By Caren Wakoli
Sometimes it’s just useful to sit back, reminisce, smile and laugh off some things…
Life can be very funny…I guess that’s why we should never despise humble beginnings. I remember vividly a couple of years ago when Emerging Leaders Foundation(ELF) was just starting. My goodness, this was indeed humble! The office was in one corner of my house. We had only two volunteers working as staff. No equipment, no stationery, …barely nothing to hold on to. However, there was one thing, PASSION! Passion to mentor young leaders and offer them opportunities for linkages and growth. Period. This was tangibly the only resource ELF had.
We ventured out to look for young people who wanted their capacities built and needed mentorship. And guess what, we met a team of hungry student leaders from universities. Why do I call them hungry? They were hungry for knowledge. They were hungry for growth. Hungry for mentorship. Hungry for lessons…and ooh, weren’t these young women hungry? They were absolutely unstoppable! They took over and basically drove the learning process!
Since the only two things needed for any learning to take place were available (HUNGRY SOULS AND PASSIONATE DREAMERS), we started the training and mentorship sessions. We had these sessions in interesting places – at the arboretum, in empty classrooms at the University of Nairobi (before they became too strict), open fields, hostel TV rooms, and when we were sufficiently chummed ( This happened once) we’d look for a cheap restaurant and colonize it – basically buy chai and mandazi, and then have our session.
I remember one time, we were having a great session at the arboretum, with the legendary Larry Liza and something very unexpected happened! It started raining! From no where! Ooh my! We had to run for cover. And of course we got rained on abit…
One other fond memory I have is of a day we wanted to learn about storytelling/public speaking and self presentation…but we had no venue! What did we do? We walked into one classroom, at the basement of Education building, and found a group of randomly scattered students doing personal reading and others whiling away the time. The girls I was with were hungry to learn! they were also extremely creative.
So they casually walked into that classroom and announced to the occupants that they had a class at that venue at that exact time! The occupants walked away and I immediately took over like a lecturer (FYI, I was dressed like one!) And after about an hour, we were through with the session. And for me, that was one of the most inspirational sessions… I was deeply fulfilled.
One other interesting memory of this season was this – at one point we needed to watch movie clips but we had no screen. By this time we had gotten some office space somewhere in town. So I went looking for speakers, and bought some for about 2k. I rushed back to the office and connected them to my laptop. And Voila! They worked so well! So we hurdled together at the reception area, all eyes on one small screen! The sound very clear. And we enjoyed watching the short videos and later debriefed.
The team kept growing and each time there were new people…till the first graduation day in 2014. It was so humbling to see the crowds that turned up – parents, friends, representatives of organizations, parliamentarians, business people…etc. Through the support of Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung the event was a success!
Hehee…Its amazing how little things can make a big difference. One big lesson for me in this season and from these young leaders is, you don’t need much to do what you love. Simply ignite your passion and start right where you are with what you have. The rest will take care of itself as time passes by.
So today I look back with so much admiration and humility that we were able to spark off something beautiful in very small ways with little means. This small team of girls kept pushing the bar higher and higher, and helped foment what we now have as a fully fledged mentorship program for young women and men.
I therefore, from deep within, take this chance to publicly acknowledge and salute those young girls who believed in the course and approached the learning table with an insatiable quest for knowledge. They taught me the power of love and that of taking small steps one foot after another.
Ladies of Splendor – you are my heroes! You are stars! Mentors and facilitators who were always there to support – Rosemary LoreWaithera Serah GaithoSarah MatindiJoy J Feliz and Christine Gitau, among others, THANK YOU! Ladies of Splendor Go on impacting your spaces and communities in your own small ways. Always remember, you’re special. And today, I celebrate you!