At home in ELF-Africa, away from home

All Ikpang Ekpenyong Idongesit wanted was to spread his wings in his career and have a different experience beyond the city of Abuja in Nigeria. An indigene of Akwa-Ibom state, he wanted something more than the opulence and the great taste of luxury that Nigerians in Abuja are known and loathed for.  

Teaching was good for him, but he wanted to work with young people at a different level. He started seeking opportunities for scholarships, internships, and fellowships then, he found Princeton in Africa. 

He applied in October 2022 to Princeton in Africa, and they responded positively. They sent him a list of possible organizations that met his areas of interest, and among them was Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa.  

“I did my research on the organizations and thought ELF-Africa came close to what I really wanted to do – work with young people,” he says. 

He had an online interview with ELF-Africa and was later informed by Princeton in Africa that he had been selected. Then came the big switch to Kenya for the next 12 months. 

“I knew I was on the verge of something new and was therefore not scared,” he recalls.  

Upon arrival, he joined the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme, which targets young public servants.  Under the PSELF program, he works as a Programme Associate assisting with the activities of the programme, such as training sessions, ELF-Africa events, and administrative support. He also helps coordinate seamless transition between different sessions during the training.

If he was nervous, his first impression of the ELF-Africa office helped calm him down. “The office had an African touch to it, complete with pictures of Pan-African nationalists, which I found very impressive,” he said. 

Within no time, he found himself immersed in the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship, a programme the organisation ELF-Africa is involved in together with other partners, including the Public Service Commission in Kenya. 

He found ELF-Africa staff getting ready for the Youth Day of Service (YDOS) in different parts of the country. Though he had been in the country for hardly a week, he was incorporated into the team that was going to Rongai in Kajiado County. 

“I got the chance to meet the staff outside the office, met alumni of the different programmes and even planted trees at a nearby hospital,” he adds.  

Soon after the YDOS, Idongesit was involved with the training for the public servants, where he got the chance to rub shoulders with past and present high-profile career civil servants like former Head of Public Service Dr Sally Kosgey, among others.  

He also realized that young public servants in Kenya are just as driven as those in Nigeria. They want to change the narrative of public service in their countries and be the agents driving change in their various sectors.  

Furthermore, Idongesit finds ELF-Africa as a family, and that stood out for him the most. Passion for work and desire to excel were also key things that impressed him in the organization. For these reasons, he would recommend ELF-Africa to anyone seeking a credible organization.  

Being a PSELF Fellow made me a national hero

By Achola Mourice Otieno

The soft-spoken Mourice Achola has been recognised by the National Heroes Council, a State Corporation that formulates and implements policy relating to national heroes. For Mr Achola, an officer at the Correctional Services department based in Busia Main Prison, this was beyond his wildest dreams.

In the course of his duties, Mr Achola noticed that prisoners who had hearing and speech impairment were getting a raw deal.

 “Their needs were not getting addressed because of the communication barrier,” he says.

Keen to help, he enrolled for a sign language course at the Kenya Institute for Special Education under the sponsorship of the National Council for Persons with Disabilities and became the only sign language interpreter at the station.

He was appointed the Disability and Inclusion Officer at the station by the officer in charge who is also his mentor, Assistant Commissioner of Prisons Omondi Adero, OGW.

“I felt communicating with them was the first step to helping them get social justice,” he says. 

He wrote to the National Council for Persons with Disability to increase the sponsorship of prison officers to study sign language, and they agreed.

Due to this initiative, Mr Achola was honoured by President William Ruto as a National Hero under the Human Rights category on 20th October during last year’s Mashujaa Day celebrations in Kericho County.

Mr Achola believes being a Fellow at the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme played a big role in winning the award.

While nominations for the awards are done by departments and individuals, Mr Achola nominated himself and cited his current training at the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme and was surprised when he was awarded.

“I strongly believe being a Fellow at the programme raised my profile,” he says confidently.

Fueling creativity and imagination through art

There is something about putting a brush on canvas that can bring one’s energy and emotion to the surface.

Art therapy, be it painting, sculpting, or drawing, has the unique ability to help one express himself or herself better than words would have done.

