MY SISTERS KEEPER PROGRAM; A LIFE CHANGING EXPERIENCE

For the longest time, I thought that you must have a position for you to be considered a leader. I thought that leadership roles and responsibilities belonged only to the ‘leaders’. I used to try so hard to change my behavior so that I could fit in, never believing in myself while constantly letting other peoples’ opinions inform my decisions. All these beliefs and doubts prevented me from doing the things I loved. I was lucky enough to find light at the end of the tunnel.

In the past few weeks, I have been attending MY SISTERS KEEPER, a training program by Emerging Leaders Foundation. The goal of the overall project is to promote accountable leadership among young women in the health sector. Being chosen for the program was a complete honor.  I remember the mixed emotions I had at the time; excitement, hope, gratitude and even anxiety compounded by self-doubt on whether I was good enough for the program.

I especially enjoyed the first session on different human personalities. I realized that our personalities make us stand out. I finally understood that there was nothing wrong with me, I just had a different way of viewing life and it was okay, I never needed to fit in.

The second session on self-awareness made me realize that I did not know who I really was. I remember the speaker saying that we need to be our own cheerleaders. It was at this point that I remembered the many times that I had self-sabotaged by doubting my abilities. I learned that I should constantly live within my own parameters so that I would finally stop letting external factors define me.

As a health advocate, the program has also equipped me with knowledge on social accountability, public participation, advocacy and personal branding. Courtesy of the training, I have managed to change my views on leadership, and I am fully aware that a leader is anyone willing to take a stand. I am very grateful for the opportunity.

My Sisters’ Keeper was heaven-sent, a life changing opportunity.

 

 

By: Esther Aoko – #MySistersKeeper fellow, and  Sexual and Reproductive Health Youth Advocate.

 

 

 

 

“There are deep lessons buried in failure”~ Vincent Kimosop

Vincent Kimosop is a Policy and Governance Expert currently working at Sovereign Insight. He has been a mentor for over ten year in the Leadership, Governance, Management space.

For Vincent, mentorship is about sharing life, being open and vulnerable. Sharing the most difficult issues and being available are all part of mentorship. Creating time and being intentional in the process. He also believes that mentorship plays a huge role in shaping the next generation, inculcating values and helping others avoid pitfalls that one has made.

Some of his greatest moments in mentorship revolve around seeing his mentees grow in confidence, impact, and become persons of impact in the society. “I have many I can share as examples who inspire me to do more in mentorship. Helping them discover themselves, personality and who they are in society means a lot and very fulfilling. Rodgers, Jim, Charles, Nguka and many others are those I have mentored and have passed by ELF”

His biggest drive to mentorship, “Knowing that I am because of others believed and invested in me. Above all, my faith and conviction. Shining the light and helping turn scars into stars in society by the grace of God.”

His advice to people interested in mentorship, “It is worth it; we all have something to offer and a candle loses nothing by lighting another candle. We are because of others and we rise by lifting others. Don’t even think twice, it will be worth it.”

“There are deep lessons buried in failure” – It takes a village to raise a child – Men Make Men.

Lessons from Eliud Kipchoge’s deferred victory

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Written by Patience Nyange; Board Member and Mentor at ELF, Council Member at Media Council of Kenya and a #CheveningScholar2019.
Check out her blog: http://www.patiencenyange.com/

We can all be leaders in our own right, if we first learn how to lead ourselves.

Rarely do you find programs that recognize the many facets of life, commonly, you will stumble upon leadership programs, that only focus on textbook principles, which end up hoodwinking you into believing that Leadership is this complex thing, that is only a preserve for the “chosen” few, yet nothing could be further from the truth, as I have come to learn.

The African Biblical Leadership Initiative (ABLI) has shown me that there is a program that is willing to recognize and nurture my personality, story, faith, influence, leadership potential, whilst challenging me to reconsider my circumstances in line with the Word of God. In all honesty, I joined ABLI with no expectations. The little I had heard about the program promised a great deal and I was a little skeptical about how it could all be done online. But, from the first session, the program exceeded everything I thought it would be.

