23 year old Vera Oreti understands too well what American politician, John C. Crosby, meant when he quipped thus, “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.”
Being the first born in a poor single-parent family, Vera had only her mother and teachers to look up to and the Global Give Back Circle would not have come at a better time.
“When Linda Lockhart visited our school to introduce the programme, I was certain that it was something I wanted to associate myself with. I needed a mentor in my life,” she says, noting that she was lucky to be among the first 10 girls to join the programme that has seen her life change for the better since she was a Form Two student at Starehe Girls High School.
Vera says that having several mentors in her life has seen her grow into an astute lady having excelled in her studies with a bright career path ahead.
“I have been able to open up and discuss a lot of issues with my mentors at every stage of my life. We talk about relationships, finances and career options that I can venture in. Every direction I have taken in my life is as a result of the advice that came from the mentors in my life,” Vera says, disclosing that she communicates with her mentors almost on a daily basis.
"When we were in high school our interaction with the mentors was limited to letters but since then, this has improved tremendously due to the power of technology as we can now send emails and even chat on various social media platforms," she adds.
Vera, who graduated from the University of Nairobi with a Bachelor of Economics Degree last year says the financial literacy workshops offered through the programme equipped her with financial skills that enabled her spend her money prudently both when she was in campus as well in her current internship at KPMG. She says it is important for one to prioritize her needs and that savings should be the first thing someone plans for before thinking of how to spend the remaining money.
“We used to get Ksh30, 000 for upkeep and a loan from the Higher Education Loans Board. This was too much money for a person like me who came from a fairly disadvantaged family. Through the financial literacy lessons, I was better placed to plan and invest prudently instead of leading a flashy lifestyle as some my colleagues in the campus did,” she says.
Vera is a member of an investment club, Sky Ventures, which allows her to save KSh1000 per month which they keep in an account with Old Mutual. She has also saved money in her personal account and is supporting her family with the little savings she was able to save as well her internship allowance.
Vera says being part of the Circle has helped her appreciate the need to give back to the community, noting that one need not be wealthy to make a contribution to other people's lives. She is part of an environmental initiative dubbed, A Deeper look into the Ecosystem (ADE). Project ADE actively works with community-based organizations and the local authority to organize regular weekend clean-up sessions in Kasarani. The group also organize regular education programs for high school students on the topic of waste management and environmental awareness which champions for a clean environment by giving talks to students in schools.
"We realised that doing clean-ups in the neighbourhoods did not make a profound difference so we decided to go to schools to talk to young people on why it is important to keep their surrounding environment clean," says Vera about the initiative they are piloting in schools in Githurai 45 and nearby estates.
This past year, ADE launched its first ‘Clean Kenya’ campaign, utilizing social media to empower youth to be the voice for better management systems in Kenya. As they continue to mobilize more students, ADE hopes to lead the charge in initiating sustainable waste disposal systems in low-income residential areas throughout Nairobi, while providing employment opportunities for adolescents in the waste management sector. To date, ADE’s commitment has impacted over 250 students and community members.
Vera is also involved in a mentorship programme at Kakenya Centre of Excellence (KCE) where she is mentoring a girl and helping link up others to a network of mentors. The KCE Mentorship Programme empowers, motivates and mentors young girls at CNN Hero’s, Dr. Kakenya Ntaiya, Centre of Excellence in Enoosaen. Under her leadership together with other girls, 18 Global Give Back Circle beneficiaries, now benefactors, were recruited and trained as mentors to the girls at the centre.
''These are young girls rescued from early marriages and other forms of childhood abuses and we want them to go school and have bright lives in future," she says.
Vera who is working with consultancy firm, KPMG, as a Risk Consultant hopes to pursue her career at the global stage by working for an institution like World Bank in future.
About Global Give Back Circle
The Global Give Back Circle is a once-tiny Clinton Global Initiative Commitment that has blossomed into the largest gender-based tertiary education and mentoring program for at-risk girls in Kenya through a Give Back Process propelled by the Kenya Community Development Foundation, USAID Kenya, a compassionate private sector, a devoted local community, mentors and the girls themselves.
The ‘Circle’ is designed for sustainability as beneficiaries learn how to become benefactors through the registration of annual Give Back Commitments that guide them on how to drive positive change and create measurable impact in their communities. Seven years of commitment-making has embedded a powerful Give Back Ethos among the girls, now young women, in the ‘Circle.’ They are making a significant impact in their communities and throughout Kenya.