LETS EMBRACE CLIMATE ACTION AS A BUSINESS

Life is a long journey, and if you have an idea of where you are going, finding the right mentor or platform can be a gamechanger. I recently got hitched to one which changed my perspective for the foreseeable future; a 3-day stakeholders convening by UNDP that sought to engage young people in the environmental space on Redd+ readiness and nature-based entrepreneurship. Gladly, I would say sometimes an ember is all we need. A trigger of some sort, a spark. Somehow, we became more confident of the possibilities of the future.

The forum was largely centered on the environmental ecosystem, biodiversity, and entrepreneurship in nature-based businesses. Youth entrepreneurship, investment in the forest value chain and incentivizing climate action as a business were drummed up as a possible buy-in for the youth. Top of the objectives was to scale up climate change projects ran by young people and make them commercially viable. To that end, various partners including Ministry of Environment, Kenya Forests Research Institute, Kenya Forests Services, Net Fund Green Innovation and Youth Enterprise Funds were netted in to demonstrate the massive scope of potential and opportunities that were up for exploitation by young people. Sadly, despite the youth being the future of our country, youth remain absent in the environmental sector or at best limited.

There is need to challenge the idea that Africa’s extraordinary biodiversity and wildlife is a diminishing resource that needs to be protected because conservation efforts need to generate wealth for local people from sustainable businesses based on natural products.

World over, climate change is set to become the most fatal crisis of our time!  While climate change remains irrefutable, we are not too late to stem the tide, and this requires fundamental transformation in all aspects of our society. From how we power our economies, use our land, grow food and the transportation modes we adopt. Trees are finally getting the international recognition they deserve, thanks to their potential as a natural climate solution for absorbing carbon, restoring vital ecosystems, and helping humans adopt to a rapidly changing climate. In a perfect storm that includes Covid-19 and the intertwined crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, we need bold moves to build back better. Conserving, restoring, and growing one trillion trees all over the world by 2030 can help anchor our recovery, delivering equitable environmental progress and livelihood opportunities for the people who need them most.

In Kenya, forests remain the best opportunity to mitigate climate change. The Kenyan government aims at achieving a 10% tree cover by 2022, a rather ambitious fete. That means a whooping 1.8 billion trees must be grown, not planted. Statistics have it that only 10% of the trees planted survive. Tree growth, being an enabler of the Big 4 agenda, is an opportunity for young people to create green jobs through activities such as seed bulking, nurseries establishment, reforestation, afforestation, agroforestry, and sustainable forest management. Another sector to benefit massively from forestry is manufacturing as Kenya is a net importer of forest products. Plantations of Bamboo, Melia tree, sandal wood, and jojoba remain lucrative options for young people in considering forestry as a business. The future of forests in our country lies in investing in commercial forestry outside the gazzetted forests. Honey farming and butterfly farming are other worthwhile projects that promise decent livelihood opportunities for young people.

You see, nothing makes happy than being part of a resilient community that works too hard to fight for mother earth. A clarion call by the young people who attended the UNDP Stakeholders Forum was that time was nigh to swim with the sharks in the climate action. The youth do not know enough to be cautious and therefore they should attempt the impossible-and achieve it, generation after generation. The key to 1.8 billion trees? Many hands. This ambitious goal can only count on power players to deliver the actions that are needed. We must get all hands-on deck, including community groups and the young people of our beloved nation. This dream will require us to dig deeper than we ever wanted, always a little further! 10% tree cover can become a reality.

It became our audacious dream. We are the ones we have been waiting for!

 

By: Marvin Kimani, ELF

“Only Youth can decide the future,” Ken Ruto

Kenneth Ruto is a strong advocate of sexual reproductive health. Born and raised in Uasin Gishu county. He developed his passion to serve and lead the community when in high school where he got elected as a captain. This early responsibility gave him motivation to fight for the rights of students from poor families who are not in positions to raise school fees.

Currently, he is the Tunaweza County coordinator Uasin Gishu, leading a team of 20 fellows.

Before coming across ELF, Ken sued to mobilize young people to demonstrate against the county government, making noise with no idea of the best ways to approach duty bearers. It was hard for him to access important information on issues affecting young people in the county. His relationship with county officials was hanging in the balance as he was constantly accused of criticizing them without laying facts.

This went on until 2017 when he got an opportunity to be one of the mentees at ELF. The training transformed his life and built his capacity as he was able to get an understanding of the various ways to go through when approaching and dealing with issues affecting young people. This, further led him to a personal slogan which he stands by to this day “Noise to Voice.’

“The training equipped me well enough with knowledge to become a trainer and moderator. I have been able to mentor several young people on the Budget making process, public participation, and other governance issues. The relationship and cooperation with county government of Uasin Gishu is in high gear as compared with past years,” Ken adds.