For starters, I had imagined that the participants would not interact, and simply consume what was being taught. I had also imagined that it would be a ‘top-down’ approach where only the presenters would speak. But from the get-go, we were encouraged to speak up and share our ideas, and the presenters welcomed questions and contributions. Even though we have not been able to meet physically, I feel as though I have gotten a chance to meet new people and learn a lot from them.

I have particularly enjoyed the course content. My favourite class was the first, when we learnt about our personality types and how this affects our leadership and working style. I feel like it gave me assurance that I do not have to be an extrovert to succeed as a leader. It was encouraging to learn something that is obvious but still had not hit home- that everyone is made different and has what it takes to succeed. Every session is so different from the last, but still just as important. It is evident to me that the content was intentionally put together to cater for our whole lives, rather than just our lives as leaders. ABLI has taught me not simply what a leader does, but who a leader is. To my surprise, leadership is not defined by recognition, praise or position. We can all be leaders in our own right, in our spheres of influence, if we first learn how to lead ourselves.

Being in this program alongside over 100 like-minded individuals, has restored my hope in our nation’s leadership potential. It is particularly encouraging to see that we are all different, but still choose to come together each week to listen, learn, and open our minds to the truth that we do not know it all.

Some things in life are worth putting off for later, ABLI certainly is not one of those things. I am super grateful to the Emerging Leaders foundation and to the Bible Society of Kenya for making this program available. From it, I have found a community of Christ-centered leaders.

 

By:Tyler Hawi Ayah- ABLI 2020

Slay the Giant

The last few weeks have seen an uprising in the world against racism and police brutality. The cause; George Floyd’s death in the USA. The revolt has been televised and re-shared all over the world in unison. Back home, Kenyans held demos protesting George Floyd’s death at the USA embassy and a localized version was witnessed outside parliament buildings.

Why did we have to wait this late to hold demos against police brutality in Kenya? It has been constantly ongoing in, followed by zero actions from citizens ­- apart from a few tweets and rants by netizens – there haven’t been much going on.

This is not about police brutality; much has been said and it seems to be getting home. The Inspector general recently started weekly tweet chats ‘#ENGAGETHEIG’ and I hope that this will be a move that will leave notable changes in the sector.

Everyone has a role to play, it is no longer a universal thing, lets handle it personally; we shall win the fight.

Are we mentally enslaved even when it comes to acting on what ails us? What is holding back from fighting the biggest plague that ails us, tribalism, not by words but by taking meaningful action. When will we face this giant boldly and hold it by its horns? When are we going to stop voting for our tribal lords? For how long will I get the question, ‘Jina Kamoche ni ya kutoka maeneo gani’?

For how long will we get efficient services based on our second names? Tribalism stands out as the biggest form of discrimination in the country and we are all advocates of the same in various ways. It is sad that close to 60 years since Kenya gained it’s independence, we are still battling the same ills that were experienced when the nation was an infant. How many more years to go before we wake up from our slumber?  How far or how close are we?

The people we have always expected to be of help in controlling tribalism have been the biggest advocates of the same, directly, or indirectly. Our politicians, clergy, teachers and worse still, our parents – parents have restrained their sons and daughters from intermarrying, refused to attend weddings or even bless their marriages simply because they are marrying from tribes they consider their cultural ‘foes’.

Tribalism is a plague. I see tribalism – which is largely Political Tribalism – as a form of stunted psychological and sociological growth. Politicians are always blamed – rightfully – for inflaming tribal passions. But the tribal logic resonates with most of the youthful population, who are the majority in Kenya. We have always had a pandemic ailing us, not an ‘import’ like the now famed Covid-19, No. It is a pandemic that exists within our local boundaries, spread around by our own friends, families, heroes, and ourselves.

As we fight police brutality and racism on twitter, let us not forget to fight a giant that lives amongst us and always bites back during electioneering periods. We need to fight it with the same energy being put in fighting the pandemic, the same vigor being put into ensuring that BBI proposals are adopted. Tribalism is a vice that has stood between us and great opportunities, good governance, peace, and unity in the nation.

