No, you don’t need millions to make a positive impact

Thursday December 8 2016

Faith Simotwo, Philemon Kipkoech, Christine

Faith Simotwo, Philemon Kipkoech, Christine Odera, Moses Karonji, Easter Macharia and Priscilla Njoroge are young Kenyans making a positive impact in their communities by simply giving of their time, talent, and motivating others to join and support their cause. PHOTOS| FILE| NATION MEDIA GROUP  

By ROSE ODENGO
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Mahtma Gandhi, leader of the Indian independence movement, once said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”

There are those who believe that to effect change, to make a positive impact, one needs money, lots of money, and also needs to know the right people. Is this the case though?

We had a chat with six young Kenyans making a positive impact in their communities by simply giving of their time, talent, and motivating others to join and support their cause. What are you doing with the free time on your hands? Open your eyes and look around you, there is lots that you can do to uplift the lives of those around you, and no, you do not necessarily require money. Or know people.

NAME: Philemon Kipkoech

AGE: 23

ORGANISATION: Rauka Child Foundation

DURATION OF OPERATION: 18 months

EDUCATION: Studying Bachelor of Science in Computer Science, at the University of Eldoret.

LOCATION: Kericho County

Facebook Page: RaukaChildFoundation

 

In 2008, Philemon was a KCPE candidate at Kalyet Primary School in Kericho County. He was the top pupil in a class of 92. When the results were announced, only 40 pupils managed to qualify to go to secondary school. Philemon was overjoyed at having performed well, but he was also concerned about his colleagues’ futures. It bothered him that many of them might not set foot in secondary school, but could do nothing about it.

In June 2015, while in his second year at university, he decided to start a mentorship program in primary and secondary schools in his area. Philemon rallied up five university friends and coordinated various sessions talking about the importance of education, talent realisation, career choices, health, gender equity, time management and self-discipline.

Eight months later, Philemon and his team began holding trainings on entrepreneurship for secondary school graduates and individuals over 18. They would invite guest speakers in successful careers from various fields to share their insights, teach them about entrepreneurship, how to identify business opportunities, source capital, how to create jobs and impart basic business management skills.

The trainings are held in the schools and institutions where the students study, and are funded solely by the volunteers. In just 18 months of running both programs, Philemon and his Rauka Child Foundation has worked with various institutions across Londiani sub-county, Kipkelion-West and Kipkelion-East constituencies in Kericho County.

 

 

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NAME: Christine Odera

AGE: 22

ORGANISATION: Organisation for Intercultural Education (OFIE) / AFS Kenya

DURATION OF OPERATION: 7 years

EDUCATION: Degree in International Relations from United States International University - Africa

LOCATION: Kisumu County

AWARDS: Certificate of Outstanding Volunteer Service from the US Department of State

Facebook Page: AFS Kenya

Christine was only 15 years old, a student at Masai Girls High School, when she signed up to volunteer at the Organisation for Intercultural Education (OFIE). OFIE is a global organisation that provides intercultural learning experiences through immersion experiences in a foreign culture.

Through the organisation, Christine got the chance to travel to the US as an exchange student.

She was under the care of a host family in one of the coldest parts of America; Wisconsin State. It was quite a culture shock for her, being the only African and black student in the entire school of about 500 students. But it was a situation she took in stride.

“I began appreciating diversity and my love for international relations was ignited.” She explains. Christine further learnt that it was essential to understand different perspectives and cultural contexts and not judge others based on one’s person cultural stance.

She is now a board member and the Alumni president of OFIE in Kenya, on a mission to encourage more young people to sign up for these cultural exchanges. Most of the alumni of the program over the years have spent time giving back to their communities on their return; running mentorship programs for orphans, running a children’s centre - Hands of Love - in Kariobangi, Nairobi County. They also teach street children how to read and write. They have even built a hospital in Mariakani, Mombasa County, a sanitation block with modern toilets and tap water in Embu County, and bought water tanks to help a community in Kisumu store rain water for drinking.

The program is spread across 10 regions in Kenya. The exchange programs run for  one to two weeks to a year - it all depends on the interest of the individual.

The target age group is 14 to 17 years, but anyone above 18 years can still volunteer to teach in the various projects or take part in social projects.

 

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NAME: Easter Macharia

AGE: 23

ORGANISATION: Kids for Life

DURATION OF OPERATION: Two years

EDUCATION: Studying a degree in International Relations and Diplomacy at Technical University of Kenya LOCATION: Nairobi County

Facebook: Kids For Life

 

Easter started volunteerism while in high school at St. Mary’s Boys High School, in Nyeri County. The school administration constantly encouraged him and his schoolmates to care for, and give back to needy and orphaned children. These children mostly resided in the child rescue centre within the institution.

In December 2014, he and his neighbourhood friends in Nairobi decided to visit a children’s home in the area. They enjoyed it, and decided to make more frequent visits. They went further and formalised their efforts by registering as a nonprofit organisation; Kids for Life. 

“Children are the future generation, and once you show them love at that tender age, they are bound to reciprocate the same once they become adults,” Easter says.

