Why Mentorship Is Really Worth Your Effort

Life is a game that needs to be played, a tune that needs your best dance. This same life happens in seasons, some of which are awaited, and their arrival is well known but some, arrive unannounced; Unannounced because we were distracted, and they caught us off-guard or they arrived earlier than expected. Just like every human is peculiar, so is how each handles these seasons in life. While some individuals slide into every season with grace, adjust and flourish, most of us need awakening, a tap in the back, a whisper giving a clue of what we have that will validate our survival for the season.

At birth, you were so fragile, vulnerable and were dependent on your parents/ guardians. As you grew, you gained strength and skills to do most things and with time you became independent. In learning institutions, we interact with educators who teach us the skills we need in our specialty, after which we graduate and by the powers vested in us, go out to serve the world. One season that is most confusing in life is when you get your first employment. Mixed feelings fly at this moment because not only are you a starting new, beautiful season as a taxpayer, but you are so naïve and clueless on what is expected of you since the curriculum in learning institutions omitted this training.

Training and orientation are crucial for new entrants in all industries, but things on the ground……are different. To cut on costs, most companies and organizations welcome new entrants with just a few explanations and leave it up to you to figure out the rest as you go along. This is literally baptism by fire. If you are lucky, you will get a kind colleague who will patiently guide you and familiarize you with the process. On the contrary, if you find colleagues that have bad attitudes and are a frustrated lot, who are unwilling to offer you support, then you fry your way to enlightenment.

Do you have a mentor in life? How are you making use of that gift of mentorship?

Whatever your case may be, it is up to you to determine how you will show up, thrive and overcome all the setbacks you will face. This is where mentorship comes to play. See, in every industry, there are professionals who have years of experience, who have executed they duties with integrity, who have failed forward and gathered lessons that come in handy for newcomers. These professionals are often, individuals who are willing and interested to share the in-depth knowledge of the craft with youngsters that come after them; that will confidently approach them and express their interest to learn and to be mentored. These professionals will gladly set aside time to walk with you, to show you the tricks, to share their life lessons and it will be their pleasure to give you an opportunity to create yourself, as Steve Spielberg would allude.

So you have approached a professional you look up to at work, or through ELF’s Leadership Development & Mentorship Program, you have been paired to a mentor according to your area of interest; for your relationship to thrive, you need to practice some of the tips shared below;

  1. Be teachable – Show up and respect your mentor’s time. When you agree on a date and time to meet, show up on time and ready for the session
  2. Be very clear regarding your expectations – In your first interaction with your mentor, clearly outline what you struggle with and need mentorship in, and your clear expectations from the mentoring relationship (It is always about the mentee, so it is up to you to drive the conversation)
  3. Honesty – Always voice out any concerns or doubts. If you feel you are not gaining any knowledge or growth from your mentor, have that candid conversation with your mentor. Going back to the drawing can guarantee better results
  4. Commitment – You need to be intentional with the mentoring relationship to guarantee your growth. Submit any assignments and your progress report to your mentor. It doesn’t matter how much potential your mentor sees in you, if you are not commitment to the process, you will remain stagnant.
  5. Ask the right questions – “The answer to any problems preexists. We need to ask the right questions to reveal the answers” ~ Jonas Salk
  6. Be present in the moment – In the engagements with your mentor, you should be interested, listen and take notes. It is in those ‘By the ways’ in experience sharing that real answers reside. Through stories, you will learn important lessons from your mentor e.g. You can learn how to deal with frustrations, haters and competition in the workplace.

I would like two celebrate two professionals who have given of their time to guide me, point me in the right direction and cheer me on; my mentors Ms. Patience Nyange & Ms. Bianca Malata. Thank you for your passion to grow the next generation of values-based, thriving leaders. I honor you for your service of Mentorship to the world.

Do you have a mentor in life? How are you making use of that gift of mentorship? If at all you are being mentored, have you picked up the challenge to mentor one or two students in Primary or high schools? Are you passing on what you have learnt and giving time to mentor, in order to create a ripple effect?

Food for thought.




Submitted by:
Stella Cheboi-Programs officer, Leadership Development 

Your Network is Your Networth

Think for a moment, how many new contacts have you created in the past five years? How many of those have you been in touch with? Better still, how many have you had a hearty conversation with over hot chocolate or lunch? When you get stuck; be it in need of advice, someone to talk to, in need of a job, want a partner to start a business with. Can you comfortably approach any of the contacts you created five years ago to sort you out?

