As I think about what it means to “have sustainable impact” I wonder about the future of the communities we have worked with if Asante Africa Foundation were no longer in the equation. On my recent in-country trip to Kenya and Tanzania, one of my biggest ah-has was learning about the amazing work that has been independently initiated by our young graduates and students in their own communities.
One such example is the story of Sylviah Tikani. Sylviah graduated last year from high school with reasonably strong academic scores, an impressive accomplishment because 4 years ago she couldn’t afford to even pay the school fees required to go to school. While she works on making money to eventually go to university to become a teacher, she has decided to volunteer at a nearby, deeply rural primary school –Ole Pariata Primary, teaching math, science and Kiswahili.
Last December, Sylviah attended the Leadership Incubator Program along with 85 other young people from extreme rural villages and townships in Kenya and Tanzania. For one week these youth are brought together in a fun, collaborative, supportive learning environment to acquire essential life skills and innovative problem solving methods. Workshops and activities led by local educators focus on a comprehensive approach to create personal awareness, encourage confidence and cultivate growth in participants. Students learned how to create a plan of action to achieve their dreams and how to start ‘paying it forward” to their own communities. Additionally, the Leadership Incubator Program encourages past participants to return as youth facilitators, trainers and home group leaders to coach and inspire the “newbies”.
While in Kenya, a community leader asked us if we were aware of the Leadership Incubator Program that Sylviah had conducted for young girls (from 5th grade to 8th grade) in her home community. Surprised, we admitted that we were not aware but were excited to learn more.
We discovered that Sylviah had come home from the Leadership Incubator Program and gathered all the girls of her age as well as her friends and pitched the idea of a Leadership Incubator for girls. The girls proceeded to learn the material and became organizers and co-facilitators of the workshop. Then Sylviah approached her uncle and several community leaders to ask for their help. They agreed to provide meals and overnight stays for the two-day event. Meanwhile, Sylviah had gathered 65 young girls from the surrounding areas for the first annual Nchaishi Young Women’s Leadership Training.
When asked what she taught – Sylviah explained firstly that every young girl needed a dream so when things get tough they had something to keep their eyes and minds on. Secondly, she taught the girls to know and respect their bodies. She explained to the participants about how girls’ bodies develop and how to take care of themselves, she taught them what drugs were and why they were bad, how to seek out help if the girls are being pressured about sex, and how to resist early marriage and female circumcision. Sylviah was teaching them what she had learned at the Leadership Incubator Program.
As I listened to her story, I was in awe of this young woman who returned to her community to share her knowledge. More importantly she had taken the tools shared with her and utilized them in a way that effectively and positively impacted others in a way that respects their culture.
Sylviah was one of 6 encouraging stories we “accidently” discovered on this last trip. As we extend a hand to help students, they are claiming their leadership roles and extending a hand back to help others and be a positive force in their communities. It makes me wonder how many others we aren’t aware of.
So when I think about sustainability and impact, I think we might have a secret weapon in the Leadership Incubator Program (2011 Leadership Video)
Join us on this journey and be a part of creating the next generation of “Sylviah’s”. We have 7 more days to have our contributions doubled. Every contribution, of all sizes, matters.