Jeffrey Kosgei from Nandi County radiates appeal in a manner that is not only fetching but also effortless. The good humoured young man wears his jolly disposition like a hat of honour. When he speaks, his timbre carries an element of determined vigour but mostly of empathy. And rightly so. Kosgei has a heart of gold.
A highly proactive individual, Kosgei, 25, is a Jack-of-all-trades: an economist, an educator and an environmental activist. For his love for children, he is also a team leader and volunteer at One African Child Foundation. All these he does with one mission: to make the world a happier place to live.
“One African Child Foundation for Creative Learning was established on November 20, 2013 as a non-governmental organisation. The motive was to provide leadership skills and other resources to disadvantaged children; to nurture them to become proactive agents of change in their local communities,” Kosgei narrates.
The name of the organisation was borne “out of the idea that Africans can create positive change by taking responsibility for one African child at a time”, he explains.
According to the 2016 graduate of economics from Technical University of Kenya, the initiative collaborates with organisations such as children’s homes to provide self-awareness and leadership skills to pupils.
“By focusing on Global Citizenship and Peacebuilding Education (GCED), we endeavour to transfer skills in ethical leadership, creativity and innovation to learners; thus creating free spaces for self-expression, imagination and implementation in addressing local issues,” Kosgei explains.
He adds that the organisation is 100 percent youth-led, and engages young community leaders in the conceptualisation, planning and implementation of all its humanitarian projects.
“We currently have 15 young people on board, who, besides taking part in our initiatives on a purely voluntary basis, help to fund our projects. To enlist a young person, they must demonstrate a strong passion to work with children,” Kosgei shares.
Compassionate Hands for the Disabled in Ruai, former street boys at Mukuru Promotion Centre and Reli Educational Centre are some of the facilities in Nairobi where the outfit has engaged children through basic computer literacy skills.
Also a devoted environmental activist, Kosgei has co-founded OneChildOneTree, an initiative that builds on education to promote sustainable development by engaging learners in tree planting sessions.
So far, his team has been to tens of schools in Nairobi, Nandi and Uasin Gishu counties, helping the learners to plant thousands of tree seedlings in their schools and localities.
“Besides conducting tree planting activities, we offer environmental education, to demonstrate the importance of conservation efforts and the responsibility that children have towards nature,” says Kosgei, who started volunteering as a student at Kapsabet Boys High School.
Kosgei has a day job, through which he pays his bills. But volunteer work does not get in the way of his job in the least, he says. “When you are passionate about giving back to the community, you learn to balance between the two without straining either of them. You easily create time for each pursuit,” he says.
He adds: “Volunteering doesn’t mean doing the same thing for an entire day. It can be as little as thirty minutes of your time per week.
What matters is how you spend your spare time. Changing someone’s life usually happens in the first few seconds of your interaction with them.”
On whether he has benefitted from volunteering, he answers in the affirmative. “My leadership skills have grown tremendously since I embarked on this course in 2012. Through this role, I have met and networked with people from different professional backgrounds and spheres of life through whom I have gathered important life lessons. I am a now a wholesome person and better professional,” he says.
Like all other professional engagements, volunteer work demands certain attributes to realise meaningful results and to derive satisfaction.
“Patience, commitment, empathy and perseverance define me as a volunteer. Occasionally, you will fail to achieve whatever you may have set your eyes on. Other times you may blunder heavily. But you need to recover yourself from such lapses and low moments quickly to forge on,” he advices.
In 2017, Kosgei was among a group of youth from across the country who were recognised by the Ministry of East Africa Affairs in partnership with the Volunteer Involving Organisations Society for their impactful empowerment initiatives aimed at improving lives. He took home the Youth Volunteer of the Year Award.
To other millennials, Kosgei has this to say:
“We may be facing the tough challenge of unemployment as young Kenyans. But that is not to say there are no equally useful ways to contribute to our communities besides our professions.
There are so many areas where we could work as volunteers, to develop our skills and prepare us for other opportunities in future.”
To him, there is no excuse why young people in Kenya should not be actively involved in nation building.
“Step out and be involved in something no matter how small or seemingly unrewarding the opportunity may be. Just don’t be idle,” he adds.
Through his work, Kosgei hopes to inspire other youth to volunteer their money, time and professional skills to change their communities. To him, there is no better time to impact someone’s life than now.
“You may not have resources to finance large projects. But humanitarian work begins and ends with caring for others in the smallest but genuine acts of empathy,” he concludes.