Change your life and your community

"I was born and brought up in Soweto, one of the largest slums in the Eastlands of Nairobi. Growing up was not easy as I had to face the challenges of poverty, drugs, prostitution, HIV/AIDS and violent crimes.

Poverty

"I was brought up by my grandmother who had to struggle with poverty and work hard to feed me and my four uncles. She struggled to pay my fees through primary school where I worked hard and did well in my final national exams.

"Due to financial difficulties I could not join a national secondary school and so I went to St Justino Secondary School. St Justino School was founded by the Catholic Church to help bright students from this needy community get their secondary education which they would not get elsewhere due to financial difficulties.

A great opportunity

"In the year 2000 when I joined secondary school the Award had just been introduced to St Justino Secondary as part of the Special Projects initiative, and I became interested in it. I pursued all the Sections of the Bronze Award except for the Adventurous Journey, since my grandmother was not so secure to let me spend a night out. It was not until August of 2003 that I got the chance to do my Bronze expedition and in October of the same year I got my Bronze Award.

"While pursuing the Silver Award I had to encounter cynicism and scepticism from a family that had no confidence or could not see how important the Award was. It was hard to convince everyone but soon my grandmother was to leave the city and settle permanently in her rural home. With this there was some amount of independence and I could freely pursue the other levels: Silver and Gold. I achieved the Gold Award in 2006 just a year after completing secondary school.

Extending the Award to others

"I avoided idleness by volunteering and offering community service to The President’s Award headquarters in Kenya. I helped in managing the store and delivering letters to schools through which I helped in extending the reach of the Award. My interaction with staff at The President’s Award gave me a lot of inspiration. I saw in them a passionate commitment to help the young people in a country like mine who are faced by enormous challenges. This raised my interest in the Award even more.

"I was later to be trained as an expedition’s assessor for The President’s Award and embarked on volunteering as an instructor and an assessor for schools in Nairobi.

"In May of this year I was nominated after a competitive process as a youth delegate for Kenya to his year’s International Gold Event (IGE) in Mauritius. I joined four other Gold Award holders to that spectacular event where I had the opportunity to interact with Gold Award holders from other countries. It was an experience of a lifetime and I will forever cherish the memories of every moment of it.

Africa's youth representative

"But that was not enough or nearly as big as being elected as one of Africa’s youth representatives to the International Award Association's International Council. It is an opportunity that is almost unbelievable but it happened to me.

"I am humbled by this opportunity and look forward to inspiring more young people in my neighbourhood and make them see the importance of the Award and the role it plays in transforming lives. I am a first hand witness to problems encountered by young people in our world today: challenges of identity crisis, difficulties in choosing careers, drugs and prostitution. Young people in our universities today are faced with all these issues. The Award helps young people to appreciate that there are challenges facing them and equips them with skills to cope with these challenges.

"Who would have believed that with my background today I would represent a whole continent to a council chaired by His Royal Highness The Earl of Wessex? I see mine only as humble beginnings and believe the Award still has a lot more in store for me.

An Award ambassador

"As a volunteer for the Award programme in Kenya I have become a role model to so many young people. The Award also gives me a sense of self fulfillment. I get little allowances from schools only as a token of appreciation whenever I do training and assessment for them. With this I am able to pay my transport to college and support my family too at times.

"I thank the Kenyan Award for their dedicated support to me and their daily endeavours to assist and transform the lives of young people in Kenya. Every day I go to the Award office I feel like I am going home.

"I challenge people all over the world to try, try, try out the Award; it will definitely make a change in your life and that of your community - take it from me!"

Olunga, Kenya