Elly who hails from Asembo, Siaya County never met his father. As a young adult, he inquired about his whereabouts but was told that he died. His mother unfortunately passed on when he was just five years old. He remembers her vaguely.
“I remember her last moments when she was hospitalized,” he says. “I remember the days we would go to visit her in the hospital - my aunt and I. I recall our journey to Nairobi from the village. I was a young boy then, very young, but I remember fragments of this. My memory of her is limited to how long she spent in the hospital and how occasionally I would go to visit her.”
His mother passed on and he - the only child - was taken in by his aunt - the mother’s sister. A single mother, the aunt would sell mitumba (second hand) clothes at the Gikomba market, one of the largest markets, to sustain them. “Thankfully, in 2002 when I was in class three, the free primary education policy by the government came to pass so the school fees burden was lifted.”
Elly attended Heshima Primary School in Shauri Moyo, Nairobi County from 1999 to 2006 scoring 364 marks in his Kenya Certificate of Primary Education which earned him an admission to attend Aquinas High School from 2007 to 2010.
Elly was a member of Scars to Stars Foundation during his high school years, an organization that deals with young adult orphans. It is through the Scars to Stars Foundation he learnt of KCDF.
“Scars to Stars Foundation was more of a support group when I joined,” he says. “What we basically try to do is link up with other organizations and government institutions that have opportunities, so once you’re in the program and they know more about you and your need, they’ll try to address that need. When I was linked to GGBC through KCDF I got a scholarship to attend university.”
The process provides girls and boys through the window of opportunity (woo) from disadvantaged backgrounds, many of them orphans, the opportunity to acquire quality education, life skills, work readiness exposure, mentorship and financial support to escape the cycle of poverty and empower the recipients in giving back to their societies. The programme has supported over 700 girls and 28 boys.
It was a much welcome reprieve, getting a scholarship as he was at odds ends with school fees after finishing high school. His aunt wasn’t in a position to pay for his fees as her income from her business was not enough and they were living from hand to mouth. He did some odd jobs to get by before joining the Technical University of Kenya in 2012.
“I enrolled for a diploma course in Environmental Resource Management. It was a three-year course from September 2012 to April 2015. I finally graduated in December 2015.”
With some savings at hand, Elly went to driving school and got a driving license. He is now looking around for an opportunity to further his studies. He appreciates how far he has come and the hurdles he has had to jump over. “Yes, it’s been God’s work. Actually, what I promised myself when I got the scholarship is that I’ll just give it my best because it was more of a second chance that God gave me.”
He says he hasn’t had mentors so far but rather people he looks up to. In church there is a gentleman who mentors him. “You can call it a silent mentorship because he may never know that I look at him as a mentor. But I look up to him and I emulate what he does.”
GGBC has also instilled in him life’s lessons through the life skills workshops that they often conduct. “What has been the most useful to me? Financial literacy workshop, through it I have been enlightened on how to save and do some small business that earns something. After campus, I got to pursue elementary driving which I sponsored myself through. So, it was something that I had planned for. The workshop has also taught me to monitor my expenditure.“
Elly admits that he’s at a much better place in his life now. He has a better shot at life. “I would like to basically grow my career. I have studied Environmental Resource Management but I want to also be dynamic and open minded and that the course that I did in college is just an opening to the job market out here. I would like to deal with matters of climate change, agriculture and environmental issues.”
GGBC has built his confidence. “I count myself lucky to be among the few young men benefiting from this program that was ideally designed for girls.” He says. “In college, I didn’t consider myself lower than other students from better backgrounds, the program raised my self-esteem.”
What does he want to give back? “I’m actually giving back at the organization that helped me secure an education - The Scars to Stars Foundation - I’m also keen on mentorship. I’m doing it in different platforms under the MENTENDA (Men Taking Action) Initiative. I’m mentoring the young adult orphaned boys. My presence inspires them; I give them hope, I tell them that if I can do it so can they. I’m more of a mentor because I think I lacked it for some bit of time and I’ve seen myself struggle to discover some of these things.”
MENTENDA is an initiative run by KCDF is a mentorship and role modeling initiative bringing various partners to nurture and mentor young men positively and is inspiring the society to move from inertness to action on the pressing challenges facing the boy child in Kenya.