Everyone has a role to play, it is no longer a universal thing, lets handle it personally; we shall win the fight. We need to do much more than cross our fingers and hope for a swarm of political candidates with the supernatural formula of personal charisma and appeal. We need to kill off fear that has blurred our logic and stopped our change of behavior.

To beat it, we have got to weed our souls.

The war against corruption is an Illusion

Vices are as old as humanity and they have grown in complexity. Public resources have been lost in the hands of a few well-connected individuals under the guise of ‘development’. Joe Biden, former US Vice President once said, “Corruption is a cancer that eats away the citizen’s faith in democracy, diminishes the instinct for innovation and creativity.”

The chain of corruption is long and has its extension to many in one way or the other. This leaves us with the question: Is corruption behavioral or an in-built systemic problem? The war corruption was publicly declared in 2003, with high investments on it. The nation looked like it was coming to a close of the vice but to haven’t crossed an inch.

Most billionaires in Kenya are not made through inventions or growth of ideas but from monopoly paved by the political system. Evidently, majority of them have had interactions with the government in one way or the other meaning that their wealth may have been gotten through shoddy dealings.  In the last 7 years, billionaires and millionaires have either doubled or tripled their wealth. This can be attributed to their relations with the government and dealing with influential persons in different capacities. For instance, take a look at some of the beneficiaries in NYS 1 and 2 and the 2014 Ministry of Health scandal, individuals who had no track record of wealth in each of these cases were created overnight.

The methods of corruption used or means of transaction have mutated to the extent where corrupt individuals do not have to exchange money. To some extent, profiteers of corruption have resorted to rewards such as properties, favors and merchandise. The primary institution bestowed with the responsibility of fighting corruption has also mutated and changed names with the intention of giving it more life and making it stronger and powerful. Currently, it is called Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission meaning it is an independent commission created by an Act of Parliament. The provision under Article 249 of the Constitution sets grounds with the intention to define not only the institution but also the holders of the institution and their relations to other offices created under the Constitution. This provision sets out the objects, authority and funding of the commission. The intention of having an independent commission is to create the ideal situation by ensuring that there is separation of powers to minimize interference from any other state organ in order to protect the sovereignty of the people. Therefore, commissions, including EACC are not part of the executive. The president appoints the commissioners as the head of state and not as the head government.

The fight against corruption is selective and seems to be targeting certain groups of people and political opponents.

It is my supposition that there is no deficiency in laws enacted to curb the vice of corruption. The Ethics and Anti-Corruption Act No. 22 of 2011 under section 13 (2) (c) gives the commission powers to investigate and arrest suspects for prosecution by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP).

Over and above that, the Anti-Corruption and Economics Crimes Act No. 3 of 2003 has an interesting provision under section 58 which talks to the presumption of corruption. This provision states: If a person is accused of an offence under Part V an element of which is that an act was done corruptly and the accused person is proved to have done that act the person shall be presumed to have done that act corruptly unless the contrary is proved.

My understanding of this provision is that it does not purport to curtail the presumption of innocence as ensconced in Article 50(2) (a) of the Constitution. However, this provision shifts the burden of proof to the accused person when prosecuting matters related to the Anti-Corruption and Economics Crimes Act No. 3 of 2003. An interesting perspective is to note whether this is the case of graft cases here in Kenya. In corruption cases prosecuted in countries like some states in USA and in China, this principle is important as an evidential burden is put on the accused person the moment the prosecuting authority is able to bring evidence showing loss of public funds.

Given the peculiar nature of economic crimes against the government, it is my opinion that when and if anyone in public office or a duty bearer is implicated in corruption, the burden of proof must shift automatically to him and he/she should be given an opportunity to account for every coin in his docket or department.  If he/she is unable to make an account of public funds under his/her department, then punitive measures such as fines and jail terms are introduced in order to deter fellow minded corrupt office holders. Additionally, I propose that anyone taking up public office is to sign an agreement that states: Incase of any loss of finances as a result of corruption, the office holder shall be personally liable for the loss and therefore the government can recover all the property stolen.

