Voluntary work has never been interesting and also being part of any initiative that does not bring anything in return (moneywise) seems time well wasted, but wait a minute, what does one gain from volunteering?
Well, the story of one Ms. Sheila Awuor, a final year student from the Food Science Department in JKUAT Main Campus will change your perspective on how you view any kind of voluntary job or initiative you have come across.
Ms. Awuor has bagged the prestigious Mandela Washington Fellowship 2017. The program is a flagship project of the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) and was initiated by the former President of the USA His Excellency Barack Hussein Obama. Jabulani Youths for Transformation (JAY4T) is an initiative she began after her high school in 2012 with few of her friends back at home in Kisumu, has earned her this prestigious award. The initiative was started solely to help the less fortunate in their region in children homes.
Ms. Awuor’s area of specialization in the fellowship will be in Public Management at Howard University, located in Washington DC.
The JKUAT Alumni and International Students Office (ALISO) is glad to be part of this success story as one of its mandate is to encourage and facilitate student exchange programs. ALISO is also glad to have her Director Dr. Churchill Saoke who is also an Alumnus of Mandela Washington Fellow (2015).
Below is Ms. Sheila Awuor Story;-
Who is Ms. Sheila Awuor in a nutshell
I am a student at JKUAT. My course is BSc. Food Science and Technology. I am in my final year of study and in my final semester too.
How you got to know about the Mandela Washington Fellowship
I came to know about the Mandela Washington fellowship through facebook because YALI has a Facebook page where they post information concerning the initiative. Their social media platform is used to enlighten the population about the various challenges that each African country faces, there are also former MWF fellows who share their experiences about the fellowship here. So, I subscribed and got regular communication from them, I started by doing the online courses they offered in their website and completed some of them. I specifically got to know about the MWF program through a friend who told me to send it out to my friends who met the requirements as specified. I read the requirements, although I didn’t seem to meet the age requirement, I went ahead and filled the form, wrote all the essays and then submitted, after all, I thought to myself, I had nothing to lose by trying.
What makes you special from other qualified MWF fellows in 2017?
What makes me stand out as I was told is, I got selected at a really young age, younger than most participants (21yrs) it’s something that I still haven’t been able to comprehend till now because most selected fellows I have had a chance to interact with are between the ages of (24 – 35 yrs).
The other thing is, the plan we have for the initiative because we have currently been able to develop a five year strategic plan to help us achieve our goals and the core Vision of the initiative. We are however restructuring to enable each one of us give their very best so as to reach out to as many children as we can afford to.
One can also get more information by following the YALI facebook page (Young African Leaders Initiative Network) and their twitter handle @YALInetwork
What is the nature of your initiative? In addition, how does it help the society?
Nature of Jabulani initiative – An initiative geared towards transforming the future of our country by focusing majorly on transforming the mindset of young children so that by the time they are grown up, they already have a positive outlook of situations and they know how to deal with each one appropriately. We also help to mentor Orphaned kids who are being raised up in children homes, this is as a result of noting that these children especially those in Government owned homes have little or no guidance concerning life skills and or handy skills that may help them survive once they are released from these homes. Our target group ranges from the ages of (6- 18yrs).
What inspired you to do the Children’s home
Growing up, I never knew that there was such a distinct difference between the classes in our country namely; the lower class and the upper class. The first time I came face to face with people lacking basic needs and children forced to stay hungry in school because their parent could not afford to pay for their lunch, I vowed to help in any way I could, so I would share anything I had with these children including choosing to go hungry on some occasions. I later realized that this was not offering a long term solution to the problem we were facing and therefore after brainstorming and consulting my friends. We decided to put in our time to volunteer and use this opportunity to talk to and to teach the young children and teenagers we came across to develop their skills and talents so that they would use them in future aside from their academic achievements to improve and better their livelihoods. We also noted the negative aspects that these children picked from some adults in terms of perception towards life and all. We therefore saw it fit to not only equip them with handy skills but also life skills such as the effect their words have on their fellow children and how their attitudes can be a deterrent to them achieving their future goals. We therefore also focus on things like embracing diversity especially in terms of tribal differences because this is one of the major ailments our country Kenya faces, we also teach them about corruption, it’s effects and how to choose not to be corrupt. After several visits to various children’s homes we were working with, an idea popped up and stuck and the idea is what we refer to today as JABULANI YOUTHS 4 TRANSFORMATION.
What benefits does one get from being a Mandela Fellow?
The benefits of being part of the YALI program are more than one can think of with the primary ones being, unlimited access to resources at the Regional Leadership Centres, a lot of networking opportunities with people from all over Africa and America and access to training, support and donations from other Partners.
What is your life’s principle or philosophy you live by?
Always be the best version of me, because this way, I am able to fully utilize my potential, hence giving back the world the best I can afford to.
Words of advice/encouragement to anyone doing any pro bono/volunteer job/initiatives
Give your best in volunteering and or the initiative you have without expecting anything in return. The joy of watching your influence transform the lives of several young people is better than anything you will ever get, You will have the satisfaction knowing that our Country is taking shape because of the many combined little efforts everyone is making across board.
What motivates you in life?
My motivation is that, we are not yet there as a community, society or country until we reach the level in which citizens can relax knowing our country has reached its maximum potential. This is in terms of raising up a generation that will stick to the betterment and investing in children so as to secure the future, I will not stop.
Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years?
In five years time I hope to have reached so many children that we as Jabulani Youths 4 Transformation would not need any introduction especially to the citizens of our country Kenya. (because we are currently based in Kisumu town).
Jabulani’s social media handles
Facebook : Jabulani Youths for Transformation – JAY4T
Follow us: @JKUATAlumni & @JKUATALISO
~ Kigen Evans K.