AWEC Alumnae Paying it Forward in Western Kenya

August 12, 2019

Prologue: A Note from AWEC

Back in March 2019, as the first AWEC cohort reached the end of their program year and thought about what was ahead, the AWEC leadership team challenged them to pay it forward. Recently, we were thrilled to learn that our Kenyan alumnae have created a means to support women and children in their communities. This article describes their first activity in Western Kenya. We look forward to seeing more of this from alumnae across the continent as they continue to demonstrate AWEC values in their everyday interactions.

Day 1

It’s 3:45am and we are setting off on a road trip to the Nyanza region in western Kenya. Three alums from AWEC Cohort 1 – Wanjiru Murage (but we call her Ciiro), Mary Munjua, and me, Lois Mbugua – zoomed past old, junky cars along the Nakuru-Nairobi Highway, en route to Siaya and Yala, Anyiko village. 

But how did we get here? At the end of our 12-month experience as members of AWEC, 13 of us got together to create the AWEC Sister Circle Kenya (ASCK) to stay connected, support each other, and hold ourselves accountable. We each contributed Kshs. 1000 per month to fund our group activities and over the next year, we will visit our sisters’ places of work to better understand each others’ businesses, foster deeper connections, and explore business opportunities. But for now, back to the road.

We arrived in Siaya, where AWEC alum Priscilla Obeng had returned home to help her family run the Baraka Learning Center and where she founded Nile Tulip Ltd, an environmental organization that produces charcoal briquettes made out of carbonized biomass. She has grown this company over the past year as a result of her AWEC network and knowledge. Priscilla’s love of plants and her former profession as an interior designer also led her to create an oasis of plants, buzzing bees, and cottage where we spent the night, resting up for another busy day.

Day 2

We met with local women who Priscilla works with and she kicked the day off with a presentation on sustainable development. After visiting the local market, we toured the Baraka Learning Center and planted trees with women from the community in honor of AWEC.

The Kenyan Sisters Planting trees

Day 3

We arrived at our next site, St. Cristabel School – Yala, founded by AWEC alum Zainabu Mohamed, where we enjoyed presentations from the children and Zainabu led a discussion focused on running an academy in the village. Zainabu was one of the leaders behind creating ASCK and she never misses an opportunity to bring people together to learn. After lunch with the students, we planted (more!) trees as a symbol of our hope for the future. 

Pupils at St. Cristabel School – Yala

Day 4

After our second night at Priscilla’s cottage oasis, we were ready to live up to one of AWEC’s values – paying it forward. Mary Munjua led the way, drawing on her experience as a Certified Public Accountant of Kenya to teach the local women about budgeting, spending below their means, saving, and even starting a small business. Sharing her knowledge comes easily to Mary, as she runs Tawami Consulting, a financial and management consulting firm that supports organizations in driving finance and strategy.  

The Kenya sisters circle and local women

Epilogue

Throughout this experience, Ciiro kept us in high spirits and played two critical roles – our steady driver and documenting our first ASCK trip  with her skills as a professional photographer. A graduate of electrical engineering, Ciiro works at the power company in Kenya, but her real passion is in making memories through photography, which is why she started Shiz Photography. She ensured we had beautiful photographs of this trip to compliment our memories.

It is so important for us to focus on education and giving back to our communities. Our next trip will allow me to host ASCK at Loiswell Academy, a school that has steadily grown from a mabati (iron sheets) structure to a storied building. The Academy trains students from Kindergarten to Class 8, running the Kenyan 8-4-4 system and the recently introduced new Competency Based Curriculum (CBC). I can’t wait to share it with my AWEC sisters.

ASCK has hit the ground running with activities that will benefit the communities around them. It is exciting to see how the AWEC network continues to morph into relationships that are making an impact beyond business. What a great start. Long live ASCK, long live AWEC!

Mary Munjua, Lois Mbugua, Priscilla Odeng, Ciiro Murage, and Zainabu Mohamed at Priscilla’s cottage in Siaya.

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