Despite the ever-evolving technology and rise of social media platforms for human interactions, there are several traditional ways individuals get to meet and interact. These include learning institutions, trainings or conferences, weddings, funerals and other social gathering. Often, individuals are quick to exchange business cards with the promise of keeping in touch and catching up soon. Sadly, such business cards are never looked at after being tossed in the pocket of the receiver.

It is always a pleasure to get to learn about other people, their life stories, what drives them, their passion and ambitions.

What we often forget is that most solutions to our current problems and challenges; lack of employment or capital, volunteers for our initiatives, book reading partners or mountain climbing buddies can all be found within our networks. I confidently speak on this from my experience as an Alumnus of Emerging Leaders Foundation. Walking into the training room as a Cohort two participant, I had the curiosity and intention of getting to interact with each participant. It is always a pleasure to get to learn about other people, their life stories, what drives them, their passion and ambitions. It all lies in asking the right questions, listening emphatically and being present in the moment.

One intention we had in common was building relationships, and below are some of the benefits that came with that:

  1. Birth of a book Club – A lean team of dedicated book lovers in our cohort were able to start a book club ‘Mustard Seed Book Club’, which meets monthly to read and discuss works of various authors. This has in turn  inculcated a reading culture amongst us. One of my favorite books  from our earlier reads is I know Why The Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou and my favorite quote from this read is, “Pursue the things you love doing, and then do them so well that people can’t take their eyes off you.”
  2. Investment Group – After reading books for a while, we decided to do more and started an investment group. Through our able leaders, we opened a savings account and started monthly savings as each team member explored possible sectors we could invest in and get great returns.
  3. A family – We are each other’s support group, a go-to team. A place to pour your heart out without fear of judgement or ridicule. Sleepovers were birthed. We opened our private spaces to each other. There is magic in preparing a meal and dining together, making time to freely engage in topics that are not spoken about yet they keep hurting the society and being each other’s accountability partner.
  4. Travel & Exploration – With the fast-paced life in the city, it is rare for individuals to take time to rest, rejuvenate and re-energize. As a team, we decided that part of our group savings would facilitate our travel across the continent, two capital cities each year. Last year (2019) we visited Kampala, Uganda and Kigali, Rwanda. This was to get the team out of the rush of the city; to relax, analyze and evaluate our goals in life, progress made and forge a way forward. Travelling also accords us time for play e.g. Karaoke, table topics, bicycle riding among others.

All of the above came to fruition out of intentionality to build relationships. Asking yourself what you can do for the other person and what you can collectively do to make communities better. It is a blessing to have a support team that cheers you on as you start up a business, open initiatives or get married. Emerging Leaders Foundation taught and trained us;  we discovered ourselves, connected with like minded young leaders and strived to create positive change in our own small way,starting with what we had and not necessarily waiting for the ‘perfect’ time because at times, it may take long or never come.

The mentors we were paired with didn’t disappoint either, they played a major part in guiding us to be the leaders we are today; thank you ELF and the mentors that serve under you. After ELF’s training and Mentorship, Alando Kelvin has created several business ventures and in turn employed several young individuals; Kibe Kimani who practices small scale agribusiness is training other young people in his village best practices in agriculture as well as engaging them in meaningful topics on leadership and accountability; Isaac Odhiambo has started a YouTube channel to sensitize citizens of Kenya on Leadership and voter awareness tohelp reduce ignorance; Sonnie Gichuhi a staff at Strathmore University mentors her students to be the best versions of themselves and Cheboi, founded an Initiative, ‘Narrafiti Locale’ which introduced Storytelling, Journaling and Creation of Reading Clubs in rural schools in Kenya.

As a young leader who has created networks over the years, as an Emerging Leaders Foundation Alumni, what are you doing with the network you have created? Are you birthing brilliant ideas over coffee dates as Oprah Winfrey would put it? Are you collaborating to ensure mutual benefit for all? Are you leveraging on each other’s strength to positively transform your communities?

Food for thought!

Submitted by:
Stella Cheboi-Programs officer, Leadership Development 

Susan Wavinya: Bringing Back Hope in her society

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


#Never give up.


Daud Warsame, “A challenge can always lead to an opportunity.”

