Interview: Kerstin Hockmann, Communications Aiducation International. Edited by Simona Cushman.
The Swissair Staff Foundation has been supporting Aiducation with almost 100 scholarships since 2009. One of these students is Joseph, a passionate young Kenyan who finished High School with excellent grades in 2011. Joseph recently completed his university degree in Community Health and Development and he is working on a Women’s Empowerment Program. Joseph is passionate about sustainable development and impacting the lives of others.
Joseph, can you please tell us about your family and yourself? Where were you born, how did you grow up?
I was born on March 5th 1993 in a family with three elder brothers and one elder sister in Mptwapa, Coastal area, Kenya. My family moved to Malindi in 2001 where we lived with my grandfather after my dad was transferred to an agricultural research center in Malindi. My grandfather wasn’t educated but he advocated for education and described it as the best investment. My father was educated through subsistence farming and fishing which he used to do during school holidays. My parents had the task to educate my father’s young siblings and us, and I grew up in a rural poor village called Kakuyuni where I walked approximately 2km to primary school. With my grandfather’s and parents‘ advice I found friends in school who also focused on education through teamwork and this helped us focus despite our many societal obstacles. I used to help my Mum in small scale vegetable farming to provide for school fees for myself and siblings. My elder brother and sister were educated through church and community fundraising coupled with selling vegetables from the farm and my parents taking out bank loans. During my O-level education I used to be sent home for fees and I would plea with the school accountant to get a few days extension on our overdue payments. Sometimes I would sneak into class or for meals. Then one day an Aiducation International scholarship came to my rescue.
How did you find out about Aiducation? Tell us about what you did when you heard that you received a scholarship from Aiducation?
I was in Form Three and I was losing hope for my chances to finish my secondary education due high financial constraints in our family. One early morning I was called in to the school accountant alongside with other students to apply for the Aiducation International scholarship. On Friday morning, I thought I was being called to the school accountant to be sent home for not paying my fees and surprisingly the accountant’s clerk told me to brush away my tears because I received a scholarship. The school clerk gave me the invitation to attend an Aiducation International meeting that next morning in Watamu.
News of the scholarship brought celebration for my family and deep relief for me. I felt like I had been handed the most important tool to work for my future and it centralized my focus to honor the opportunity.
Looking back at your time at High School, how did the Aiducation scholarship change your life?
Besides giving me a chance to complete my O-level education, the scholarship built my courage through mentorship and networking which helped me realize more of my potential.
I finished my O-level education in 2011 and I graduated with a B+ at Malindi High School. With this top score, I was able to join university and I studied Community Health and Development at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology in Kenya. I graduated in June 2016. I had chosen that course because I am passionate to influence and bring about positive change in the well-being of people in less fortunate areas through health education, health promotion and disease prevention. Having not qualified to study medicine, I discovered that community health would give me a better chance to research and offer preventive health programs in the society to make Kenya and the world a better place.
Joseph at the graduation pavillion.
And how did Aiducation influence the way you look at the world now?
Aiducation helped me view the world as a result of what we live it for. We have a unique ability to make a better world for us and future generations. I believe in living my life for a positive impact for other lives. A life of impact lived today sets the pace for other lives in the future.
Joseph with his parents after his graduation.
What was the most memorable experience you had with Aiducation?
Mentorship academies, building on realization of self, enhancing teamwork and public speaking. The Start-up Academy gave me an entrepreneurial mind and a new challenge to think entrepreneurial. It furthermore exposed me to various aspects to develop and grow – having grown in a local village I had one mode of thinking. I strongly believe in networking for growth and learning for execution.
What are you doing now?
I am currently on a six month internship contract at Caris Foundation, Kenya. I serve as a community facilitator in training and activities to empower women and young orphaned youth.
As part of my internship, I am responsible to organize training and activities within our Women Empowerment Program. Our empowerment program is based on the Self Help Group (SHG) concept where women learn about financial saving and small loans to help themselves out of poverty. Our key focus areas are on financial saving to create a small pool of resources, spiritual training to build hope and faith, life skills training, literacy, health education and self-promotion. Women groups are formed targeting the poor and we visit each group on a weekly basis for facilitation. Currently, a key gap is adult literacy for the women in these groups, as well as their ongoing health needs or other interventions.
At local level, I participate in Rotaract volunteer activities and I volunteer with my primary school study team to mentor other students in my village.
Joseph during Rotaract community service activity at Muthiga childrens‘ home.
Is there anything else you want to share with Aiducation or your AiduMaker SwissAir?
My sincere appreciation for offering me a NOBLE opportunity to achieve my dreams. I am motivated to dream big, work smarter to succeed and have a life that impacts other lives. I believe and pray for the continuity of this spirit to make Kenya a better place and the opportunity for many more youngsters to achieve their dreams and live their life for others.
We thank you, Joseph. You are a role model for our young AiduFellows and have really used the opportunities the scholarship has provided you. We wish you all the best for your future and hope we will stay in touch.