Meet the young man who is making Kenya a better place, one volunteering activity at a time
Not all heroes wear capes to save the world; some just need school uniforms. In Kenya’s impoverished societies – where more than 42% of its 44 million people live below the poverty line and social issues such as alcohol abuse and unemployment abound, one youth is harnessing the power of education to make a change in his society.
Boniface Oluoch Odhiambo is a passionate 21-year-old student Jomo Kenyatta University and volunteer with Heroes for Change, Unilever’s social mobilization volunteer programme. The Heroes for Change programme teaches and empowers college students to contribute to society and create a better future for all Kenyans, with the ultimate goal of reaching 10 million Kenyans by 2020.
Boniface is no stranger to the effects of poverty. Growing up, his parents struggled to cover school fees and feed his ten siblings in his hometown of Nyalenya village in Ugenya, Siaya County. This living situation worsened following his parents’ divorce. Despite doing well academically, his education almost came to a halt in secondary school when he was unable to afford the school fees. It was only through countless appeals from his father that the Principal of Nambale High School finally agreed to admit him without fees.
Through the years, Boniface’s struggle to fund his studies continued, but his determination to pursue his education never wavered. “I always knew that education was the only path which would make a big difference in my life, especially if I wanted to escape the jaws of poverty which has affected my family and the majority of the people in my village. It has the power to unlock opportunities for future success and help me achieve my dreams.”
He added, “These experiences have contributed to my passion for making a difference in my society. Having gone through hardships in life, I know how people feel when they are in similar situations. This drives me to make a positive difference amongst the youth in my society and country.”
Within the first two weeks, Boniface taught children across five schools in Kibera, Nairobi about the importance of washing their hands and face with soap to prevent trachoma, one of the leading causes of preventable blindness. After end of semester exams, Boniface a JKUAT student will be moving to Kitui and Kajiado to educate more kids with the Super School of 5 programmes”
By the end of this six-month programme, Boniface hopes to have encouraged as many students as possible to practice hand and face washing with soap to prevent trachoma. He also plans to form an NGO focusing on youth empowerment programmes, education, and mentorship. The young changemaker said, “Youth is the greatest asset and the engine of any nation. More initiatives should be geared towards addressing the unemployment challenge in Kenya and to harness the potential of our generation,” he explained. “It is my dream to see a country where young people get equal opportunities. Many of them in my village could have made it in life had they been given equal education opportunities to pursue their dreams.”
As a member of the first cohort of the Heroes for Change programme, Boniface hopes to improve his employability skills and preparing him for the job market, with the potential to earn an internship opportunity with Unilever East Africa. Speaking about the program he said, “I encourage people my age to look for opportunities to make a difference in society. Initiatives like Heroes for Change not only allow Kenyan youth to create an impact but also gain skills such as networking and leadership which are crucial for the job market.”