IT’S A NEW DAWN!

The pandemic came with lock down, shattered dreams, goals, and visions. At the beginning, I had no hint of what would happen next, or even how I would plan for the rest of the days. I kept getting restless as the number of infections kept rising. I embraced being still and walking into new paths and being available for opportunities.

While being still, I received an email from the from Emerging Leaders Foundation on African Biblical Leadership Institute (ABLI), a program I had applied for, informing me that I had qualified for the 2020 cohort. I got excited on hearing the news, I celebrated in song and dance as I waited for the training to commence.

Come June, the training was finally launched. I got so excited to see fellow participants logging in from across the country. The music at the waiting room was calming, I knew I had found a new home. As participants kept logging in, my heart leapt with joy on seeing Caren Wakoli. How I felt like reaching out to hug her, but sadly because of the pandemic the meeting was online. It was very great having her speak to us, because she is a lady I admire, and I look forward to meeting her. She warmly welcomed us and encouraged us to always be outstanding. She told us to always endeavor to bring out our ‘A’ game on the table and we should never hold back.

I have since learnt that most people make decisions based on their emotions. During this period, I have taken time to settle and understand myself. I endeavor to be renewing my mind daily, fixing my eyes on positive results and not getting overwhelmed with stress. I started buying books on leadership and self-awareness, to enable me learn from people’s perspectives and experiences.

The journey that I took is about learning, unlearning, and re-learning as well. As an aspiring leader, I am learning to lead from behind just as Nelson Mandela said “A leader is like a shepherd. He stays behind the flock, letting the most nimble go out ahead, where upon the others follow, not realizing that all along they are being distracted from behind.” Leading from behind means being a servant leader, taking care of the people’s needs first before your own. I am on course to becoming a servant leader.

In this journey that I took, I have embraced the power of having a vision, not just having it but learning to implement it step by step. ABLI has led me to understand that you become successful if you implement your vision. This is because visions keep us going. Having a stronger vision makes one not to easily give up.

It is a journey of learning in depth the habits of highly effective leaders. By this, I am working daily on conquering myself and my fears and sharpening the axe. This way, I can be able to conquer the world. I am practicing being decisive and balancing my life. This is to keep me away from having a successful business and a terrible family at the same time.

Being an ABLI fellow is a journey I took on my way to leadership.  I believe with God on my side, I am making it. It is indeed the rise of a New Dawn.

 

By: Catherine Khayali, ABLI 2020

“Looking back, joining ELF was the wisest decision that I have made in life”

Gladys Maina was not always going to be a STEM professional. She had initially pursued a medical laboratory certificate but realized rather quickly that a career in medicine was not meant for her. She quit and travelled 250Kms to Nairobi where her passion for technology started.

She never looked back and has gone ahead to excel in her career and studies. She recognizes the role technology continues to play in transforming lives and societies. Despite Kenya being a resource-constrained developing country, she believes that it offers her the opportunity to use technology to solve social-economic issues. It is for this reason that Gladys continues to seek international experiences that guide her in achieving these goals. In November 2019, she was named a 2020 finalist of the Adobe Research Women-in-Technology Scholarship in line with Adobe vision of creating the best products by bringing gender diversity into the technology industry. In 2018, she was one of the four finalists and the only Kenyan nominated in the category of IT Project Management for the 2018 Afrika Kommt! Initiative.

Gladys attributes her continuous success to the training she got at Emerging Leaders Foundation, an organization she came across as she was casually browsing the Internet. ELF helped her rediscover who she really was and her capabilities. She learnt how to align her passions with a successful living. As an aspiring leader, the session on leadership gave her lessons that she carries with her to date. She was taught that leaders have clarity, leaders take care of the company they keep, and leaders give back to the community.

It is for this reason that Gladys has continued to champion for gender diversity and inclusion in the STEM field. In June 2020, she was selected for the 2020-2021 TechWomen program from an incredibly competitive cycle with only 108 women selected to participate. TechWomen brings emerging women leaders in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) from Africa, Central Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East together with their professional counterparts in the United States for a mentorship and exchange program in the San Francisco Bay Area and Washington, DC.

