We were excited to have our first annual conference in 14 years outside of Nairobi – this year in Eldoret. Many thanks to the on-site organization team, Monicah Nyambura, Noah Kanda, and Lily Mitea, for choosing a perfect venue, the lovely Wagon Wheel Hotel. The first morning of the conference started with a Yoga session to focus, mind, body and spirit. After Breakfast, we heard from Kennedy Githua, a financial advisor and Certified Public Accountant, who took us expertly through several areas of financial management. Mr. Githua is assisting the PATHWAYS Girl Study Project whose aim is to empower mothers and girls through training on income generating activities and financial management so that money is available to pay for girls’ school fees as well as to help with uplifting the entire family and thus community. Auxillia Omwanda, Project Manager, provided an enlightened update on
the status of the project and PATHWAYS scholar Jackline Okello followed with a presentation on lessons learned as her community of Kitale is the first of 10 communities where the study will be carried out. Deb Gust gave a presentation on the urgent issue of climate change using the slides from her training with Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project with a focus on Kenya. Several scholars and Dr. Fred Otieno volunteered to follow-up to learn more about the Kenya Climate Smart initiative and the carbon offset certification program. Relatedly Isaac Obago presented on the United Nations Foundation Global Alliance for clean cookstoves manual, developed to improve health, empower women and protect the environment. Isaac also presented on his experience with d.lights Solar, a company with the goal of facilitating the replacement of polluting kerosene with safe, reliable and clean solar powered light by 2020 to 100 million people in Africa. The highlight of the day was hearing the community project reports from each of the scholars and alumni. That is where the scholars can really shine in their leadership abilities. Of course, there are always challenges, but the good thing is that suggestions were shared and discussion helped find the way forward.
Scholar Coordinator and mentor, Dr. Catherine Kaimenyi, presented on the revised PATHWAYS guidelines and expectations, based on a systems approach, that will increase transparency and accountability and foster integrity. This will increase trust and set a good example for the PATHWAYS scholars and alumni.
The following day we all took a field trip to Kitale where the Girl Project has been running for several months. It was such a positive bonding experience for the scholars to meet as a group with the mothers and daughters in the study and hear from each of the participants. One girl said, “Our ambition as girls and students is to go far. We ask our mothers not to pass the challenges they have had onto us. My thanks to my mom for encouraging me to do well in school. We are grateful to PATHWAYS for the project.” The scholars also had the opportunity to share with the mothers and daughters on their own personal journey from secondary school to where they are now, either still in university or already PATHWAYS alumni out in the world and offer advice to the young girls and mothers.
We are blessed and honored to witness PATHWAYS alumni becoming philanthropists. Last year, Dr. Brian Kilonzi and Dr. Catherine Kabaire donated $200 to PATHWAYS. It was the first such donation received. This year Marilyn Nyabuti and Shelly Okumu, together donated over $100 to support the 2019 annual conference. We are grateful for their generosity and spirit of paying it forward so other scholars can benefit from the PATHWAYS program. Many thanks!
It is noteworthy that so many PATHWAYS alumni attended the 2019 conference. They included Shiella Siambe, Dr. Shelly Okumu, Lily Mitei, Dr. Brian Kilonzi, Ken Otieno, Nafisa Ayuka, Dr. Catherine Kabaire, and Isaac Obago. We are honored to not only have our alumni attend conferences, but also serve as advisors to the PATHWAYS leadership and mentors to the current scholars. We are all looking forward to the 2020 annual meeting, which will be PATHWAYS 15thanniversary, already.