This is what spurred Rehema Njoroge to start Creative Therapies and Intellectual Mapping, an organisation that works with children to spark intellectual and creative development. The intensity, concentration, and random mix of colours help the young ones be in touch with themselves.

Rehema, a Fellow of Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa’s African Biblical and Leadership Initiative, saw a need in the society and responded to it. She realised that children were spending too much time indoors on televisions and computer games. She saw an opportunity to help the children pour out their thoughts and feelings into art. In a week, she hosts about ten children at her family’s residence in Thika, especially on weekends.

They also engage in modelling, playing with pebbles, mind games, Rubik’s cubes, and paintings. Art therapy can also help adults step into their creative thinking, as students from NLA University College in Norway found out. The students who were in the country to explore the country’s history and culture as part of their intercultural studies course improved their moods and boosted creativity as their brushes encountered pottery.

“Everyone is creative and there is nothing like bad painting,” Rehema assured the eager students as they mixed their colours on their pallets.

As they got to work, even those who were hesitant at first could be seen engrossed with concentration on their painting. True to Regina’s words, with patience, the students produced some amazing paintings.

How family unity helped PSELF Fellow bag the Global Peace Award

On December 21st last year, Eliud Karani was honoured and received the Global Peace Award, a prestigious recognition for his efforts in saving a family from breaking up.

Karani, a civil servant in the State Department of Social Protection and Senior Citizen Affairs, is a cohort Two Fellow at the Public Service Emerging Leaders Fellowship Programme (PSELF).

PSELF is jointly implemented by Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa, Emerging Public Leaders, the Chandler Institute of Governance, and the Public Service Commission.

With the help of some religious leaders, Karani helped unify a family that was on the verge of breaking up because one of the partners was HIV positive while the other was negative.

Such couples often face serious sexual and social challenges, and in this case, it threatened to tear them apart even though they have two small children.

 “My heart went out to the two children, and I vowed to do everything possible to help keep the family united,” he said.

During one of the PSELF sessions, Karani recalled one of the facilitators urging them to “find their little thing, then go about the business of doing it.”

This famous quote from the founder of the Green Belt Movement and the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Wangari Maathai inspired him to make fighting for peace in this family become his ‘little thing’.

Through his untiring effort that saw the family remain united, Eliud showed the role that mediation can play. It’s a feat he attributes to lessons from conflict resolution at Chandler Institute. Chandler Institute is one of the partners who prepare the curriculum for the training of the Fellows.

“Managing conflict is one of the free courses offered by the Institute,” he says.

Karani, who is one of the three presidents of Cohort Two, says PSELF training has earned him respect from his superiors in the department. Through the training, he has developed Citizen-centric services.

“I can put in extra hours at work if it will help someone who is seeking our services,” he says.

This has helped him register over 2,000 senior citizens in his sub-county. He has also learned the importance of integrity and value-based leadership in his service.

ELF-Africa, Makueni County Agree to Establish a County Youth Caucus

Emerging Leaders Foundation-Africa and Makueni County have agreed to form a County Youth Caucus as an avenue for structured and more inclusive youth engagement in the economic and governance issues of their county. This caucus will also be a timely platform for the young people from County 017 to network amongst themselves and form mutual interest partnerships that will steer social-economic growth, community development and enhance accountability in the County.

As part of the nascent efforts of ELF-Africa’s Husika team in Makueni, they paid a courtesy call to select County officials. The Thursday 12th August 2021 meeting saw the Husika team hold talks with the Acting County Youth Director, and the Clerk of the County Assembly of Makueni. In the meeting, the parties extensively discussed the recently passed Makueni County Youth Policy as well as other areas of future engagement between ELF-Africa and the County. The Acting Youth Director, Mr. Charles Muthoka and the Clerk of the County Assembly, Mr. Kevin Mutuku noted that on account of the good working relationship between the executive and the County Assembly, a total of 17 critical policies were passed in July, bringing the total number of policies passed by the County to 26.

ELF-Africa’s Husika team in deliberations with Makueni County officials

Makueni County is one of the most progressive of the 47 devolved units, leading the way in an array of fields; from public participation to youth mainstreaming, and gender parity to local industrialisation. Just a month ago, the Kivutha Kibwana led government passed the County Youth Policy, only the second in the country after Vihiga County.