He has since utilized knowledge and skills acquired by initiating his own project by the name ‘Youth Rights’ where he empowers young people to participate in key decision-making processes in his community. Through this initiative, he has been able to directly reach hundreds of youths directly and thousands indirectly.

He also runs an activity by the name ‘Our Adolescents’ which seeks to sensitize adolescent youths on sexual reproductive health and rights. Several young adults have been empowered through this and he aims to spread out his wings to more.

He has done this despite facing numerous challenges form his colleagues and resistance form politicians who feel threatened by his acts and deeds. However, Ken is not about to relent in his fight for the representation of young people in public spaces and sexual reproductive health.

His parting shot ‘Only Youth can decide the future’

Vijana Tunaweza

“I want to be a leader with a difference” Brian Seli

Brian Seli is a vibrant young man who champions for Devolution and Governance under Emerging Leaders Foundation- Tunaweza Program. He currently works with Emerging Leaders Foundation as the Coordinator of Bungoma County.

He has led advocacy for the implementation of the Youth policy in the County Assembly, inclusion of youths in budget making process through public participation. He is a  lways outgoing and has done mass sensitization on many occasions in the spheres of youths. Brian is passionate about politics, public finance, public policy and cycling, devolved governance and many more. He also commentates on current political and social issues in Kenya.

Being the current Bungoma county coordinator  has given him life lessons. Previously, he was a naïve youth who had no objective in life regardless of having come up with an Empowerment group called The Royal Empowerment Team which collapsed in two years’ time. “I never knew the necessary offices I could visit, and I also never had the courage to talk before people. I used to think that ‘a comrade is always right’ notion but alas, it was a total lie,” Brian Seli.

“When I was invited to attend this great training, I was so glad. The training gave me a realistic understanding of myself. It also gave me power to do better than I was before. I now knew what the CIDP, ADP, CFSP and many more documents were. I gained the courage to share with others and even at times considered myself a great scholar of ELF. My greatest take was that I discover the potentials and abilities in me, I connect with the relevant personalities and then I impact the same to the society at large.”

Since then he has been a vocal advocate on the formulation of the youth policy and attended public participation to take part in budget making processes and in his county.

“The formation of the Youth Policy will be such a great integral part of my work. It will open more avenues for youths since I made sure that at least every ministry has a youth desk fully owned by youths. Together with the support of my team, we ensured that maternal health care is such a crucial thing. We called for the improvement of the maternal health sector. No woman has to die just out of negligence and so forth.”

Besides advocacy, Brian is a leading voice on teenage pregnancies and makes rounds in sub-counties talking to young girls on the same and distributing sanitary towels to those that may be lacking. At the peak of the pandemic, Seli started an awareness creation program in Bungoma town where he uses posters on measures that needed to be taken to control the curve and distributed free masks to residents, majorly mothers and teenagers.

Brian Seli and his team take part in a sanitary towels drive.

Seli desires to further his leadership skills and grow into a formidable leader, not only in his county but nationally. “I really have a desire to grow my leadership skills. I want to be a leader with a difference, a leader who is vigilant and ready to work. A leader who will never sleep until something good has happened. I refuse to be used and bought off cheaply. I believe that one day, my desires will be achieved.”

“Elf has given me the opportunity to lobby for the Youth and even ensure that devolution is working as expected. I have learnt that one must believe in himself to do all this. I am ready to be a mirror of success.”

In his line of work, he has encountered challenges that have affected/ slowed down his work. Being a university student, he initially found it challenging to be the team lead as he thought it was too much for him, but he has since overcome this. Working with young people has also opened his eyes to how ignorant they are and how they neglect public forums, with some registering with no attendance. This has constantly affected his advocacy mission with numbers lowering each time he steps out to run with something.

“We are all born leaders and we have to be patient, tolerating, obedient and always stand firm. A goal be the driving force of a leader. Without clear goals, nothing can be achieved,” Brian adds.

His next goal as the Coordinator of Bungoma is to step out and mentor more young people in his county and the country. “I believe that a well natured vision leads others, I want to become someone great.”

A leader is one who knows the way,

Goes the way,

And shows the way.

 

 

“Leadership is a process of becoming”

Unprecedented life moments at times are valuable blessings with great treasure, rare opportunities to behold and be part. The new year (2020) presented a lot workload from previous year and it felt heavy and derailing, uncertainty loomed unlike other years. The desire within was to have a supervisor to oversee our regional activities which would allow me to find a fulfilling course to upgrade my studies and better myself. Coincidentally, though undecided on what to pursue in 2020, ABLI happened. The ELF advert spoke to my worries of being a young inexperienced leader and it was stamped in my heart that God wanted me in the Regional management; He was ready to equip me for service. With uncertainty of my busy work schedules, I took a bold leap of faith and the Lord caused the world to stand still in honor

Amidst Covid-19 pandemic, as light deemed for many and hope ceased, my life was gradually being re- modeled and renewed. Every session was divinely connected with my Bible study and Royal Mentorship courses I chose to pursue, an assurance that the season was ordained for me. Sufficient time to rest and review the lessons learnt helped me to internalize and do self checks particularly on my character and competency.

