In August 2011 we wrote about Johnston (Blog August 2011): “He will spend the next 2 years at the Aga Khan and then take up his place at a Kenyan University in 2013 (unless he gets a scholarship to a university overseas in the mean time – it wouldn’t surprise us!).”
And here we are; Johnston is studying in Canada. After being accepted at Agakhan and on completion he got an offer to study commerce at the Sauder School of Business at UBC (University of British Columbia) in Vancouver, with a full scholarship from the MasterCard Foundation. He studies B.Com, specializing in Business Technology Management and Accounting. Let’s hear from him on how he is doing on the other side of the world.
How does a typical day in your life look like?
I get up at 7am, eat breakfast and by 8:30 am, I am in class. I usually have between two to three classes in a day at different times. I use the breaks between class to study, complete assignments or group projects. However sometimes my days are busier since recently I have been working as a Sales representative for a telecommunications company. That income assists me to cover personal expenses and partly I support my family too.
Have you experienced a ‘culture shock’ when you went to Canada? What were the challenges and how have you overcome them?
People here appear to be very friendly and sweet at the beginning. Sometimes it was hard to tell if someone likes you or that they’re just being nice.
Another thing is that people here are obsessed about living healthy. They eat a lot of vegetables, they hate red meat and exercise a lot. Strange enough they put cheese in almost everything they eat. Also, most foods are either too sweet or too salty. After making friends and living here for a while, these things are now normal.
What are the main learning points when living in a different culture?
To always have an open mind and make meaningful relationships with as many people as possible
What do you miss most about Kenya?
My family, friends and the food. Living in Canada has kept me away from my friends in Kenya, and although I’ve settled down, it is becoming harder and harder to stay up to date with what is going on with friends as I used to. Ugali is still my favorite and I can’t have it over here.
What is your best memory with Kesho?
There are lots of great moments from Kesho, it’s kind of hard to pick one. Maybe when Lemic and I were practicing for interviews and trying to improvise answers on the spot. I remember Mack, Beatrice and Ambrose would always tell when we were not sure of what to say, and then everyone would start laughing and the whole experience was just so much fun. Also, it was the moment when I got so much encouragement and support to believe in myself, and I think that process gave me the confidence and mental strength to push forward in tough times. I had always been a pessimist, but that process gave me a completely different perspective on life. Now I look at challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles.
What kind of advice would you give children and youth from Kilifi County?
To work hard and make the best of every opportunity available. Above all, have fun at every moment in life.
What kind of advise would you give Kesho?
To keep looking for more opportunities outside of Kenya for students. Living and studying in a different continent or country provides a very unique experience that cannot be obtained anywhere in one’s home country.
What are your plans after you finish university?
I plan to work here in Canada for about two years, and then go back to school to do an MBA. Afterwards, I would like to come back to Kenya and work there.
Johnston, thank you for this interview. It was good to hear from you and that you are doing well. All the best and let’s keep in touch.
“It builds their confidence”
Meet Faith and Isaac.
Faith and Isaac have volunteered in the Kesho Literacy Programme for quite a while now. Apart from assisting in various Kesho activities, it is also a great opportunity for them to gain work experience and brilliant way of spending their gap year.
This is what they had to say after concluding term 2 reading activities:
“I have volunteered in the Reading Programme for one term so far but I have seen lots of progress among the children who we engage in one-on-one reading sessions. The book clubs that we run gives them a platform to speak in front of others and it builds their confidence. Through the regular interactions with the children, they gain trust in us and sometimes they share personal information, and this is where we come in to advice and counsel or refer them for help.” (Faith)
Faith during peer educator workshop
“I have been volunteering in the Literacy Programme for more than a year. The one-on-one reading sessions give a very good understanding of a child’s reading ability and how it relates to comprehending of classroom instructions. This helps us to flag children who need extra support in terms of comprehension strategies and individual tutoring. When we meet along the streets, the children never hesitate to shout ‘teacher Isaac’. It is rewarding to support children to become competent passionate readers.” (Isaac)
Isaac assisting with home visits
Faith and Isaac are part of Kesho alumni; they graduated from high school in 2015 and 2014 respectively. Faith will be joining college to study Community Development and Social work while Isaac will join a Teacher’s College.