He and his friends find it more worthwhile spending time with the children, instead of solely giving the conventional donations of food, clothing and money. They believe that since most of these children have faced a form of neglect or rejection, what they need more than material things is affection, if only to rebuild trust and give them a sense of hope for the future.

Easter’s group started off with a gathering of 10 friends, now, it has a membership of over 200 volunteers drawn from various universities in Nairobi. They have quarterly visits to children’s homes suggested by members, and spend three months raising resources for the material gifts and rallying volunteers for each visit, which is mostly coordinated through WhatsApp groups. 

Two years on, the group has visited 10 children homes, and hope to scale up their donations and sign in more volunteers.

“Most of our members don’t have a stable income, therefore, we depend on donations from family and friends, which at times is not forthcoming,” he explains.

They are not deterred though, and intend to keep doing what they are doing as long as it brings a smile to a child’s face.

 

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NAME: Moses Karonji

AGE: 21

ORGANISATION:  The Message

DURATION OF OPERATION: One year

EDUCATION: Music Studies, Allegro Music School

LOCATION: Nairobi County

 

Music brought Moses and his four friends together a year ago. They could not stop talking about their love for Hip Hop, but they also talked about the challenges that they faced as young men.

They were especially concerned about entrenched tribalism in Kenya and the general perception their peers had where it was concerned.

While discussing this, it occurred to them that they could do something about this mindset through music and poetry, they hoped to get into the minds and hearts of their peers through language that they could understand. This is how their music and poetry collection; Chorea Ukabila, (Say no to tribalism) came about.

The group intends to conduct a national tour from February 2017, to turn this simple but positive collection into an anthem of change for Kenya. They hope to get more sponsors on board to ensure they reach every corner of the country.

The aim is to ensure that negative ethnicity will never again grind Kenya to a halt like it did in the 2007/8 post-election violence.

So far, the group has performed in various churches and events across Nairobi, and the reception has been encouraging, “Knowing that people understand and appreciate the content we have put in our music is proof that we are on the right track.”

 

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NAME: Priscilla Njoroge

AGE: 23

ORGANISATION(s):  Relay 4 Life &Activista

DURATION OF OPERATION: Two years

EDUCATION: Degree in Art, Sociology and political science, University of Nairobi

LOCATION: Nairobi County

 

Priscilla was always drawn to making a positive impact in the community she lived in. While still a student at the University of Nairobi, and a member of the Women Student Welfare Association, she spent quite some time raising awareness on various social issues affecting women around campus. While there, a friend of hers introduced her to Relay 4 Life Kenya, a Kenyan subsidiary of an International organisation that runs worldwide events to fundraise for local cancer organisations and to promote cancer awareness.

In 2015, she took on the task to encourage her peers to go for various cancer tests, besides and hosting a series of workshops to raise further awareness of the disease. She further spread her message through various social media platforms.

“Sometimes the response is low, yet this is an important subject,” she says.

To counter this and keep people interested in what she has to say, Priscilla interchanges the subject with discussion topics close to her heart. She is also a volunteer with Activista, an Action Aid-run human rights organisation that rallies youth to create social change in the community through cultural exchange.

Being a full-time volunteer takes lots of commitment, considering that Priscilla does not actually earn a living from her work. The fact that she does not earn a coin does not give her sleepless nights though, the fulfilment she gets when her message makes the community around her more informed is more than enough payment.

“Change however small, whatever time it may take, positive change is good.” She concludes.

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NAME: Faith Simotwo

AGE: 22

ORGANISATION: African Girl Voice Foundation

DURATION OF OPERATION: Three years

EDUCATION: Degree in Mathematics and Computer Science from Taita Taveta University

LOCATION: Taita Taveta County

AWARDS: YALI Mandela Fellow and a nominee at the International Young Achiever Women4 Africa

SOCIAL MEDIA PAGE: Twitter @africangirlvoice

 

Faith was brought up in Nairobi, but spent her adolescence in TaitaTaveta. It did not take her long to notice the stark contrast between the two places. She realised that her peers’ aspirations where very limited.  Most of the girls her age only seemed to aspire to be domestic helps in Nairobi – they lacked exposure to new opportunities that would help them dream bigger.

“My mother grew up in Taveta, and so I felt the need to change the narrative that Taveta girls are not bright,” she explains.

In 2011, Faith began to share her reviews of TV news stories in the form of poetry on a blog, tackling the rising cases of early marriages, rape, gender-based violence and female genital mutilation. She used this as a platform to raise awareness of the plight of girls in Taveta who had been through these injustices. However, she soon realised that she was not making a big impact, since the Internet connectivity in this area was poor.

Two years later, she began to approach various high schools requesting to run in-person career and mentorship talks. They were receptive. Today, Faith’s initiative has expanded to include three yearly holiday mentorship sessions with girls between 12–24 years. So far, over 1,000 girls have gone through the mentorship program. She hopes to reach 200,000 girls in Taita Taveta County in the next five years.

“I won’t stop until gender equity is achieved. I have a great vision for Taveta, and it can only happen when girls are educated, empowered and know their purpose.”