ELF taught her three crucial lessons which she has carries and shares with those around her:

  1. Never settle for less.

You should keep pursuing your goals and increasing your knowledge no matter what position or title you hold in life.

Steve Jobs said that we should never settle and we should never arrive.

  1. Be brave and take risks.

“We need to be brave and take risks to achieve our ambitions. We need to lose sight of the shores to discover new oceans. Taking risks means hurdling into the unknown and believing that we will make it to the other side, despite not yet knowing what the other side is going to look like. It is taking bold actions and forcing ourselves into unfamiliar territories.”

  1. Run your own race

“Sometimes we are tempted to look at others and compare ourselves. We evaluate ourselves by how much our colleagues, teammates, friends, and family members have accomplished forgetting that they are their own unique individual. One thing ELF taught me is that it does not matter when you start the race, what matters is that you eventually finish. Learn as much as you can as there is room at the finish line for all of us.”

Gladys hopes to continue inspiring the next generation of leaders. She believes that she stands on the sacrifices of a million women before her and is always thinking what she can do to make the mountain taller so the women after her can go even further.

“Looking back, joining ELF was the wisest decision that I have made in life.”

 

 

By: Gladys Maina, LDP Cohort 5

 

“ELF helped me believe in myself and step out of my comfort zone”

Vincent Ogallo Mwita is an ardent social worker focused on full eradication of female genital mutilation & gender-based violence cases, with keen interest in championing democracy & youth inclusion in national and devolved system of governance from the South west part of Kenya, Migori county.

Vincent was born and raised in a community where female genital mutilation and gender-based violence cases were a norm. Growing up, youth voices least mattered in the development agenda. This was a struggle for him as he always felt that more needed to be done on GBV. In his quest to form a network of champions against Gender based violence and poor governance that excluded voices of young people from key leadership and decision making spaces in his county, Vincent came across Tunaweza capacity building training, which he choose to be part of.

“I had interacted with most Leadership and Development alumni. Their knowledge, ability and understanding of various issues and conduct really inspired me. I needed to be part of ELF, I was always checking out for any openings,” he adds.

The Tunaweza training project in 2019 was a transformation and turnaround season for Vincent and other trainees as they were able to get capacity building development that shaped their leadership perspective, equipped them with skills to meaningfully engage their county leaders in order to spur social accountability and community-driven development.

Currently, Vincent is the Tunaweza coordinator, Migori county, and also serves as an executive member to the Commonwealth Youth Gender Equality Network (CYGEN); a youth led global network of the 53 African states which actively promotes and supports the meaningful inclusion of youth voices on gender equality issues in local, national, regional, Commonwealth and international agendas.

“The training gave me an opportunity to believe in myself and step out of my comfort zone to go for leadership opportunities even beyond my county of residence. I was able to apply many other leadership and skills development opportunities. Recently, I was among the 207 trainees from 14 African countries who just concluded Yali’s training and I am among the 700 selected Young African Leaders for Mandela Washington Fellowship 2020 who are currently undertaking online trainings.”

Together with other Tunaweza fellows, they have strategized and come up with Migori Tunaweza Empowerment team; a name drawn from the training that they all attended. Under the team, they have positively engaged with their county youth department and raised concerns on various issues, this has further led to the start of the Migori County Youth Technical Working group (TWG); a stakeholders coordination team whose mandate is to champion for youth development agenda within the county sectors and departments through action plans. The team has also been able to develop a Migori County Integrated Action Plan (CIAP) which has contributed a lot in the budgetary processes of the county.

Vincent is also actively engaged in civic education on Constitution of Kenya (2010) with his key priority areas being around devolution and public participation. Through this, he is targeting young people in all sub-counties in Migori to ensure they engage and participate in key development agendas in the county.

Together with his Tunaweza team, they have launched a Covid-19 response campaign dubbed ‘Tunaweza Girl Empowerment-keep girls safe at home’ that targets to reach out to four thousand adolescent girls and one thousand adolescent boys (1000boys) led by team members. “We train them on menstrual hygiene, donate sanitary towels, give them trainings on sexuality and encourage them to abstain from sex as we highlight effects of sex at tender age and negative effects of female genital mutilation. We also provide mentorship to them.”