Book club session
We thank them for their great work and wish them all the best in their studies!
Volunteers who assist in the Literacy Programme are taken through training on sight words, phonics, high frequency works as well as how to write good compositions. That gives them the technical background of the reading sessions as well as conducting the book clubs.
We would like to share Jumwa’s story with you. It is an inspiring and touching story about a woman, who took her life into her hands, manages to sustain her family to the best of her ability and continues to hope for a better tomorrow.
Perception is truly deceiving, for one has to cut through the illusion to know what is the reality. When seeing Jumwa in a crowd she might not be the one to be noticed first but after talking to her in person, her strength and determination is almost visible. Though not possibly not being born like that but the path her life took made her the woman she is today.
Married off at such a tender age as a child to an old man she gave birth to her first child at the age of 15; six more children followed. Her husband was not able to provide for the family or pay for school fees and left nothing behind after he died and sadly living in these hard times, families rarely offer assistance. She then asked for assistance at Kiwandani School where her children learn and they suggested she contacts Kesho Organization. According to Jumwa that was a turning point in her life and she felt as if life had given her a second chance.
She used to do casual work (e.g. washing clothes) where she would earn KES 100 and tried to save as little as KES 20 per day. The challenge in her pursuit for employment was that she was unable to be with her children who wereall alone and did not get food. At that point in time she had managed to save about KES 2,500. When she got the chance to rent a small Kiosk she did not hesitate and used all her savings to pay rent and got somelittle stock to sell. She started by selling potatoes; later on she added bananas and tomatoes. Nowadays she buys stock in bulk in Mombasa. She’s extended the Kiosk by constructing a small outside area where she cooks and sells porridge and fried fish and has added a number of other products (coconut, charcoal to name a few) to her product range. This is a pure reminder of how one should never let adversities of life keep them down.
With the income of her business she is able to provide for her family and pay school fees for the children who are not supported by Kesho. And she still has many plans; she wants to continue expanding her business and would like to buy a piece of land.
Since 2014 Jumwa is also a member at Soyosoyo Cluster group in Kiwandani. Though she is an active member but does not engage in table banking since she feels that she is a good saver herself; what she surely has proven to be. However the group and the guidance of the Kesho Assistant Child Protection Officer have given her encouragement and support, which she appreciates a lot.
And to bring that beautiful story to an end we want to listen to Jumwa’s advice to other women: “Be innovative, empower yourself don’t wait for people to help. You have to get out of the house and do something”.
Kesho had a meeting with the key stakeholders so as to screen the Malala documentary and thereafter have a discussion; with the purpose of identifying key issues affecting Girl Child Education in Kilifi County. “Their participation and contribution was satisfying and remarkable,” said one of the volunteers who had taken the participants through the discussion session.
The stakeholders present in the meeting represented different organisations and departments that have a direct impact towards the education sector in Kilifi County. The Chief Educational officer was represented as well as ; Moving the goalpost, MEDA, The Supreme council, SCOPE Kilifi, Girl Child Foundation, Upendo Orphans support project and MEWA.
One of the stakeholders said that time had come for Kilifi residents to stop lamenting about their challenges and step out to bring change in our society. “Let us create awareness about the importance of education, let us do it over and over again until it becomes something familiar to everyone. This will make everyone value education just as they value their own lives.”
To highlight key responses;
We have been making decisions for the girl child and sometimes we fail to involve them and give them a chance to express themselves. It is important if we give them the opportunity to speak up and give their opinions towards education.”
In as much as we try to solve the problems we face in the education sector there are certain perceptions and practices that pull us back. Those in authority should focus on being responsible and work hand in hand to support our children in the education sector. The society should also do away with misleading practices and perception in order to achieve our goals as a society.”
From the meeting, KESHO also managed to get ideas of initiatives and other strategies that could be employed to create awareness on the Girl Child Education. “Apart from the MALALA documentary that is only screened in schools and villages that have electricity we can come up with a play that has a similar theme and perform in the rural parts of our County.” “We could also have a slogan that will be used to create awareness among the youth as well as students this will help them to have in mind the value of education.” Another suggestion was to use the experiences of successful youth as a way of inspiring others.