The current measures put in place to combat corruption are not sufficient as a result of various challenges. There is lack of institutional inclusivity in leadership as these positions are occupied by a few interconnected businessmen and women. Consequently, the leaders have conflicts of interest that chain them into a situation where they must make decisions that do not advance public interest but rather advance their own personal interests. Arguably, in order for institutions such as EACC or other independent offices to fight corruption, the status quo must be disrupted. As it is currently, the institutions are used by political leaders to fight, silence political opponents and pave way for their friends. Today the fight against corruption seems to be selective by targeting certain groups of people or political opponents. The fight against corruption is a manipulative and cajoling one and therefore the moment one joins to support the government of the day and not antagonizing the government one is deemed not corrupt. Politics plays a great role in determining the success of the fight against corruption.

Secondly, lack of knowledge and the dire social-economic situations in the country has chained and locked the citizenry from participating and determining the actions of politicians. Lack of knowledge is attributable to the neglection of civic education by CSOs and the peddling of wrong and misleading information by politicians. Today, the public relies on politicians for information. Unfortunately, politicians disseminate information based on their interests. To put this into perspective, they will peddle information as a currency to spread propaganda against their opponent. Politicians misinterpret information and manipulate the citizens by playing victims and defenders of their tribes. Ultimately, the citizens end up electing corrupt leaders into office having played the tribal card. Economically, the citizenry is impoverished and is in search of food.  Politicians continue to impoverish the lives of Kenyans and taking away the future of Kenyans by continued theft from public coffers and dishing out hand-outs to the citizens, creating a sense of dependency. Kenyans must be vigilant and resist the instant gratification of the moment and think of a sustainable future for its generation.

In conclusion, corruption can be fought when the citizenry is informed and is able to carry out social accountability through the ballot. The ballot, however, has to be freed from the mentality of tribalism and instant gratification from the hand-outs propagated by the political class. Furthermore, institutions such as the National Police Service or EACC should be independent and autonomous from political centers. The independence of these offices is protected through law should include financial independence and independence in appointments to office.

 

Submitted by:
Ahmed Maalim- Programs Manager

How Emerging Leaders Foundation is Fighting the Pandemic

I do not know how you have been coping with Covid-19, but here at ELF, it has been a roller-coaster of thoughts, emotions, and events. We have moved from hoping that this is just a passing cloud, to realising that the virus is here to stay. We have shifted from believing that we can postpone all our programs to “post-COVID” to realising that NOW is the only time we have.

I must say, it has not been easy. You see, speaking about adapting to change and the benefits therein is one thing, but it is totally different when you must change and adapt so quickly. In all this, I dare say, this virus has brought out the best in us, we now know the importance of ACT NOW, and across the world, we have seen how movements have been built and continue to be sustained amidst the pandemic, humanity realises that we cannot suspend democracy, justice, and equality even though the rain falls!

Our joy is that young people have continued to defy the odds, they have led their communities from the front, as essential workers in hospitals and factories, and as community health workers. At ELF, we see our young people continue with the work of keeping their local governments accountable, participating in policy processes, through creative ways enabled by technology.

I have particularly been pleased by Susan Wairimu (@Suzy Wa Wairimu on Facebook), a single mother who dedicates her time to providing sanitary pads to poor and vulnerable girls in her community in Ngong, who would otherwise not afford the pads. She harnesses the power of her social network through social media to crowdfund for the sanitary pads and personally delivers them door to door. I highlight this story because it embodies what we stand for as an organization, that our communities are our responsibility, and that each of us can and should play an active role in making it SUSTAINABLE, despite the odds being against us. Suzy is not alone, to all the young people, making sacrifices to see members of their society live DIGNIFIED lives, we salute and celebrate you.

All our programs are now taking place online, thanks to our dedicated team of staff who have put in extra hours and have stepped up when called upon, to me, they are my heroes. To Caren, Ahmed, Cheboi, Irene, Kipkalya, Marvin, Andrew, and Kim, thank you for your resilience.