ELF-Africa’s Husika team in the county has consistently led advocacy drives in the county, a central role that partly contributed to the expedited passing of the County Youth Policy. As such this County Youth Caucus is viewed as a necessary initiative and ELF-Africa is happy to be on board and lend its expertise in establishing, structuring, mentoring, and guiding the caucus into a meaningful tool for the youth to be at the centre of decision making and key players in implementation of the different policies and development projects.

Representing ELF-Africa’s Husika team were Wavinya Nzioka, Winnie Mukosi, Sebastian Kilonzo and Oliver Ndolo, who committed to follow through and ensure the Youth Policy is adequately funded and fully implemented.

ELF-Africa remains committed to continuously equip young women and men in Makueni and other counties with relevant tools, knowledge, and linkages to enable them to become active citizens championing the interests of country and advance the tenets of pan-Africanism.

International Youth Day Feature

Anselmn Ochieng, an alumnus of our Tunaweza Programme, spearheading, has been informed by an inherent desire to nurture emerging school children so that they are inspired to tackle challenges with unrivaled confidence.

Read more

“I Wanted to be Great, I just Didn’t Know How”

I was a student leader at Maasai Mara University, leading various societies and clubs and later got involved in students’ politics. Since childhood, I had a great desire to be an agent of change and serve people just like the Renowned icons I looked up to like Mandela and Martin Luther King Jr.

Their stories compelled me to be at service to humankind. Before that life at the University, there was a long journey. My fire was dimmed at a point in my life when in 2009 I had to drop out of school for 3 years. I had to go to a construction site to be trained welding by a cousin who thought it would be helpful now that school had failed.

It was a dark time, but I found solace in the struggle. In between, I met people with lost hope. Ordinary Kenyans that grappled with a lot of fear, inferiority, poverty and assault and exploitation by Indian employers. I had a diary, and each day I wrote my experience. I was writing poetry then, and I could get home and pen down a poem about these people, and myself too. I loved reading and so would visit KPLC Training Institute Library, through the help of another cousin who worked there.

I was a wounded man, a lost child who was battling with identity. In the library, I met great books. I read a lot of autobiographies because I wanted to relate with great men. I read from Barack Obama’s ‘Dreams From My Father’ to Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long Walk To Freedom’. From Duncan Nderitu Ndegwa’s ‘Walking In Kenyatta Struggles’ to Yoweri Kaguta Museveni’s ‘Sowing The Mustard Seed’. There were many great books and they kept the desire in me alive.

I wanted to be great, I just didn’t know how. I resolved that it was only education that would take me closer to the achievements of my icons. I worked at the construction site with a dream to go back to school. In 2011, God was gracious to me and I went back to school. I took two years from form 3 to 4 and made it to the University, where I had great expectations.

I was quite old, but I really wanted to be there and do all I could. I wanted to be a leader and change something in the society. It was easy to get to the clubs and be elected as the chairperson, or a secretary. I had a desire to serve. Eventually, I tried campus politics, and failed. But the people around me treated me like a leader. They did not lose hope in me. Even the administration worked so closely with me, and I was proud that I still could serve.

Then came ELF. When we began the training, it began with us telling our stories. For the first time, I told my story in public, and it changed everything. It healed me. My friends came to me and told me to be strong, that I was the best. The fire in me was lit. I was ready to move forward. When one Dr. Olu Funso Somorin talked about Servanthood Leadership, I realized where I belonged. I wanted to be in the community, to work with youth and young people. I later founded a resource center, Pasha Resource Center, where we are creating a safe space for young boys and girls and nurturing talent and literacy among young people.

I realized football was attractive to young boys, and so I came up with a club and signed 26 boys. They are currently our ambassadors as we try to push Pasha Resource Centre to the next level. We have had donation of books, and computers are coming soon from friends from the USA. We are also laying foundation for the building of the centre in July, through donation from a church in the USA. Through this centre, I feel at the centre of service. I feel like my dreams are carried by those boys who play in the club, come for the books, and just stick around when I visit the centre. I thank ELF for the training. I discovered my real purpose, they gave me enough information that I need and helped me link up with many like-minded fellows who have helped me grow.

Asante sana ELF.

Andrew Otieno was one of our Changamka Fellows.

Interact with him on Facebook