International Leadership Institute Orchestrates Support

April 3, 2015: Based on it long-standing partnership with Womankind-Kenya (WOKIKE), the Minneapolis-based International Leadership Institute (ILI) has begun to mobilize support and assistance for this most vital organization.  A brief overview of the collaboration between ILI and WOKIKE can be found here:

The depth and breadth of WOKIKE’s positive impact in Northeast Kenya is evident in the initiatives described and illustrated on its web site:

If you are on Facebook, please consider posting words of support, etc. here:

The images of people holding signs “#WeAreOne” and “#Garissa2015” convey the recurrent theme of the many email messages that I’ve been copied on as a member of ILI’s global network.

People of all backgrounds and faiths are sending prayers and asking how they can help.

The next few posts will answer the question of how we can help and also share some of the messages being sent to Sophia, Hubbie, Abdullahi and others at in Garissa and throughout Kenya.


Attack on Garissa University Campus

April 3, 2015: I am posting this update as the quickest way to respond to inquiries from friends, family members, and colleagues who have been awaiting news about the safety and welfare of the staff and student/residents at Womankind Kenya.

The Honorable Sophia Abdi Noor, whom you can read about in other stories posted on this blog, sent me this message this message this morning:

“It is with heavy heart that I inform you about the human tragedy our County of Garissa experienced on April 2, 2015 at the hands of terrorists. The site for our girls’ rescue center borders the campus of the university that came under attack. Most of the bullets were dropping in our compound. It is by the grace of God that these stray bullets didn’t hit any of our girls. This may be due to the fact that we had them take cover under their beds the whole day as the exchange of gunfire continued. Our quick and decisive interventions saved the day and thank God we were able to evacuate the girls to safe  abode.  When the guns went silent, however, they were traumatized  and panic stricken after having to sleep on their bellies the whole day without food and water. We shall, for now, hold these girls in the temporary shelter before returning them to the Center and pray they get quick recovery from the shock.”

I have asked Sophia to forward additional, useful information for me to post here as it becomes available.

Powerpoint Slide Show

Hi Everyone.  As promised, I’ve posted the digital slides I prepared for our group debriefing to this blog.  You can find a hotlink to the PowerPoint slide show at the end of the list on the “Resources” page.  I’ll post more information as plans for the cultural exchanges I mentioned progress.

Nairobi and Womankind Pages

I’ve added some photos with captions to the Womankind-Kenya and Nairobi pages of this blog.

Ijara and Eastleigh Photos

In response to several requests, I have posted additional images from the Ijara District of Kenya and from the Eastleigh Neighborhood of Nairobi to the “Photos” page of this blog. 

I’ve also added a “Womankind-Kenya” page where I will post more information after I complete the report for my fellowship program. 

I am awaiting permission to publish photos from four sites I visited while in Nairobi.  In the meantime I’ll post an image I took of a Nakumatt store as a placeholder for this new page.  Thank you for your email messages, phone calls, and blog comments.

Photographing History as It Was Made

“Promulgation” isn’t a word I run across very often. 

Whenever I read it or hear it in the future, however, I will recall the opportunity I had to photograph Members of Parliament on “Promulgation Day” as they took their oaths of office under Kenya’s New Constitution, which was approved via a nationwide referendum on August 4, 2010.

I left Garissa shortly after 4 a.m. on the morning of August 27, 2010 after learning the night before that David Mugonyi, media officer for the Kenyan Parliament, had granted my request for a press pass to attend the official swearing-in ceremony in the Parliament House’s historic main chamber. 

The public festivities that preceded this were well underway in Uruhu Park by the time we reached the outskirts of Nairobi.  (See hotlink to media coverage for those on the Resources page of this blog).

Since that section of the City had been secured, we watched and listened to the speeches by President Kibaki, Prime Minister Odinga, Vice President Musyoka and others on television before heading toward the main block of federal government buildings downtown.  The roads were filled with people smiling, laughing, dancing, and celebrating.  I learned later that there were similar celebrations in the towns and cities across Kenya.  The optimism and joy were palpable.

I hadn’t realized the Kenyan President, Prime Minister, and Vice President will continue to be Members of Parliament through the elections of 2012 until they arrived at the door of the Parliamentary Chamber and were admitted to be formally sworn in, too, so that was a pleasant surprise.

After interviewing people in the Ijara District and documenting the positive progress community-based organizations, nongovernmental organizations, and public officials have made there, the most exciting moment for me came when The Honorable Sophia Abdi Noor, M.P.  took the new oath of office.

Sophia co-founded Womankind-Kenya, has been a human rights activist and advocate since the early 1990s, and has represented the Ijara District in the Kenyan Parliament since 2008. 

She worked tirelessly with many others to achieve constitutional reform, serving as a member of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Constitutional Review and traveling to all but one of Kenya’s provinces to speak and answer questions in the months leading up to the National Referendum.

Youth Agenda Northern Kenya

While at Womankind-Kenya’s complex in the town of Garissa, I met with the founders of this community-based organization, Jumali Abdirahim Yussuf and Abdirizak Ismail Shetkh.   

A few years ago, they decided to do something positive to address “the blanket of hopelessness covering youth” in their home town.  Already marginalized for ethnic and religious reasons, the youth felt further pushed to the periphery by customs that give the authority for making decisions to the elders of a family or community.

As the number of kids and young adults hanging around “Jobless Corner” in Garissa increased, Jumali and Abdirizak knew they had to first get the kids off the street and help them to feel better about themselves and their future.  Then they could help connect them with the information, training, and resources they’d need to find jobs.

Once YANK officially became registered as a community-based organization in Kenya, its leaders formed a sports league that was accepted as a member of Football Kenya Limited (FKL – Based on YANK’s accomplishments, which include organizing and registering over 20 sports clubs, FKL invited to Abdirizak to join its governance board.  He currently serves as Secretary General of FKL’s Garissa Branch and coordinates sports activities and tournaments throughout this area.

YANK’s leaders didn’t let the fact that funding organizations were wary of lending money to youth stand in their way.  They used what they called a “merry-go-round” approach (a.k.a. “passing-the-hat”) to raise funds and purchase Playstation software and equipment that would help them generate steady income.

When local youth visit YANK’s location and pay to play computer games, they can learn about the guest lecturers YANK invites to speak about issues such as drug addiction.  YANK also hosts presentations by experts, such as a representative from the Ministry of Youth who provided advice on how youth could form groups around an income-generating project, write a work plan, and submit a proposal to win start-up funding from the Kenyan government.

YANK also played a pivotal role in getting out the vote for Kenya’s New Constitution.  Its leaders received assistance from Womankind-Kenya and Kenya’s Ministry of Youth Affairs so they could obtain civic education training. Then, equipped with information and copies of the proposed Constitution, they returned home and camped in markets, in front of mosques, and other community gathering hubs where they could distribute the materials citizens needed to make informed decisions.  They also gave speeches and answered questions. Garissa County had the highest approval rate for the New Constituion in Kenya – 95%. 

YANK continues to try new strategies for quickly and broadly disseminating useful information.  For example, every Monday, Jumali appears on KTN Television’s “Be the Judge” program.  I’ve included a hotlink to a web site that describes this series on the Resources page of this blog.

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