager book on my lessons. But in brief, I got to learn much on Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Governance, Public Speaking and Advocacy.

 

Having undertaken environmental planning in his undergraduate studies, he opted on using this as a tool to advocate for Climate Action in Murang’a county, where he hails from. In 2019, he founded a youth group. Platinum Youth Group, whose main objective is to engage youth in community activities and to help address the issue of unemployment amongst the youth. Through this group, he has managed to start a Community Based Organization (CBO), a tree planting initiative dubbed Green Rural Society, which seeks to address matters around climate change. So far, he has managed to donate over 5000 trees to primary and secondary schools and also to individual. This year, Green Rural society has planned 5 tree planting activities, 4 in Murang’a and 1 in Nairobi county.

Through the same group, he has also started an investment club, Platinum Youth Group Investment Club (PYGIL), which is a savings tool and is used to resource for loans among to help support registered members in various issues. Since its inception, the investment club has been able to support 5 people in starting their businesses. He credits this to the entrepreneurship session that he had at ELF.

“At the ELF, I got to pick a lot. I could write a 500-pager book on my lessons. But in brief, I got to learn much on Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Governance, Public Speaking and Advocacy. After training I decided to practice some of these skills and I can say that they have really worked for me.”

William hopes to have a fully resourced center that will accommodate more youth in developing their skills, ideas and engaging them in leadership and governance and addressing matters environment in his home county. In his words, “We have all what it takes to see the next generation breath fresh air.”

At ELF, we celebrate William and his commitment in conserving the environment and passing on knowledge on topical issues in his community.

 

 

OVERCOMING LOW SELF-ESTEEM

The 1990’s generation is deeply suffering from low self-esteem and many young people feel like they have lost it all. As I pen this down, I want to strongly assure our generation that we have the ability to create new champions in ourselves.

After last year’s training at ELF, I have thought about self-esteem in relation to Emotional intelligence and I can now clearly define it as an emotional opinion about oneself, how one feels about himself/herself as a person.

Many define self-esteem as ‘feelings of worth based on their skills, accomplishments, status, financial resources or appearance.’ However, from my school of thought I believe our sense of being a good person should not depend on what we do but rather on who we are in Christ (this is a Christian world view).

Our society seems to have it all wrong, there is a big problem with the society’s focus on self-esteem. The problem is that this focus involves measuring oneself against others, rather than paying attention to one’s intrinsic value.

Research shows that basing one’s self-worth on external factors (including academic performance, appearance and approval from others) is actually harmful to one’s mental health. The same research found that students who based their self-worth on internal sources (the unique qualities that make you- you) not only felt better; they also received higher grades and were less likely to use drugs and alcohol or to develop eating disorders.

From ELF’s training, I have learnt on how to apply a healthy view of myself and I can only achieve this by avoiding placing self at the center as the be-all and end-all of existence.

Iyanla Vanzant once said, “so many of us invest a fortune making ourselves look good to the world, yet inside we are falling apart. It’s time to invest on the inside.”

There are simple ways to help you increase your self-esteem and build confidence in yourself:

  • Challenge bad thoughts about yourself
  • Take care of yourself
  • Be sure to relax
  • Try new things
  • Surround yourself with people who make you feel good
  • Accept yourself
  • Set goals for yourself
  • Help somebody else out
  • Take a different perspective
  • Keep visual reminders of things that make you feel good

Each and every one of us have self-esteem. Self-esteem is made up of the thoughts we have about ourselves and plays a role in almost everything we do.

Having healthy self-esteem is really important as it helps you make positive choices in your everyday life, gives you the courage to be your own person, have good relationships and helps you deal with difficult situations.

Once we believe in ourselves, we can risk curiosity, spontaneous delight wonder, or any experience that reveals the human spirit.

In conclusion, I believe that this piece will motivate someone and boost positive living. It’s not easy to like every part of the way we look, but getting stuck on negatives can really bring down your self-esteem. It’s important to believe that you can change. Change doesn’t necessarily happen easily or quickly, but it happens.

 

 

Submitted by

Stephen Muasya-cohort 8