Well-seasoned facilitators have helped me unmask my fears/flaws/weaknesses/gaps and find the courage to confront them. Exposure to right attitude for growth and emphasis on personal effort in the making of an effective leader has challenged my status quo mentality. The nuggets of wisdom acquired are helping me build a worthwhile brand of a transformed leader. With a purposeful and intentional drive and constant practice to become an articulate public speaker, my fears are gradually melting away and am taking personal responsibility to increase my knowledge and skills in my profession through online learning and reading. Gradually, self awareness and development are helping me manage relations better. Am challenging my laid-back nature by actively participating in forums and volunteering to engage

Leadership is a process of becoming that requires commitment and devotion with humility to learn and serve. This comes with seeking growth and learning opportunities. I have learnt that character defines who we are and it takes iron to sharpen iron. Choosing to retain relativity and status quo limits, but extra effort to better oneself is a great gain.

To my young brothers and sisters, my younger self lost many opportunities by failing to be proactive, exceptional, and to stand out. Sometimes by limiting self to what I could do and fear of people’s judgments, heaping loads of work on self without self-check has made me perform dismally. However, with the course sessions offered by ELF am being modeled to a young effective leader, laying off days of old to embrace the new. I have a new perspective to lead the Regional team and use the opportunity to serve the community and advocate for justice

With my journey to becoming an influencer in community development work and policy development, am seeking opportunities and connections to grow assisted by mentors who daily challenge me to greatness. I hope to develop my life strategic plan and support my regional office to develop an organizational profile with greater impact.

Am indebted to the ELF and BSK the life transforming opportunity they accorded me. My life will impact generations and be the change and the light the world needs.

 

By: Nzembi Nzioka- Community development worker & ABLI2020 mentee. 

“The most fulfilling thing to do as a human is being kind and giving back”

Linda Salbei is the founder of Linda Msichana Organization a Community Based Organization in Kericho County centered in benefitting girls and women towards attaining quality basic education. She is passionate about empowering girls and women in business. A young upcoming entrepreneur, Linda has been in the field of charity for close to five years now where she has reached out to the youth, women, and community at large.

Her first time engaging with Emerging Leaders Foundation was in 2017 when the organization had a countywide training and mentorship program for community leaders. She was lucky to be among the first people to be trained in Kericho county amongst other young leaders. After the training, she got an opportunity to be part of the 1st Youth Devolution Conference held in Nairobi where she meet and interacted  with other young leaders who were part of the ELF county networks and were doing amazing things in their communities.

Because of these intense trainings from ELF her way of operation at Linda Msichana have changed drastically in that as an organization they are more aware of the roles of community leaders especially those in elected positions therefore making it easier and more efficient to hold them accountable for their actions. “This has greatly influenced me as a leader in that I am now bold enough to engage them in our activities and approach them when we need assistance from their offices a good example is during allocation of bursaries for needy students we are able to get slots for the young mothers and school going girls who are very needy.”

 

“My greatest takeaway from ELF is that our leaders are approachable people and it is our duty as change makers to reach out to them if we want to make our community a better place.”

Her biggest interest in life is reaching out to the younger generation and seeing them pursue their dreams especially when it comes to talent and skills. “I am a believer that talent and skills can open doors and change lives. I enjoy making crafts as a way of practicing my talent. ELF has played a major role in mentoring and empowering me to not only be a great leader but also a role model and a voice to many young women girls in my community and therefore I would want to pass down the knowledge I have to those around me,” she adds.

The most difficult part about her journey and work is on resources as they can be scarce making it challenging for programs to run. Owing to this, Linda Msichana has programs that promote and enhance talent and skills that the girls have.

“We have been teaching them how to make Ankara bangles from recycled material that we collect from local tailors. From this we are able to sell the products locally and this small income sustains the day to day operation of the organization. We sometimes face difficulties from community members who do not understand our work in the community and this is where we bring in chiefs and local leaders during our community outreaches to further explain to them what we do.”

Linda has picked many lessons along the way but she has three lessons that she key lessons learnt that she can share with other leaders.

  1. It is important to be passionate about the causes we believe in because in this way passion fuels purpose.
  2. Being persistent and consistent are essential in achieving results.
  3. Leaders should also be resilient no matter the circumstance!

“Our short-term goal as an organization is to have programs for girls running throughout the entire Kericho County as for now we are in three Sub Counties. For our long-term goal, we want to set up a community resource center that will cater for not only school going girls and young mothers but also the whole community.”

“I believe the most fulfilling thing to do as a human is being kind and giving back!”

“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

 

 

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