Impact Stories & Blogs
Our team share their insights and perspectives on the impact our program is having on youth in East and Central Africa.
By Maureen Muketha, Kenya
I grew up in a semi-arid area, very infamous for leading cases of malnutrition in Kenya; food was always scarce, disease and poverty were prevalent, women and children were the hardest hit. This experience nurtured an innate desire to fight malnutrition and develop a solution to ensure future generations would have access to healthy food. I started by enrolling for a course in Human Nutrition and Dietetics for my undergraduate degree. By the time I was done with my four year course, I had a deeper conviction of the path I had chosen and a heightened confidence that I would develop a lasting solution to the problems around malnutrition in my home country.
Between April and August 2015, I volunteered at Kenyatta National Hospital in the pediatric department where I taught young cancer patients how to color and I would also narrate Bible stories to them while helping them draw life lessons from the stories. It was such a joy whenever I saw a child’s face brighten up despite the pain they were going through. This put my vision into perspective; that I would kill the malnutrition monster with one blow, was never a certainty; but I knew for sure that in even small ways, I would not only conquer but influence more people to join my course, and together, malnutrition would linger only as dark memories.
At this point in my life, I had all the desire and will to impact on my society and a myriad of ideas on how I dreamt of the impact being, but I just did not know how to begin. I needed information and empowerment from someone or a school that knew better. Before I could get so lost in tears of worry and despair, a friend I knew while volunteering at the hospital told me of the opportunity availed by the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI). At that moment, I knew my moment of glory had come; this was an opportunity I did not want to lose. Luckily, I was accepted into the YALI Regional Leadership Center East Africa program after my first application.
With YALI came a renewed Maureen, I could see myself transform into a more magnificent being each day of the program.
Some of my YALI highlights include a session on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Habit number 4 (seek to understand, then be understood) particularly stood out for me and since then, I practice listening to people around me with an intent of understanding them and trying to see things from their point of view without necessarily having to reply, convince or manipulate.
Design Thinking class made a significant impact in my leadership journey. It is through this class that I got insights on doing market research to avoid coming up with community solutions that the target group do not appreciate.
With this knowledge, I was able to establish Tule Vyema, a Community Based Organization that works to raise awareness on proper dieting practices in marginalized communities with an aim to eliminating the rate of malnutrition cases.
The organization’s focus is on SDG 2; eliminating hunger and malnutrition. I do this by conducting nutritional education talks so as to make community members more conscious of their eating habits. In addition, Tule Vyema also teaches hand-washing skills and deworms children up to the age of 12 years.
Over 300 school-going children from two schools have benefitted from the Tule Vyema deworming program with Ruiru Primary School being the most recent beneficiary.
In 2017, Tule Vyema was awarded a grant from Global Change Makers that has supported young women of reproductive age (20-30 years) to cultivate varieties of indigenous vegetables that are high in nutrients such as iron, a nutrient of concern among this age group. This is a step towards contributing to uptake of balanced diet in many households.
Looking back, I owe my success and the impact I have in the society to my experience at the YALI RLC East Africa. The Center believed in my ability and potential to impact and when I could not chew well enough, it weaned me into the strong authentic leader that I am today. It taught me to lead from inside of me, to appreciate diversity and to keep focus of my dreams, no matter how crazy. I am now confident of being able to turn any idea into a workable solution, thanks to the enriching and transformative training the program offers.
My ambition is to become a leading policy maker in areas of food security and to run projects that contribute to healthy eating in many communities in Kenya and Africa.
If you want to reach Maureen, kindly email her at email@example.com
Photo provided by Maureen Muketha.