He also engages in making local door mats, selling, and buying of materials for making re-usable cloth sanitary towels as a social enterprise venture that aims to provide sustainable, accessible and affordable sanitation for young women and girls. “We get little income and in return use some of them in solving the menstrual problems amongst the rural needy girls. So far, the project has reached out to over five thousand (5000) young women and girls since 2019 with the re-usable cloth sanitary towels as we make.”

We celebrate Vincent and his efforts in fighting GBV, FGM and championing for good governance in his county.

 

My Transformation Through ABLI

When I joined ABLI I had my expectations. I wanted to grow spiritually and build a strong network of believers across the country. It has been three months since we started the program and truly I can attest the program has exceeded my expectations. I love the partnership between Emerging Leaders Foundation (ELF) and the Bible Society of Kenya (BSK) with the aim of targeting young Christians who need leadership and mentorship training. It is hard to come by such programs that are Christian based.

Our weekly classes are top-notch! The organizers spend quality time coming up with the right content and topics that are relevant in the modern world. There are things that you will rarely learn in higher institutions of learning or even understand how important they are, but through ABLI, I have been able to understand and learn on so many aspects when it comes to leadership and professionalism; Leading with Emotional intelligence, using storytelling skills as a mode to influence people, spending time to write a letter to self and many more exciting topics. At this point, I feel empowered, it is hard to imagine that we are halfway into the program.

I am grateful that I got a chance to be a part of this cohort and I would like to thank the organizers for doing a commendable job. I am also thankful for being able to put into practice all the skills gained in this program at my current workplace. My start-up CBO, Graceway Foundation Africa, has also benefited a great deal and it has experiences a great change in its management, owing to my lessons from ABLI. If there is anyone out there who is looking to improve on their leadership style or you are wondering where to start from, ABLI is here for you!

I am reminded of one topic “Letter to self”. It has changed my perspective and helped me see things differently. I have been holding lots of painful past experiences that I could not bear to share with anyone around because of the memories behind them. The speaker of this session was very engaging, her soothing voice created a comfortable environment for us to speak out. This was the same day when I shared a story that I have never attempted to pass on to anyone, this has since left me with lightness and relief in my heart.

This year has not been an easy one but ABLI has made everything work out. Thank you, Emerging Leaders Foundation and Bible Society of Kenya, for giving me and other fellows hope, courage, strength and power when we were about to give up.

 

By: Emmanuel Opar Osano, ABLI 2020

 

 

Dr. Daphne: It is gratifying to see young people accomplish their goals.

Dr Daphne Kagume is a Mental Health Therapist, Advocate and Consultant with a strong social justice and multicultural background as well as an unwavering passion for helping individuals and communities overcome adversity and thrive. Her work has centered around gender, social justice, and multicultural issues with a major focus on Trauma-Informed Practice. She has special interest in how the intersection of Gender-based Violence, oppression and Trauma impacts individual and community well-being and factors that contribute to individual and community resilience. She is vastly experience as she has worked in various settings including NGOs, Higher Education, private practice and has held various roles including Programme Manager, Therapist, Community Advocate, Clinical Supervisor, and Advisor on Trauma-Informed Practice and Adjunct Faculty.

Dr. Daphne is intentional in using her skills and professional experience to bring about positive change around mental health and well-being in Kenya. She envisions a country where every individual will have equitable access to quality and affordable mental health service.

She has been a mentor at ELF for one year in the space of social services and academia. Her experience has been wonderful as she gets to experience growth in the young women that she mentors. “It is gratifying to witness them accomplishing the goals they have set, becoming more and more confident and learning to chart their own path,” she adds.

Her biggest challenge in mentorship, however, has been on her availability and the availability of her mentees to meet physically due to distance and other constraints.

According to her, good mentorship starts with having a good fit between the mentor and the person being mentored. “It is important for both to take the initiative and for the mentee to be clear about what they want to accomplish through the mentorship relationship. Clear and open communication is also important. Communication on goals, successes, challenges and barriers.”

Her advice to professional who are getting into mentorship or may be interested, “This is a very rewarding journey and I would encourage people to do it to help grow young leaders for tomorrow. Young people can look at problems with fresh eyes and bring innovative solutions. Mentorship requires consistent effort from both parties, so mentors need to be ready to put in the time and effort to see results.”

