A week before I attended RUKA! 2019, I kept asking myself, ‘This little light of mine, how will I make it shine?’. I was just done with college and exploring possible career paths that would help me be the person I always hoped I would be – one who lights up the way for others. Like most of us, I have intrinsically desired to be part of something – something that creates lasting impact. RUKA! proved to be a doorway to unlimited possibilities!

I first came across the application appeal for RUKA! 2019 on social media. I got a bit apprehensive – another youth conference, in Mathare; another NGO’s plan to take pictures of the poverty stricken slum youths and write reports to their donors, for more funding! No thank you! A friend of mine later shared the application link and I talked to them about it. They had helped facilitate RUKA! 2016 and felt I could benefit from the conference. I applied. 

RUKA! the two-day youth leadership conference, aimed at catalyzing youth innovation for social entrepreneurship and sustainable development, proved to be among the most amazing and impactful conferences I have attended. I categorically appreciated the experiential mode of teaching used. Weeks on, after the conference, I am able to remember and apply what I learnt because I was actively involved. I was really motivated to see the 2016 participants now engaged as junior facilitators and doing such an amazing job. I also enjoyed working with fellow participants and sharing in their experiences and ideas. 

RUKA! 2019, through facilitated knowledge sharing, taught us, among other things; priority setting, social entrepreneurship, communication, leadership styles and design thinking. We also got an opportunity to visit different social benefit organizations in our community, Mathare. This gave life to the things we were learning. My group visited Billian Leadership and Resource Centre, an organization that is impacting the Mathare youth through talent and championing for academic excellence. The experience was invaluable because it challenged my previously held belief; that we never have enough resources to create the impact we dream of. As I got to learn, from the organizations founder, Billian Ojiwa, ‘we can never claim lack of resources, we may only talk of them being limited. We therefore must learn to innovate around the available resources to achieve our desired aim’.

The apex of the conference was the social innovation challenge. Where we, the participants, formed teams of between four to seven members to come up with social benefit projects, competing for project seed funding. This proved to be the most challenging yet most exciting exercise in those two days. 

From the onset, we had been given the powers to choose who to work with and what to work on. I formed part of a great team that would later make the winners of the competition. Our project focused on creating access to information and resources to the youths in Nairobi’s slums. We hope to ensure that the average youth in a slum has at their disposal all the necessary information and resources to not only survive through life, but to thrive! The project is to be anchored on partnerships with other youth-focused organizations and initiatives – essentially coming together for greater impact. 

Looking forward, after RUKA!, I have a clearer glimpse of the path ahead. I am challenged to be more in touch with the challenges in my community and to strive to be part of the solution – now all the more that I am readily equipped. As a social innovator, I shall work towards sustainable development, because I am a change-maker – making change that will last! 

written by: Agnes Mutethya
RUKA! Leadership Program 2019 participant

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