FROM A KENYAN PERSPECTIVE.
Having been born and brought up in Kenya, I felt that the Balloon Kenya programme was the ideal platform for me to give back to the community as well as develop entrepreneurial skills. As I look back now, the programme gave me all that and much more; the chance to interact and work with other fellows from different parts of the world, a week of immeasurable training, 5 weeks working with entrepreneurs in Molo town(one hour away from Nakuru, cold but with warm hearted residents) and Elburgon town. The chance to facilitate training in both English and Kikuyu(a tribal language), the list is endless. With all of this in mind,I can surely say that I have been inspired to engage in social enterprising ventures.
The six weeks were not a bed of roses, there were challenges along the way as well as positive aspects that kept me going. The food varied from Mama Faiths’ kiosk (chapati and ndengu– you should try them!) to steak sandwiches at Gilanis in Nakuru. Molo was much quieter compared to Nakuru and an evening walk from the main matatu stop gave me a chance to engage in conversations with the locals and a chance to buy grilled maize. Sometimes it would rain in the afternoon when we were visiting the entrepreneurs so a rain coat (I now have one thanks to April, one of the Fellows I worked with!) and wellies came in handy. But all these experiences made working with the entrepreneurs worthwhile and at times, humbling. One of the entrepreneurs I worked with was a mobile Mali Mali trader, who would cycle every morning from one rural area to another, selling a wide range of products whatever the weather. His perseverance and hard work was quite inspiring. Each of the entrepreneurs had a uniqueness, a drive, a focus and a desire to succeed in their businesses. I have learnt so much from them and have seen Kenya in a different light.
For those that may want to join the programme next year, here is some advice that you may want to take along:
-Have an open mind then you will enjoy the most of it.
-Getting along well with the other Fellows, especially the ones you are paired with is important. Your entrepreneurs will benefit from this.
-Listen to each other, there might be something you omitted or could do better at, so take feedback from each other positively.
-Respect is very important and it’s two ways. Respect the entrepreneurs/ group that you will be working with and they will do so in return.
-Take time to listen to them and never assume you know everything, you will also learn in the process.
-The entrepreneurs may have a problem with time keeping, don’t take it personal, just reschedule it for another day if possible.
-Challenges will be there and good times as well, building friendship will help ease things, you never know someone else may be going through the same thing.
I consider myself lucky to have had such an amazing experience and am happy to say that it was not in vain to volunteer for BK. I went to Kenya hoping that I would change someone’s’ life, not only did I achieve that but my life has been transformed too.
Written by Christine Gichina, 2013 Fellow