“I have been very blessed to have met wonderful professionals who have mentored me and guided me in my career journey. This is my way of paying it forward.”

Her favourite quote: ‘Just like moons and like suns, with the certainty of tides; Just like hopes springing high, Still I will rise’ Maya Angelou

 

Two packets of Biscuits; the lifeline!

I will tell the story of a teen girl who was told that she was not enough. She is an average girl in most aspects; neither tall nor short, slim- but not too slim 😊 and her heart might not be big enough to accommodate everyone and everything that the world throws at her. She is just a girl who was never enough for anything. All she ever went through her teenage life was questions on her thoughts, on God’s timing- was it really the best, slight sense of humour and sarcasm, and just how boring and dull life could be.

She grew sorry and confused. She was sorry for breathing fresh air in a space she should have called home and sorry for taking up space that probably would have been meaningful to someone else. She grew tired of how meaningless life had become, she decided the only way out was taking her own life, but just before she did, she decided to talk to her brother about it.

Siz, mind telling me why you are tired?”

“I am just tired”

“Do you know the lord’s prayer” (stupid question, she thought)

“Who doesn’t and just where has God been the entire time?”

“Okay just say it, sleep and I will call you at tomorrow at 6 am”

She never said amen to that prayer. She must have snoozed off like Adam did before his rib was taken. When she woke up, my suicidal plan was off, it had just failed. This was a reminder that God had not taken his time giving her life just to watch her take it unjustly.  When she woke up, her journey to dealing with pain begun, thanks to her brother who offered a leaning shoulder.

If her memory serves her right, those are the exact details of that story. By not closing her chapter, she started taking in lessons. Lesson 1; the strength of a woman is known through her grace to dance even when chaos show up at her doorstep. Later, she set out to join the male-dominated IT field where she recently started an initiative set out to advocate for safe and thoughtful cyber practices. It was around the same period that I came across an ELF ad of the next intake. She never knew of ELF’s existence, but she decided to give it a chance. To date, she has no regrets.

At ELF, she was welcomed with warm smiles, given affirming words by the team that she met and given two packets of biscuits as headed home. At that point she knew this journey, the people in it and everything about it was sacred. True to her expectations, the journey has been amazing.

The greatest lesson from ELF was that sometimes people tend to take away what we hold dearly, we may hit rock bottom in life, but it is such moments that help us realize on what’s important in life.

Since her graduation from ELF, she has refined a few things at in her CyberMakini initiative and she is about to launch the first program that will educate and create awareness to people on cyber offences and crimes.

In July this year, which happens to be her birthday month, she kept thinking to herself what she could do to meaningfully influence her small community of young people that hasn’t grown weary of trying, amidst the pandemic and poor governance in the country. After juggling various ideas, she settled on telling stories of the Millennial generation. Having experienced the cruelty and negative vibes that exist around the generation, she felt it was time to put out stories and clarify on various issues. The program dubbed #31Days31Millennials was to consistently share stories of their works, roles in impacting the society and building enterprises, and passions of different millennials for the 31 days of July. The feedback was amazing at first, this pushed her into doing more and further extending the program. To this end, the program runs every Sunday and Wednesday of the week.

The stories are mind blowing and inspiring. Most of the millennials who have been featured on the platform have been met with unkind words, discouragements, and ridicule. Despite this, they have persistently challenged the status quo and are trying their best to shake things up and stand up to be counted as heroes in this century. All she wants is to tell stories, stories that will change perspectives, stories that will encourage and motivate a generation, stories that will brighten up days and influence change.

You may be wondering, who is she. I am Ann Mercy Wairimu and I am more than enough.

For the longest time, I have tried to run away from my assignments and callings in life, but I have always found myself gravitating towards my purpose. I have always felt a fire in me, a fire that will not stop burning, one that continually defines my current self. But I have not made use of it previously.

Today, I am all grown, I am committed to my destiny and I am working towards fulfilling my purpose in life. I still recall the two packets of biscuits that I got during my ELF interview, this always acts as a reminder that I have a home, a safe place, a heaven for young people with brilliant ideas and burning desires.

