The energy level at the 2021 PW conference was even higher and the tone even sweeter than usual given that the 2020 annual conference was cancelled due to the pandemic. We were happy to be together and realized we have much to be grateful for this year. To name a few things, we are grateful for our health, the vibrant and dedicated leadership from Dr. Catherine Kaimenyi, Monicah Nyambura, and Dr. Fred Otieno, the enthusiastic current scholars, and last but not least, our loyal alumni.
The conference started Friday evening with a special presentation to the current scholars by Dr. Patrick Nyagah. Dr. Nyagah heads the Transformation Thinking Center. He says, “Transformative thinking is a realization that the future belongs to those who refuse to live on the diet of yesterday. Success in life requires that we always review our thoughts and beliefs and adjust our choices to fit the demands of today.” Dr. Nyagah is not only providing counseling and guidance to our scholars, he is also bringing new ideas and transformative thinking skills to the mothers and daughters in the PATHWAYS Girl Effect Study Project which aims to empower mothers to earn enough income to support their daughters in school. The expectation is that the next generation of girls will stay in school, go on to further their education, delay marriage and childbirth, avoid HIV infection, and ultimately give back to the community. Moreover, we expect the mothers to be more financially stable and more able to support their families. The study is in its third year with three more to go.
The following day was full of exciting information. After an opening prayer, Monicah Nyambura presented a detailed history of the last 16 years of PATHWAYS to give a jumping off point. Dr. Nyagah gave all of us a review of important factors to balance to assure good mental health and a good life (e.g. spirituality, family, finances), Dr. Kaimenyi presented on the importance of mentorship, Dr. Gust offered information on the opportunities coming with solutions to climate change, new scholar Denis James recited a poem honoring the opportunities PATHWAYS gives youth, Auxilla Omwanda, the community lead for the Girl Effect Study, presented preliminary data from the 10 communities which showed that the girls in the intervention were performing better than the girls in the control group. We also were happy to recognize Dennis James and Moses Nyambura for their outstanding communication with a certificate and monetary award.
Towards the end of the day, the alumni present came forward to offer some insights and wisdom to the scholars. One of the many words of wisdom came from Levis Maina, who implored scholars to not give up and revealed that while he has had many successes, he has had failures too, among them being fired. Other alumni present were Jackline Okello, Sharon Langi, Michael Murigi, Nafisa Ayuka, Eric Lemungesi, and Alphonce Oginga (and his lovely wife Fiona). We were read kind notes of regrets from the following: Hussein Mohammed, Dr Brian Maluki, Justus Lelenguya , Eunita Akinyi, Dr Catherine Kabaire, Dennis Mutwiri, Jemima Kanini, and Dr. Shelly Okumu. Special thanks to Eric for volunteering to be Master of Ceremonies. We ended the day discussing alumni and the future of PATHWAYS.
After breakfast on Sunday morning, our entire group hit the streets of Nairobi to walk to the Girl Effect Study Kibera site. There we heard from the mothers regarding how they thought the study was going. What they were the most happy with were the transformative thinking skills given them by Dr. Nyagah, the National Insurance card given as part of the study, and their improved relationship with their daughters (this was echoed at other Girl Effect study sites). A very good conference weekend. This quote from Wangari Mathai seems fitting with PATHWAYS current focus on community development and the environment, “Today we are faced with a challenge that calls for a shift in our thinking, so that humanity stops threatening its life-support system. We are called to assist the Earth to heal her wounds and in the process heal our own – indeed to embrace the whole of creation in all its diversity, beauty and wonder. Recognizing that sustainable development, democracy and peace are indivisible is an idea whose time has come.”