YES Programs



YES Alumni Develop Youth Leaders in Kenya

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by Brian Bright (YES 2011-2012, Kenya, hosted by PAX in Cheboygan, MI)

The YES program celebrating its 15th anniversary is a significant accomplishment. It translates to long bridges of peace, love and tolerance that have been built by the thousands of YES alumni, host families and communities over the years. Celebrating the huge impact of the YES Program on all of us is therefore of importance to us and we had to do it big! This year also marked the 10th anniversary of YES in Kenya; even more reason to celebrate.

YES alumni have been instrumental in passing the message of peace and intercultural learning across the community but we felt that there was still more to be done. Kenya, being a multi-ethnic country (we have 43 ethnic tribes), is faced with a significant amount of inter-ethnic and inter-cultural clashes, hate and intolerance. While incidences of inter-ethnic violence has declined in recent years, it is still there. As recently as last year, Christian and Muslim students at a high school in Nairobi were involved in a clash, leading to some being injured and an indefinite closure of the school. This is a sad state of affairs, especially coming from the younger generation. We therefore saw the need to design a program that would reflect the mission and goals of YES here at home, and enable us to use the skills and knowledge we gained on program and as alumni. After writing a proposal, we received YES alumni funds to carry out the project: a YES domestic exchange program, “Transforming Leaders through Global Education.” The program was organized and led by YES alumni and AFS/YES Kenya staff, spearheaded by alumnus Brian Bright (2011-12).

Goal Setting Session
Alumnus leading goal-setting session

The program, which took place August 5-12, was a week-long intercultural program for thirty high school students from across Kenya. The students were drawn from 10 regions and were selected through a rigorous process. They were then invited to Nairobi to take part in this short, yet impactful program. The program kicked off with a welcome reception to celebrate the 15th Anniversary of YES with YES alumni, AFS Kenya Staff, volunteers, YES 2018-19 students, parents of YES & YES alumni as well as other stakeholders, such as school teachers, who have made it possible to run YES in Kenya. It was a full house, filled with conversations and testimonials from YES alumni of how much the program has impacted their lives.

Group Session Athman Leading
AFS Kenya Director Athman Lali Omar welcomes students

The domestic exchange participants were then treated to an intense week of learning. They were invited to a reception at the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, where they learned about the Commission’s mandate to spread peace in the country and enhance inter-ethnic tolerance. They were also introduced to Amani (Peace) clubs, which are an initiative of the Commission in various high schools in Kenya. The students were provided with toolkits for starting Amani clubs and encouraged to launch them in their own schools when school resumes in September. The students had the honor of meeting and hearing from the Chief Executive Officer of the Commission, as well as the Chairman of the Commission’s Board, who is a former Speaker of Parliament.

Natl Cohesion And Integration Commisssion Minister
Students at the National Cohesion and Integration Commission

In collaboration with the US Embassy in Nairobi, the alumni then held a panel discussion to discuss the theme “Transforming Leaders through Global Education”. The panelists were drawn from a pool of other State Alumni of programs such as Fulbright and the Mandela Washington Fellowship, most of whom are career individuals thriving in their various fields. We had a great conversation moderated by YES alumna Ms. Christine Odera (2010-11).  In attendance was the Alumni Coordinator at the US Embassy as well as the Public Policy Specialist from the Public Affairs Section of the Embassy. The students learnt a great deal from the panelists, as evidenced by their well-thought questions at the end of the discussion, and their eagerness to network with the panelists.

The program week also included leadership, volunteer development and project management training facilitated by YES alumni and AFS Kenya volunteer trainers. The sessions included: Who is a Leader – designed to demonstrate leadership qualities and traits and facilitated by AFS Kenya volunteer Ms. Ruth Owuor; goal setting strategies – facilitated by YES alumnus Benjamin Mumasi (2014-15); and Effective Communication Skills. As part of this session, the students listed what they thought were barriers to good communication and working together came up with solutions. The session on volunteerism, led by YES alumnus Amos Leyian (2009-10), introduced the students to the world of volunteering and its benefits. They were also given tons of examples of where and how to volunteer. YES alumnus Brian Bright, who had previously attended a YES alumni Social Entrepreneur “Changemakers” Workshop, used the skills he gained to lead a session on project development and implementation. The session was intended to prepare students to start projects when they returned to their own communities. Alumnus Ibrahim Mohamed (2009-10) guided the students through a session on “elevator pitches” – how to pitch ideas to prospective donors or partners in a very short amount of time.

Session Open

Other sessions addressed the theme of conflict resolution with sessions on building religious tolerance among youth and “Facing our Biases”—which aimed to help students become more aware of biases and stereotypes that exist in the community and how to overcome them.

Another highlight of the week was the community service day, when the students put their volunteerism lesson to practice by volunteering at a community project. The students visited Familia ya Ufariji, Al-Nisa Institute (both orphanages) and Garden of Hope Education Centre. There, they took part in cleaning exercises, preparing lunch for the kids, playing games with them and helping them with their school work. If their words are anything to go by, they had a great time at the projects! Students ended each day with fun, interactive team-building activities to relax after a day of workshops. As a follow-on activity, the students are expected to volunteer in a community project or start one of their own under supervision of YES alumni and volunteers in their local chapters.

YES Alumni, AFS YES Kenya staff and volunteers have been instrumental in implementing this program. Special mentions go to Genevieve Mohamed (2008-09), Khadijah Hussein (2008-09), Ibrahim Mohamed (2009-10), Amos Leyian (2009-10), Christine Odera (2010-11), Anne Ndegwa (2010-11), Chandni Khan (2010-11, AFS Kenya Social Media), Lawrence Wambugu (2012-13), John Laton (2012-13), Timothy Munene (2013-14), Laban Musungu (2013-14), Benjamin Mumasi (201-4-15), Sandra Kibet (2014-15), Becky Abonyo (2016-17), Pamela Makini(2016-17). And thank you to the US Embassy Nairobi and the US State Department!

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