In life, blessings come in many forms, mine came through ELF, I found myself, I am alive, I am playing a role, one that I hope will have impact.

By: AnnMercy Wairimu, ELF Cohort 7

Rodgers Omollo: ELF gave me power

Growing up as an orphan is not only a challenge but an opportunity to understand and have a different view of life.  Life presented me with the opportunity to be stronger and a go-getter. My father died before I was born while my mother passed on when I was in class two. My grandmother took me in and instilled in me Christian values and how to be contented with the little.

ELF has given me the power to influence and serve my community

I always knew that in me there was passion for leadership and service, but I doubted myself based on the kind of work that life presented me including being a fishmonger and hawker. I latter landed on an NGO job which led to a poor state of mental health and depression. I wanted to quit but I was afraid of surviving without employment. ‘Dying in the line of duty is heroic but dying while unemployed is just stupid.’

Being a young person, I was always looking for networks and opportunities to grow and transform lives, to be a better version of myself.  I came to across ELF on Facebook through their call for mentees. I doubted it and thought it might be a scum having been a victim before. But then I thought, ‘Why not give it a shot, there is nothing to lose.’

Once I was done with my application, I completely forgot about it and continued with my job-search as I needed to work at a place where my mind could be at peace. Moreover, I just made the application with no expectation of feedback. Later in the month, I got a phone call for an interview in Nairobi which I could not manage to physically avail myself to. I requested for a job interview, which I got and went through it. A few days after the interview, I got an email for informing me of admission to cohort 7.

This is when my journey into being a better and a transformative leader begun. A dream fulfilled. That is how the realization to my dreams and unearthing my potentials began. That admission changed my life, entirely. I have learnt a lot; the power of networking, mentorship, and presenting myself. ELF gave me an opportunity to discover my passion and realize my path in life. ELF gave me power!

After the mentorship, I was bold enough to quit my job and start my own initiative.  I founded a youth-led organization in Homabay town by the name Activate Action (https://activateaction.org/), where am currently serving as the director and youth program officer.  The organization works with young people living with HIV, disability, and gender minority to overcome day to day challenges including g; unemployment, crime, HIV/AIDS, unhealthy relationships, mental health, and gambling. We seek to ensure that there is meaningful engagement of young people through life skills training and mentorship on Sexual reproductive health, leadership, and entrepreneurship. Currently, we are running the following programs and services:

  1. Mentorship on Sexual Reproductive Health, Mental Health, Relationships, Online Child Protection
  2. Feeding Program for Orphaned Children and Child-Headed Families
  3. Environmental conversations
  4. Online sessions on leadership, HIV management, and leadership
  5. Car wash
  6. Small scale agribusiness for the youth living with disabilities

We make a living by what we get, but we make a life by what we give, ELF has given me the power to influence and serve my community. Through ELF Staff members, trainers and fellow leaders, I learnt a lot on brotherhood and my network has really grown due to exposure and openings presented by ELF through events and forums.  One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone, that is what ELF taught me. I plan to plant the same seed that ELF planted in me to other young people in my community through activate action.

 

By Rodgers Omollo, LDP Cohort 7

Deogracious Maero: Mentoring is an opportune time to learn more about yourself

Maero M.O. Deogracious is a Medical Doctor currently pursuing Master of Medicine Program in Obstetrics and Gynecology at Kenyatta National Hospital, Nairobi University. Throughout his carrier as a medical doctor, he has been actively involved with women and girls’ issues. He was involved in the push and initiation of a program that aimed to reduce and offer services to victims of gender-based violence. The program with support of a non-governmental organization involved health professionals at the facility level and community point men and women at the community level. He has also started a cervical cancer screening, treatment and referral centre, whose main objective is early diagnosis of  pre-cancerous stage disease and early intervention to prevent full-blown development of the pre-cancerous state to cancer. He has also initiated a recreation and rehabilitation centre for the youth.

As a medical resident in Obstetrics and Gynecology, he has continued his involvement and passion in women and girls’ issues by volunteering counselling services in the gender-based violence program across the city. He is also seeking to influence policy on abortion by undertaking a research that intends to evaluate the illegal abortion complication, severity, and associated factors. This interest has been greatly influenced by the experiences of the harm he has seen illegal abortions have on girls and the community at large.

