RUKA! is helping Nairobi slum youth out-jump poverty


13103482_1105171729549718_2998072918510628548_nWritten by Titus Kuria, Founder of Paamoja Initiative

I recently bumped into a thought-provoking quote by US First Lady Michelle Obama. She said, “When you’ve worked hard, and done well, and walked through that doorway of opportunity, you do not slam it shut behind you. You reach back and you give other folks the same chances that helped you succeed.”

This quote made me reflect on growing up in Mathare Slums; my struggles; my triumphs; and my hopes. I realised the much I have achieved in my life was because an opportunity was created for me by someone else. However, it doesn’t mean that things just happened. No! I had to grab the chances and somehow make them work.

In late 2012 I had an opportunity to work with JUMP! Foundation; a non-profit social enterprise that uses experiential education to advance a world in which individuals, community leaders, and global citizens realize their passions and potential. A close friend recommended me when JUMP! was planning to do a series of events with International School of Kenya and they did not have a focal point. Everything happened so fast – familiarising with the engaging program one day to running inspiring sessions the following day – but I tried my best to catch up and enjoy the ride.

Over the years I have gone on to facilitate to and inspire young people both in Africa and United Arab Emirates courtesy of JUMP! My organization, PaaMoja Initiative, has also greatly benefited from this partnership. I have learnt a lot on how to keep my team motivated. The people whom I have met through the expansive J! network have inspired me to be a better global citizen.

Another chance smiled on me early last year when I was selected to join the prestigious Amani Institute in Nairobi. I enrolled in the intensive course on Social Innovation Management that took me to 3 distinct parts of the country and saw me sharing a class for 5 months with talented leaders from more than 10 parts of the world. It was as if the world was brought to my doorstep literally. The program was anchored on the Amani Social Innovation Framework (ASIF). ASIF has 8 components to it; burning, sensing, questioning, associating, idea generation, experimenting, idea networking and impacting.

While I have experimented with bits and pieces of the framework unwittingly in my line of work before, I realised that I was struggling with one aspect – impacting. Even though through my work – with Canada-Mathare Education Trust, PaaMoja and other initiatives – I have helped transform a number of young people’s lives in the last decade or so, I realised that there was still more to do; youth from slums, albeit decently educated, are vastly unemployed. They are still sitting in their ‘bases’ (hang out spots) all day discussing what other people are doing or not doing for that matter.

Amani helped me to learn more about my passion – helping young people achieve their greatest potential – and how I can use minimal resources to keep the youth active and create huge impact. The tools I acquired including, design thinking, coaching, pitching, and story-telling amongst others have greatly helped me to bring RUKA! Youth Leadership Conference 2016 to life.

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The conference targeting youth aged between 18-25 years from Nairobi slums, takes place on 17-18 June in Mathare, Nairobi, Kenya. It combines design thinking, open-space methodology and rights-based approach by creating the infrastructure to cultivate and support young change-makers in their journey to tackle the toughest challenges in their personal lives and communities.
RUKA! channels these efforts by facilitating knowledge-sharing through open space conference model and catalysing youth innovation for social entrepreneurship and sustainable development by providing access to mentors and capital they need to start their venture. We hope to help youth create 4 new social enterprises from the 2-day event.

The youth-centred conference allows me to reach back and give other folks from Nairobi slums the same chances that helped me to out-jump poverty. RUKA! is honoured to have Roshan Paul, CEO and co-founder of Amani Institute as the key note speaker.

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