We are also grateful to our partners and funders who continue to believe in us and walk with us. We believe that our best weapon against this pandemic and the next is values-based leaders, who will put service to the people above self-interest, who will prioritize investing in structures and systems and not tokenism. Leaders who will value the next generation over the next election.

To realize the above, we will continue to discover leaders and train them, we will connect them with mentors and send them back to their communities to cause revolutionary impact. Our communities are getting better, one Emerged leader at a time.

 

Submitted by:

Jim IndiaELF Communications Officer

TIME TO LEARN AND EMBRACE NEW NORMS

Covid-19 has disrupted a lot of activities across the world, but we should take the disruptions as a reason to pause and just be us. The world has not come to a standstill, it is moving, and with a lot of changes and new challenges.

As the proverbial saying goes, every dark cloud has a silver lining, so must we search for the silver lining in this dark cloud that has been brought about by the pandemic. One precious opportunity the current period has provided to people who are working from home is time. A true measure of time as money will come at the end of this pandemic when the rising question will be ‘Did I make good use of the time I had?’  The answer to the question will bring a whole difference between people who made the value of the ‘silver lining’ and those who in turn saw dark clouds and spent the entire period mourning.

One of the most amazing things that the Emerging Leaders Foundation has done during these times is hosting guests for live tweet chats. For me, it has created a free and great learning platform. As one of the guests, Dr. Funso Somorin once tweeted in one of the interactive tweet sessions, ‘The best time to learn is now…. learn new things to survive. The currency of living in learning. If you want to live through this crisis, you have to learn through it.’ There is a great lesson for young people in that.

When talking about learning, it involves creating new norms. There are so many things we have always wanted to know, do, check out or try, but we always never had time for them. It could be that tummy you have always wanted to get rid of; it could that book you always wanted to start reading, or a novel you wanted to try writing. There are lots of things that we have constantly put in our to-do lists or new year resolutions that we have also constantly failed to achieve. Why don’t you give it a try now that we have money – I mean time.

I chose to explore the world of literature further during this time. I have enjoyed loads of talks and gained new information on the same.  As it comes out, there are so many emerging ideas in the literary world that I never came across in a literature class. Afro-futurism is one of the issues that I constantly brushed over and never took time to dig deep and get a better understanding of the same. The majority of young people never really care to self-educate themselves. Instead, they show satisfaction with the ‘little’ content they studied while in school. They lack curiosity and the hunger to explore further. With Covid-19 with us already, it is time to explore, to learn, and equip our minds.

Youth must also use this time to equip themselves. Stella Cheboi – one of the trainers and mentors at ELF- in one of her tweets stated, ‘Personal development is one area young people forget to invest. You should invest in skills that will give you an upper hand to opportunities that will come in post-Covid-19.’ True to her words, there are new norms that will emerge as a result of the pandemic and there will be new ideas needed. Some of us have already lost jobs and might need a new skill to survive altogether. At our places of work, we have learned how we can technologically do things, and the world will want people who are computer savvies –we have learned how not to waste time on things that took us longer, trying to meet one-on-one or make things happen manually. We will be on a new level, on a new normal, and that calls for us to learn so that we are equipped.

 

Submitted by:

Andrea Otieno- Founder, Pasha Resource Centre.

Ultimately, We Just Want to Make it Alive.

After 15 years of being away from home in pursuit of an education, I stood at “garage” formerly Kenya Bus station in Eastleigh, ready and still waiting for the ‘lorry’ which was the main means of transport from Nairobi to Moyale. From stories I had heard, the journey from Nairobi to Moyale town would take at least 2 days. To overcome the boredom, I had carried with me some novels to read on the way, snacks, and a valuable treasure back then -mp3 music player. As we sat waiting for our means of transport, one of the travel agents approached our area to assure us of our safe travel. As this news was being delivered to us, I had been sitting in the waiting lobby for 6 hours, next to a squirmy child who had an undiagnosed stomach-ache that couldn’t give us peaceful moments. I could not read or listen to my music as the waiting room was small and for fear of missing my journey I could not step out.