Currently, he is the chairman for Doctors Union, Nairobi City County Chapter, where he spends his time fighting for doctors’ rights and advocating for better health services to the Nairobi residents.

Deogracious believes that good mentorship is putting one-self in the same capacity as the mentees at that point in life; reflecting and asking yourself questions that relate to the situation. ‘What would I want to be told at this point in life? What supporting structures would I want and more importantly what did I not need then.’

“It is a vivid reflection of your past to the future. Your ups and downs, strengths and weakness, victories, and failures. It is also an opportune time to learn more about yourself from yourself and from your mentees. Mentorship involves also looking into the present. It is one of those things that if your heart is in it, go for it,” he adds.

His greatest moments in mentorship have are when his mentees keep coming back to him for more support and knowledge. “Close contact and keeping in touch warms my heart. It means you are having an impact. My worst is when we lose touch with my mentee.”

“My drive for mentorship is in-borne. It is that small flame that never stops burning. The spirit in me that always wants to contribute towards change.  I aspire to be an advocate for gender, women and girls’ issues which include reproductive health and rights, gender equality, early child marriages and teen pregnancies, access to education and employment, intimate partner violence and access to water and sanitation. In the long-term, I want to be a witness of the steps being made towards achieving progress in women and girl’s health and health unrelated issues.”

His favorite quote, ‘Change does not roll in on the wheels of inevitability but comes through continuous struggle. And so, we must straighten our backs and work for our freedom. A man can’t ride you unless your back is bent – Martin Luther King, Jr.’

Winfred Mukosi: From noise to voice to impact

Winnie is a Moi University graduate with a Bachelor of Business Management. She is the founder of Linda Watoto, a Community Based Organisation (CBO) that runs its operations in Makueni county. The CBO advocates for children rights, mentors’ kids to grow and be part of a promising generation that will run the nation in later days. She is also an advocate for gender equality and equity. An enthusiast of politics and governance, Winnie is the current county lead of Tunaweza in Makueni county where she leads advocacy for good governance and youth engagement.

I am a living testimony, of transformation; from being a noise maker, to a voice of the voiceless.

Besides being the Tunaweza county lead and founder of Linda Watoto, she is also a member of the Regional Women Forum of International Conference of the Great Lakes Region, an appointment she recently got to serve in the Kenyan chapter of ICGLR RWF as the person  in-charge of Humanitarian and Social issues pillar at national level. In the line of children and gender rights, she is a member of Makueni county gender-based violence (GBV) committee and a trained anti-GBV champion by the gender violence recovery centre of Nairobi women. Currently she is working on having a POLICARE centre – a one-stop centre for handling GBV cases- in Makueni county.

She credits much of her current confidence and abilities to her ELF training. Through this, she got to understand herself and started unlocking her potential and activating them.

“My first interaction with ELF Africa was in June 2018 during the youth devolution conference. I learnt so much about devolution and the NOISE to VOICE became my assignment. Seven months after the devolution conference, I heard that ELF was coming to our county, I expressed my interest to be part of the team that was trained. That was the greatest eye opener to my advocacy and governance work: the budgeting process, the county government documents, the devolution structure, roles of every leader, how to get information and the petition process. By the end of the training I became a VOICE.”

She has also been able to grow on her digital advocacy skills, personal branding, and fact-finding courtesy of her Husika training, that she got at ELF.

As the Tunaweza county lead, she is leading a team of 22 young vibrant members who together, they train and share their advocacy knowledge with other people in the county and lead. They also train people on social accountability and the budgeting making process.

“This country is full of energetic youth, if ELF and other stakeholders can reach out to each and everyone one of them and make them unearth their potentials, I am sure it will leave most of them transformed. We should not be united when tearing each other down but when building ourselves and the nation,” Winnie.

