Inspiring a New Generation of Youths: My Story of Empowerment
This post was first published by the Catholic Professionals Archdiocese of Nyeri and re-published here by permission from Samuel Waragu the editor.
As one grows older, various aspects of life become clearer while others become more confusing. Personally as I attained the teen age and especially after primary school, I found myself in a confused state, I was expected to be an adult and at the same time I felt like a child so I had to really find my identity. Luckily my parents had all along been wonderful guardians on matters religion and being actively involved in home chores and responsibilities.
My upbringing involved being able to milk cows as early as class 6 despite there being a farm helper. Although we were five siblings we each had well spelt out duties in shifts: to clean, visit the posho mill, take milk to the collection point, feeding and milking cows and feeding chicken and so much more. We still engage in all these activities when we visit home to date. Being a first born made it even more challenging and more involving, as I was supposed to be my younger sisters’ role model and protector. As the first born my siblings mistakes were my mistakes so I had to always be on the lookout, offer immediate and workable solution to them especially when my parents were not around.
In regard to church, I have grown up seeing my parents lead in church and being staunch Catholics. They have all along encouraged us to participate in church groups which relate to our respective ages. My transition from childhood to youth hood was however emotionally tumultuous. I remember how active I was in Maria Goretti group (present day Pontifical Missionary Childhood – PMC) in dancing, readings, acting among other activities. However, after primary school I was so scared to proceed to the youth group, actually after joining high school, it was practically impossible to continue associating with the children group after Mass. I therefore tried the best I could to leave church very fast after announcements. This earned me a lot of scolding from my parents. I remember my mum telling me to go ahead and join the Catholic Women Association (CWA) or the Catholic Men Association (CMA), if joining the youth group was unfit for me.… I really had a hard time but in form 2, I was able to join the youth group where I became so active and went ahead to become a youth official. We had a parish priest who was really accommodating, supportive and understanding. I still remember how the parish priest managed to positively influence a certain young man back to the christian way. Everybody who knew the young man strongly condemned him for his involvement in minor robberies within the village. The priest engaged him on some tasks within the church compound which greatly changed the young man’s behavior. This move by the priest challenged him to embrace the Church teachings and christian way of life. The Parish Priest was a source of inspiration to us. He gave us an opportunity to grow spiritually and socially. He created a wholesome youth based program. The program comprised of: Mass animation, charity work activities, retreats , hikes , games , talent shows , back to school extravaganza , inter-parish visits and attending national youth mass (I remember visiting Mji wa furaha as the Thika super highway was being constructed which made me admire to be a Nairobian) All these activities helped a great deal. My youth mates during that period are still my good friends today. I still remember the priest’s vocal and pivotal role back then encouraging our parents to enroll their children to tertiary institutions for exposure purposes. The program really paid off as most of them whom we were together then are currently doing well in diverse career fields.
As life progressed, I proceeded to university and here I was again thrown into another different world. I had already heard all sort of stories and stereotypes associated with campus life and here I was to experience it first-hand. A world where you discover so many things, freedom is all over and literally your choices have consequences. It was the one stage of my life I realized that I was on my own in terms of decision to carry on with life in the next four years. By God’s grace I had earlier interacted with so many youths within Nyeri Arch Diocese where one member I had known, linked me with his brother to assist me integrate with the Catholic community within the university. I was lucky. God always has our lives planned. I met the then outgoing University Chaplaincy student chairperson. He really guided me around and helped me feel at ease in joining more church groups within the chaplaincy. This is how I later joined Nyeri-Nyahururu Association which was one of the diocesan groups within the chaplaincy which served as Small Christian Communities. Once again I was introduced to new friends and new ways of life. My faith as a Catholic grew so much within this family. We encouraged each other through the campus life, held Bible studies and a lot of social activities to strengthen our faith. I got friends who have been instrumental and supportive to date. Am proud to say to date we still meet with most members to celebrate various milestones of our lives, encourage and support each other socially and economically.
My greatest joy was breaking a stereotype within our local church that once youths proceeded to tertiary institutions, they disassociated with their local church group which never happened to me and several members from home. We continued interacting with members younger than us and mentored very many of them. Mentorship still happens to date as I am still strongly attached to my local church. While at the university, I found another group within our constituency where we mentored high school students in holistic life to be able to achieve greatness. Coincidentally most members were Catholic students from various institutions within our constituency. As we mentored we were also mentored by those ahead of us in terms of career and business ventures. I was also able to attend several women empowerment trainings and forums which were geared towards community empowerment. This greatly fueled my desire to see life changed, advanced and the same carried on. I became more attached to my home community in terms of charity work, helping needy students secure sponsorship as well as sponsor where I could. I also shared with the needy. I strongly believe that this was influenced by my parents who are cheerful givers; visit our home today and trust me, you’ll not leave empty handed. They believe in power of sharing, however little.
My life and interactions have been greatly influenced by my Catholic faith. Even after joining the corporate world as an ICMICA member, an employee and a self-employed lady and doing the best I can to wade through life, I have carried lessons that I continue to apply in my life and passing them directly and indirectly to those whom I interact with daily.
I have had moments of self-doubt as I transitioned each level of life: from PMC to youth group; from leaving primary school to high school; from high school to college life and to settling down. It’s true the whole journey is to the unknown but I have learnt that attaching yourself to a group that relates to your beliefs is very helpful. This is what helped me a great deal all along. Having the right set of friends also influences how you co-exist with others, the decisions you make and where your feet lead you. The network one creates is actually the net worth. Do you have a reliable friend?
Always remember to appreciate those who positively challenge you as your life progresses. There are people who will either challenge you positively or negatively. Capitalize on the positive challenge. They say the curve of life is normal, both high and low moments. Help and give back to the society whenever you can and most importantly know that everyone under the sun is fighting a battle because no one ever has it figured out, how to tackle it really matters, maintain positive energy all through and take it easy.
Go for what makes you happy and enjoy life as it happens, as long as your conscience is clear and it pleases God.
About Linda Wairimu, the Author: She is a member and a staff of the International Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs (ICMICA), Procurement Officer at BrandWorld Communications Ltd, a business lady and an organic banana farmer. She is passionate about youth mentorship and the girl child agenda. She is from Gititu Local Church, Gititu Parish in the Archdiocese of Nyeri. For Business and Youth Mentorship, you can connect and contact her via LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter