RUKA! Inspires Youth in Nairobi to Shape Their Destiny

Did you know that in Swahili “ruka” means JUMP? Titus Kuria, the founder of Paamoja Initiative and a J! Facilitator,  worked with us at the “RUKA!” Leadership Conference, shared his reflections with us:

I am yet to recover from such an extremely inspiring, empowering, and engaging RUKA! Youth Leadership Conference 2016. I remember vividly the words of our keynote speaker, Roshan Paul, who stated, “What is your mindset? It’s the difference between the present and the future; the difference between a leader and a follower. How do you want to see your world?”

That powerful statement set the tone for the 2-day conference which followed a series of powerful pre-conference workshops that took us to 6 Nairobi slums – Kariobangi, Githurai, Dagoretti, Kibera, Mukuru and Mathare.

The final decision on viable proposals ended with “Community Bridge” as the overall winner. While Community Bridge is a great idea with a lot of potential to help young people access seed funding for new projects and connect them with mentors, the project that came in second really touched my heart and is a project that I would like to see come to fruition: “Positive Ghetto”

“Positive Ghetto” aims to help the authorities and the communities stop fighting. The authority-community war has seen many young men succumb to trigger-happy police who are never brought to justice because the judicial process is tedious and expensive.

This is a challenge that affects almost all underserved communities in Nairobi. These young men—full of talent and potential—are shot down simply because they are accused of snatching, pick-pocketing, or other minor offenses. This project seeks to create a platform where the authorities and the people can have meaningful dialogue that can decrease police harassment as well as change the negative attitude of young people towards the service.

The other reason that this concept really resonated is the fact that on the eve of RUKA!, 9 young men were gunned down in different parts of Mathare. The fallen brothers were 18 to 25 years old, the same age bracket we were targeting for the conference. They did not deserve to die that young. Some of the friends of the deceased who attended the conference were stressed out and shocked by the reality of never seeing their friends again.

Oddly enough, I was both concerned and optimistic. My optimism came from 60 young people from different underserved areas of Nairobi discussing my concern: how they can tackle this issue and other challenges that continue to ravage our communities,

The beauty of the conference is that even though Positive Ghetto did not receive the conference grant, one of the judges was as inspired by the proposal as I was and decided to help the team make their project a reality. So now we wait for both Community Bridge and Positive Ghetto to come alive.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank all who volunteered their time in different capacities to make this experience a success. Sincere gratitude to The JUMP! Foundation and Business for Better Society for believing in our vision and supporting it whole-heartedly. Lastly, is to thank my organizing committee: Silvia Muturi, Nashon Luvohwa, Jesse Jacktone, Agatha Macharia & Jonathan Wasonga for helping to bring this dream into reality

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