“I am a living testimony, of transformation; from being a noise maker, to a voice of the voiceless and I can see the great impact. From noise to voice and impact”

 

 

NEVER DESPISE HUMBLE BEGINNINGS

I left my previous job back in 2015 because I felt like I was struggling in it. Like any other young and ambitious person, I was pretty sure beyond a doubt that I would secure yet another opportunity of choice in the soonest time possible. Turns out I was wrong! Three years went by and nothing came forth, even after making numerous applications. Out of the hundreds of applications I made, only less than five invited me for an interview and the results, negative. The quest for a job drained me and I became so desperate that at that time, I was willing to do anything to survive. I regretted my decision to quit.

It is not wrong to be ambitious; but in your ambitions, be humble.

My world was falling apart; life was getting tough each and every day; the struggle was too much and almost crushing, that I lost my sense of self. I significantly lost confidence and self-esteem and this made me shy away from people close to me. I was not the same person. I couldn’t face anyone or anything anymore. I felt like my life was doomed. At this point I thought of going back to the village (home) than to stay and languish in the city. I was convinced beyond a doubt that the city life was not for me. I fixed dates to travel to the village but as the day drew closer, I kept on shifting it, over and over again. My heart couldn’t let me leave the city. Looking back, I realize that God was preparing me for a breakthrough.

One evening while pondering on my next move, it hit me that I needed to find a ‘small job’ that would help me fend for myself. Out of all the job hunts I did; I attached my certificates and put my best foot forward but that didn’t work. I re-thought my strategy. This time, I opted to try using my driver’s license as a brokering bridge for a job. I looked around and saw an opportunity in the taxi industry. After availing all the necessary documents at small fee, it did not take long before I secured a job as a driver. The job was not easy at the beginning though, but it being the only job available, I had to do it to my very best and passionately. I thought to myself, ‘Is God giving me a chance to reinvent myself?’ I gave the job my all and served all my clients in the most professional way. In my trips, I got to meet different kind of people and every time we interacted, a fresh energy rejuvenated my spirit bringing me confidence and hope yet again. At this juncture, more questions than answers filled me. I began having dissenting opinions on everything I believed was impossible. My eyes finally opened I started looking at things differently. A new ray of light started to shine my way.

Executing my taxi work, was the most fascinating thing for me, it gave me a chance to meet new friends to whom I learnt a lot from. It is during this period that I learnt about ELF and the good work they were doing to inspire and give hope to young people like me. Initially, I joined ELF as a service provider of the taxi service to the staff. In the course of the service and during our numerous conversations on the journey to various destinations, I got an opportunity to learn more about the mentorship program, this created an interest in me to be part of the program. Later, I joined The ABLI mentorship program offered by the Bible Society of Kenya in collaboration with ELF. The training was so amazing that it changed everything for me. It is through the program that I discovered who I really was, and what I could do. I discovered my strengths and weakness and learnt to align them for a successful living.

After graduating from the program in August 2018, I maintained contact with ELF and every time an opportunity arose, they could always call me for my services. Around February 2019, a senior ELF staff called me and asked whether I was willing to take up a job, as an assistant to one of her friends.I looked at the requirements for the job and saw that I was qualified. So I made the decision to take the offer. The job entailed driving kids to school and later the mzee to work. In addition, I acted as an office messenger and secretary at my boss’s office. To most graduates, this wouldn’t be a job they run to take. But my mentor encouraged me to take it and give it my all.

I gave it my best shot in every way – I kept time, I was disciplined, I was honest, I delivered within the required deadlines and learnt very fast in the job. One thing led to another, and within no time, on Dec 4th, 2019, I was introduced to British Engineering Services (BES) Group as a project support officer. Currently am a supervisor at the same company working in nine counties.

In a nutshell, my journey has been a good one. I am not yet done; I am just hitting the midway mark. On my way to this point, I have encountered challenges that have enabled me to learn lessons and be strong.

One key lesson I wish to give young people is this –  it is not wrong to be ambitious; but in your ambitions, be humble. Utilize small opportunities that come your way and ensure that you play a great role in preparing yourself for the future. When you keep the focus, you will get to your dream destination.

Never ever despise a humble beginnings.  Everything happens for a reason. When I left my job, it sounded crazy, but had I not taken that step of faith, maybe I wouldn’t be where I am now. I kick-started my journey as a driver and now I am a Supervisor at an international company. What if I had turned down the offer?

 

By Elijah Kipkurui- ABLI 2018