Somalia born Daud Warsame couldn’t allow his refugee status deter him from working towards his dreams. It is for this reason that he joined ELF’s Leadership and Development (LDP) program to sharpen and nurture his knowledge and abilities on impact creation. Currently, Warsame is a part time student at Southern New Hampshire University pursuing his Associate of Arts degree. Warsame is passionate about refugee issues, youth education and advocacy and it is through this that he strives to see the lives of refugees at Kakuma refugee centre, where he grew up.

Upon completion of his ELF training, Warsame was appointed as an assistant executive director of URISE Initiative for Africa, a refugee run community-based organization (CBO) that helps young people find meaning of life through skills, social and economic empowerment. It is at URISE that he uses his skills to develop and train his fellows in the organization and the camp who are not in a position to attend training at ELF.

“Challenges could sometimes be an opportunity to be great”

“At ELF, I learnt the importance of discovering oneself, contributing the betterment of others and standing up for your own rights in a peaceful way and refrain anything that are un-African such as conflict and violence.”

He credits much of his knowledge and know-how to his ELF training.

“My knowledge and skills were bettered. I also got counselling on various issues and learnt more on becoming more productive in my small space.”

Warsame believes that young people from marginalized areas have an opportunity and space in bringing change back to their communities if they are well empowered by giving availing more skill-development trainings that are highly needed in the development of young people and those in leadership.

He lives by the quote ‘Challenges could sometimes be an opportunity to be great.’



Opportunities Galore: Conserving the Environment While Saving for the Future

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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



Dennis Leiyan: Leading Change in Kajiado County

“I decided to try my hand into leadership as the president of Cohort 5 so as to put into practice all that I was being taught at the ELF. This would help me learn and polish my shortcomings as a leader and as an individual. I am privileged to serve my cohort as their president.”

Dennis was part of ELF’s leadership program in 2018 where he got a chance to serve as his cohort’s president.

He has previously served as the chair of Young Diplomats at the USIU-Africa and also served as the chair of African Model of the United Nations which he helped lead a bid to host over 400 youth delegates from Africa in 2017, at the UN offices in Kenya. Additionally, he successfully led his cohort in organizing a visit to the Compassionate Hands for the Disabled Foundation located in Ruai.

Right after his ELF training, Dennis started a number of initiatives in his home county, Kajiado. In his pioneer project, Dennis leads a sanitary towel drive for young student who can’t afford them in Kajiado county and he has been able to directly reach at least 300 girls in government day schools since he started the drive. He also came up with a bi-annual football tournament, Changamka Cup, where he uses the tournament as a platform to discuss youth agendas and governance in his constituency Through this, he has been able to unite a number of football coaches in the area who help him improve football in the area. So far, Changamka cup has had two successful tournaments with the most recent one having over 1,000 youth in attendance.

“At the ELF, the greatest lesson that I learnt is that one doesn’t need to be great to bring change. All you need is to show up and do your part”

He has also partnered with youths from his Kajiado North constituency to form Kijani Ustara which he serves as Chairperson. The organisation deals with environment issues in the constituency.  Dennis also mentors’ youths from his constituency into leadership by partnering with Taifa Teule organization. Through this, he has his sights on consolidating young people who have interest in leadership. This is to help in making sure the youth agenda is not lost in the midst of politics.

“At the ELF, the greatest lesson that I learnt is that one doesn’t need to be great to bring change. All you need is to show up and do your part”

Dennis has set his sights on mentoring more young people to be enlightened and empower them with knowledge and skills to help them be agents of change.

His favorite quote is by Tom Mboya, “There is no superman. It is up to us.”

We celebrate Dennis’s determination and persistence to be an agent of positive change in his county.


Alumni of the Week: Cynthia Nyongesa

Cynthia runs a personal blog (cynthiauntamed.com) where she writes stories of young Africans who are positively impacting their communities. She is strategic in the issues she wants to write about. She was part of ELF’s leadership program in 2017 where she learnt the power of using her voice through the different films that she watches. She uses her skills to speak up on social issues in the society.
Currently, Cynthia is working on relaunching her blog and brand to align with encouraging the youth to be global citizens. Since graduating from ELF, she has had the chance to work as a Youth Advocate with UNICEF Kenya where she continues to use her writing and public speaking skills. In addition, she is a Generation Unlimited Youth Ambassador for Kenya where she engages at the global level to advocate for employment and education for young people.

