It is their first trip to the Europe for both David and Erik. David Charo Katana is a former AiduFellow and current AiduAlumni who has already achieved amazing things. Erik Ochieno on the other hand is an Aiducator from Nairobi who owns his own web development business and gives lots of his spare time to support the organization in Kenya. The two visitors were guests at the AiduForum 2012 on 29 August and were interviewed by our Aiducator Amelia Meier.
David and Erik with Amelia at our AiduForum at the Technopark Zurich
Aiducation International (AI): Welcome, David and Erik. We are thrilled that you are able to join us here in Zurich! David, you are a former AiduFellow, now an AiduAlumni who has already achieved so much. Tell us about yourself before Aiducation became a part of your life!
David (D): My family is from Kaloleni in Mombasa town Coast Province; this is where I grew up. Kaloleni is a dry area that rarely receives rainfall. I have 3 brothers and 2 sisters, most of them are still living in the area. My family – like most families in that area – practice subsistence farming. My father used to work for Kenya Breweries company, but has been unemployed ever since the company moved away from Kenya.
I went to Boyani primary school and have really always liked going to school, maybe also because it is something I am good at. When it came time to go to Ribe Boys High School my family realized that they would not be able to pay for my fees. In general, education is valued very highly in my family, three of my siblings are also pursuing higher education and have been able to do this. My family cannot however afford all us kids an education.
AI: So how did you hear about Aiducation International?
D: I heard about Aiducation International from Mr.Thoya, a teacher at Ribe
Boys High School where I started going some years ago. Mr Thoya told me about Aiducation and encouraged me to apply for a scholarship. I ended up applying for a scholarship and ended up getting it to my immense pleasure.
AI: Before we hear all about your amazingly successful years since having received this scholarship, I would like to ask Erik, our Aiducator and volunteer in Kenya some questions. Erik, as one of our volunteers you joined the organization with a career already in hand? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
Erik (E): I am a volunteer with the Aiducation International Kenya chapter and also run a Media and Web application development Venture in Nairobi. Beyond that I currently work as a web development consultant with the UN-HABITAT. I live in the capitol Nairobi by myself and am very pleased to be able to represent Aiducation here and be in Switzerland.
AI: What were your reasons for joining Aiducation, what convinced you?
E: My educational past was faced with lots of challenges as well, less because my parents were not able to pay, but due to other family-related issues… my father left my mother when I was very young and refused to pay for my schooling. At one point I no longer attended school, but ended up sitting for the final exam. I passed the final exam, and the principal – having seen my potential – allowed me to go to school without asking for school fees.
To make a long story short, I had no one to help me out with both personal issues and school fees and had to really struggle to make my schooling a success. That is why I know the importance of being helped when it comes to education.
AI: What motivates you to continue working for Aiducation?
E: My past experience and the fact that others who face the same situation may not have the same strength or the will to make it against all odds is the biggest motivation above all. And this coupled with the fact that other colleagues of the organization also give the same dedication with high accountability in the process, honesty, openness and sacrifices. Lastly, seeing people like David succeed is a motivation.
Erik and David in conversation with Forum guests
AI: Erik and David, the two of you are now an integral part of the Aiducation family, and you have both faced very different challenges… Erik, what challenges have you faced in your work?
E: There are many challenges in my everyday work for Aiducation. Naturally we have a constant problem of finding appropriate resources. All of our employees work on a volunteer basis, but traveling around the country to visit schools and keeping in touch with students does cost money as well. Since most donations go directly into school costs this makes us highly transparent, but sometimes causes us to worry as well because we do need a certain amount of funds to keep going.
In addition it is a constant challenge to find good partners in Kenya with whom to work with. And lastly, organizing something like a mentorship academy is something that is a huge challenge. Getting students from all over Kenya to one place is nearly impossible, especially since our trains are not the same like in Switzerland.
AI: The Mentorship Academy incidentally was the first place you two met. What was the academy like for you, David?
D: The mentorship academy was a great place for me to learn and certainly helped me pass my exams. The various speakers were extremely motivating and encouraged me to do well in my exams and study hard. At that academy Erik was one of the people who held a lecture (it was on Information Technology), and I was highly impressed with him. Also, because his life hasn’t always been easy either, I could identify with him.
AI: And Erik, what was your impression of David?
E: As with many of the other students I have met at the Mentorship Academies, David impressed me as a humble and yet intelligent student, I have been to all the mentorship academies from the beginning and was impressed by his quiet but determined attitude towards life. When he came to Nairobi to look for Visa for the first time, I gladly took time off from work to help sort it out, since he is a wonderful person to spend time with.
watch this video of our visit to David’s home in Kenya
AI: David, while the Mentorship Academy must have been quite a highlight of your high school years, there were probably also a lot of challenges you faced. In one of your first reports you wrote “I will work even harder”. Was working harder ever too hard for you, or did you feel pressured?
D: The scholarship was a motivation for me to work harder in my academics, and to be honest after I received the scholarship my life got a lot easier. Before I obtained the scholarship I would regularly get sent home to collect fees and missed quite a bit of school. Once I got a scholarship I really enjoyed having the freedom to focus on my studies.
AI: Well, and you really did focus on your studies, because your results were amazing… tell us about the success you enjoyed!
D: In the exams I managed to become the best student out of 148 students in my class. Beyond that, I also managed to come in first place in my county; I got the best result out of more than 7000 students.
AI: This success even made the evening news, didn’t it? Congratulations!!
D: Thank you very much.
AI: With those amazing results under your belt, what are your plans for the future?
D: I am planning on going to university starting in September of this year (2012) and plan on becoming an engineer. I would like to eventually solve the current problem of too little electricity in my county by helping to use alternate energy sources. At the moment people use firewood to keep their houses lit. I am sure there is a better way that is less harsh on the environment. I would also eventually like to volunteer myself and help bright but needy students to get the quality education I have also enjoyed.
Despite having to deal with lot of restrictions like bad lighting David was able to score amazing marks.
AI: So where do you see yourself in ten years?
D: In ten years I see myself in an even better position than I am now. I expect to study further to the Ph.D level and look forward to studying hard for this.
AI: Erik, how about you, where will you be in ten years?
E: I will continue to work on my own business and look forward to many more years of volunteering for Aiducation Kenya.
AI: Gentlemen, thank you again for being here and for giving us the local perspective. We wish you both a very bright future and look forward to talking to you in ten years!
The interview was conducted by Amelia Meier