Drop your maturity hat, play online games, share jokes online, keep track of that group conversation, like, share, consume creativity… just do anything that keeps you sane.

Relief came in when the lorry’s engine was started, our only means of transport home. As the driver stepped on the gas, the noise inflicted pressure on my cochlear. The child adjacent to me didn’t just cry — he let loose desperate, primal screams that could not be extinguished with hugs or sweet Juice. His anguish was so extreme that fellow passengers zoomed right past anger and straight to incredulous pity. As we went past Thika town, I decided to lend out a hand to the mother and held the crying boy. He was gazing at the sky and started pointing at the clouds.

The boy’s mother was embarrassed and anguished with pain. Her face looked pale, tired; her eyes full of tears. An elderly lady seated across kept on encouraging her, but she could take any of that. “Don’t worry about it,” she said. “When you travel with babies, or with other passengers your only goal is to arrive.” I asked her to elaborate. She responded, “Well, traveling with kids is a whole different thing than traveling in a vehicle with grown-ups only,” she said. “Forget about napping, reading a book, or listening to music.It felt she was directing that to me, as I was adjacent to the mother holding a novel that I had tried to read severally but in vain. I tried to listen to music but due to the noise around, it wasn’t an option as well.  “For the mother, her primary job is to keep the baby safe and comfortable. Other travellers care about their safe travel and getting to the other side in one piece. They understand none of the mother’s struggles.”

Since then, I have kept this simple yet profound concept in mind in most of my travels. I always take with me key necessities and even though it may not be as fun as it was, the mantra has helped me keep my priorities in check.

After the outbreak of Covid-19, I read articles and listened to shows encouraging people to avoid coronavirus by staying at home and learning new things. At this point, the old lady’s advice came screaming back to mind. Today’s flight or journey (equated situation created by covid-19), has been very much delayed: not by hours, but months. Travel conditions are —to put it mildly— suboptimal. Each of us should have in mind one goal; to arrive on the other side in one piece.

With our reality changing, we also need to change the metrics by which we judge our success. If Satisfaction=Experience–Expectations, and much of the experience is out of our control, this is the time to make sure our expectations are realistic and achievable.

I am praying that the current situation is one of the passing waves or travel delays or swept bridge by floods. No one can easily tell about the anxiety caused by job losses for others or severe unpredictable situations and unsettled minds. All you will hear is, read/write a book, reclaim your beach body and do something extraordinary.

As you hope to cross over, your main job is to maintain sanity, stay healthy, and where you can, offer kindness to your fellow humans. (No, this doesn’t mean you have to hold someone else’s baby like me in the lorry for the rest of the journey it means sharing food stuff or cash and checking up on your neighbours.) For parents like the lady whose child terrorized us in the lorry, your children may force you to watch cartoon network and animations over and over.

Given the current norm, this is absolutely the wrong time to take on unreasonably ambitious goals. When you’re trying to hang onto a job or keep an organization or company afloat, while home schooling your kids, arranging ways to continue with advocacy, supporting the less fortunate in the community and bathing only occasionally, you are already operating at a very high level.

I know you often open the fridge at 2am and find it empty, get disappointed that snacks you had budgeted for two weeks, don’t last a day. You are continuously finding yourself have dinner late in the night, working at night and gazing, continuously browsing, and switching from twitter to Facebook to Instagram, WhatsApp status and the new darling Tiktok. Forget the motivational nonsense and over consumption of daily updates on the number of infections and deaths. Drop your maturity hat, play online games, share jokes online, keep track of that group conversation, like, share, consume creativity… just do anything that keeps you sane.

Dear Kenyans and Africans, I know you’ve heard or watched the news from Italy, France and USA. And just so we are clear, Italy is not Somalia, France is not Southern Sudan and USA is not DR Congo- the first two are countries in Europe while the latter is the famous America. These are developed countries whose health sector was and is still rocked and almost crumbling under covid-19, not forgetting that they are among the G8 countries – highly industrialized nations. If Covid-19 has managed to destabilize G8 countries with proper established health system, what about African countries like Kenya? Our politicians and prominent businessmen and women are always flying out of the country for treatment abroad.