Cynthia has ambitions of being a well known and paid public speaker as well as a brand ambassador for programs/projects that involve empowering the youth and children on issues ranging from education to employment.

Her favorite quote is by Eleanor Roosevelt, “The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
We celebrate Cynthia and her efforts in being a change agent.

Kenya’s Cursed Generation – The 90s

The babies born in the nineties! This article is about young people between the ages of 20 and 29.

In March last year, I was part of the stop these thieves march. This was on the backdrop of millions of Kenya shillings stolen from public coffers, an unsustainable public debt and lethargic delivery of public services. Walking into freedom corner, I met a couple of people, most of them way over 35 years of age but there were probably just a handful of 20 – 29 year olds. You who are most affected by these ills, didn’t even care to show up to protest. Your very future is being auctioned in front of you, yet, you still expect your parents to take care of this one, just the same way they take care of every bottleneck you encounter.

You are the generation that has voted once, twice or never. And this is why your views on things that matter like governance and economics, among others, are, ‘‘I don’t care.’’  You were born at a time when the Moi government was implementing the Structural Adjustment Programs, a pathetic foreign program that crippled the economy and left many with economic wounds still being nursed to date. Then came the repeal of section 2A of the constitution, after years of struggle and an attempted coup, multipartism was reintroduced. For the next two elections, Kenya witnessed election-related violence like never before, some of your parents actively took part in the skirmishes. Between 1990 and 1999 your parents made poor choices, and going by recent trends it looks like they passed down their poor decision-making skills to you, because in the two elections you have taken part in, you have redefined the meaning of poor electoral choices.

You have voted for and supported incompetence, you have given mediocre politicians a god-like status, you have sat back unperturbed by reckless economic policies, you have cheered at nonsense and jeered at sense.

You have voted for and supported incompetence, you have given mediocre politicians a god-like status, you have sat back unperturbed by reckless economic policies, you have cheered at nonsense and jeered at sense. You have laughed when the police brutalized fellow Kenyans and tweeted in support of such immorality.

Truth is, your parents cannot save you from this one. You cannot call home and get an M-pesa message that solves your trouble. Here is the thing, you must grow up and part of this means taking up responsibility for your future. Knowing that it is important to work hard in school, but even more important is asking about the quality of that education and an assurance of a job upon completion or having an enabling environment for you to innovate and create jobs for other young people.

Growing up means less tweeting and more action. It calls upon you to organize yourselves and support those among you who can represent you at the table where decisions are made and where the national cake is being shared.

Growing up means stopping less complaining and more taking of responsibility. You must teach yourself to not only understand your rights but also embrace and take responsibility. Participate in shaping your future and in defining the destiny of your nation.

Like the hummingbird, what’s your little thing? Find it and pursue it relentlessly. Make your voice heard. Salvage your generation. Be the change.

The Author is the Communications Officer at ELF. 

International Youth Day Feature: Samuel Ndungú Wairimu (ELF Mentor)

As we count days to the International Youth day, whose focus is on  Transfroming Education, we would like to recognize one of our very own mentors who has recently received a full Masters Scholarship with the Chevening Scholarship Awards.

Samuel Ndung’u Wairimu is the founder of Maragwa Mentorship Program, a group of young professionals and university students who visit schools to motivate students to surpass their limit of excellence.

He is also a mentor with Emerging Leaders Foundation (ELF), mentoring young leaders, especially those with interest in agribusiness. This stems from his experience as a student leader at the University of Nairobi and having worked with three different local banks in business development functions. Currently, he passionately mentors three fellows at ELF.

After unsuccessfully contesting for the Maragwa parliamentary seat on an independent ticket in 2017, he started an agribusiness enterprise and currently blogs on agriculture and food security. Most of his articles have successfully  been published by the Daily Nation, the Standard and the Star: local newspaper in Kenya.

Recently, he was among the 1800 selected globally to receive the Chevening Scholarship Awards to pursue MSc Agriculture and Development at the University of Reading. Chevening is the UK’s government scholarship that offers future influencers, decision makers to study a one-year master’s degree in any subject at any UK university.

He plans to return to Kenya and apply his knowledge and skills to influence the agriculture policy in Kenya, especially on rural small scale farming to meet SDG 2 on Zero Hunger. He also hopes that through this he will be able to alleviate poverty and bridge the inequality gap.

Keep rising Sam!

Have a conversation with  him on twitter