By now, everyone remembers CS Kagwe famous statement, “If we continue to behave normally, this disease will treat us abnormally.” To me this means that things may get worse if we are not cautious. In the meantime, help yourself by turning on the self-preservation mode. Use what you have sparingly, limit your movement, treat everyone as a covid-19 carrier.

The undeniable superheroes out here clearing our ways or mending broken bridges right now are not your prophets performing miracles, not preachers, not your favourite avengers character or those handsome men you are always fancying on soap operas. They are under-paid doctors, nurses, other workers in the hospitals, the workers getting food to the shelves, community champions who are collecting food stuff, and creating awareness about the disease.

To cross over we must help our heroes and heroines by staying home and caring for ourselves and those around us. We can do our best within the controllable elements of the experience. This is the time when you secure your mask before your child’s. Sleep eight hours, stretch, meditate, take a walk, and observe the guidelines including social distancing. If you’ve got that covered, look for ways to brighten someone else’s day.

Please don’t beat yourself up for not using the ‘lockdown’ to “live your best life” or start a real estate business in your pyjamas.

Back to my story, when we finally reached Moyale barrier, no one among us cared how we looked, what we went through or anything else, all we cared for was that we arrived safely, having maintained our cool.

 

Submitted by:

Ahmed Maalim-  Manager, Governance and Advocacy

Spreading Love amidst Covid-19 Pandemic

I lost my struggle to sleep earlier than expected last night. I had worked for thirteen hours straight. Though it may sound as if it was a bad thing, something good came off it. I awoke without the alarm, no struggle with the loud tune or snoozing. I could not envision a better way to start a new week than this. The morning birthed energy and brought hope for life’s renewal. Did you feel the same energy this morning? Each day has its own style of making an entrance. People wake up to it bearing different emotions. In life we have a couple of basic emotions that humans feel, and they are all valid, since they give you a sign of what is happening to you.

No matter the emotions you bear waking up; be it enthusiasm and positivity, hostility, dampened mood, defeat or aggressiveness; there are things that can cheer you up and beautify your day. One of them is your attitude. In Franklin Covey’s book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, he states that ‘Between a stimulus and a response, there is a freedom to choose how you will react to what is happening to you or what you are going through’. This means that we have the power to create our own realities.

When someone genuinely compliments you, learn to accept that compliment and soak in it.

Self-love and affirmation are other ways you can create positivity around you. This can turn sad emotions to happy ones. When is the last time you stood infront of a mirror and admired everything about you? Have you ever had a self-talk in the mirror and affirmed that you are beautiful, gorgeous, a performer, energetic, infectious smile or that you are the most brilliant being you have ever met? Self-affirmation gives you a boost of confidence as you start your day.

Affirming others and giving honest compliments are best way to inject life and energy into another being. It brings out the vibrance, renews energy and widens smiles. I am blessed to be with my younger sister during this Covid-19 period. As a hard worker she is, she wakes up before the alarm to clean the house, enjoys cooking and is easy with every other task around the house. These simple words “I do appreciate your service to us, the food is delicious, and the house is sparkling clean, you are the best!” makes her smile widely and gives her a sparkle in her eyes. This shows how powerful a compliment is to human beings.

When someone genuinely compliments you, learn to accept that compliment and soak in it. Allow yourself to feel great about it. And when you see something worth affirming or complimenting, go ahead and offer it. It may change someone’s life for the better, and they may carry it for life.

Now that majority of the population are working from home, you rarely see your colleagues, classmates, friends or family. This does not mean that we affirm or complement them less. On the contrary, this is the time people need it most. Think of someone from your circle of influence. Recall one genuine and amazing thing they are good at, then call or text them (a call would be great!) Remind them of that gift they have, tell them what you truly miss about them, what you admire most about them. Knowing that someone cares, remembers them or misses them will lift their spirit and brighten their day.

We all want to bring a smile to someone’s face, right? So, lets dive in and make this day special for the people we care about.

 

Submitted by:
Stella Cheboi-Programs officer, Leadership Development