Providing Safe Spaces for Youth to Grow

Kenyans have hopes and dreams for the future; for its children, neighbouring countries, and the global community. These aspirations rest on the shoulders of the youngest generation. August 12, 2018 marks the 18th celebration of the U.N.’s annual International Youth Day with this year’s theme being ‘Safe Spaces for Youth’. This awareness day is a unique opportunity to reflect on youth’s challenges and to celebrate and support the world’s future leaders.

The features of settings where young people spend their time have been found to decisively impact on a young person’s development. The provision of a safe space is thus an essential component of effective community youth programs in health promotion that aim to enhance positive youth development. Peer programs such as the ones run by the Alfred Polo Foundation aim to create a safe, supportive and experiential learning environment for youth.

However, the concept of a safe space can mean different things for youth:

  • For young people lacking social skills, a safe space is somewhere they can learn and practice new skills and receive constructive feedback.
  • For young people who may be subject to bullying, abuse, harassment or negative and unsupportive peer and adult influences, a safe space equates to a type of refuge where they can be assured of physical and psychological safety.
  • For young people who are fearful of accessing mainstream support services, e.g. a school counselor, a safe space is somewhere they can access information and support without fear of being judged or having to face the consequences of disclosure. This fear may be based on their own or others’ negative experiences or inaccurate perceptions and beliefs of what they may encounter.

Safe Spaces include community dialogues, local meetings, workshops, and any forum for expanding viewpoints and encouraging vocalization. These settings both stimulate civic engagement and provide feedback to authorities. For Kenya, some of these opportunities have arisen from recent reforms attempting to resolve the same issues youth identified. One such initiative is devolution, increasing regional and local authority, affording more chances for community and youth engagement.

These kinds of improvements, along with methods such as participatory development – the identification and implementation of projects that directly address community identified needs – enable youth to be empowered. Youth benefit from remaining involved, active, and vocal in their communities, and in turn, governance systems can better support youth.

The celebration and promulgation of Safe Spaces for youth in Kenya and beyond is crucial in supporting what the world needs to ensure flourishing future generations.

CNN Hero 2018 Nomination

The Alfred Polo Foundation was founded by Mr. Alfred Polo in 2011; who also serves as the foundation’s executive director. The main reason he founded this was to focus on human rights, children and youth rehabilitation, youth mentoring, youth economic empowerment, environment preservation and poverty eradication in Kenya. To that end, Alfred Polo Foundation has carried out activities in schools, universities and youth community based organisations to promote and nurture leadership skills among young people. Other activities include; preservation of the environment through tree planting, wildlife endangerment and protection training for communities in wildlife habitats, streets cleaning activities, sports and competitions that promote human rights and peace, reduce violence and remove boredom and idleness among the youth.

Mr. Alfred Polo has also been very keen on enhancing career guidance and counselling amongst the youth as a way of helping them re-discover their talents early and identify which suitable careers to pursue. This is done through partnership with other organisations and stakeholders, which include involvement of other outstanding personalities, celebrities and volunteers of diverse cultural backgrounds.

It is in light of this that we ask you to support us by nominating our founder, Mr. Alfred Polo, as a 2018 CNN Hero. Not only is he a hero and mentor, he is also wonderful individual who commits himself effortlessly – his heart, his soul, and his time to our youth.

The link for nominating is http://edition.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/2018/nominations/

Enter the nominee details as follows:
First name: Alfred
Last name: Polo
City: Nairobi
Country: Kenya
Email address: apolo[at]alfredpolo[dot]com

For accomplishments and impact, you will find all out work on this link http://www.alfredpolo.com/blog/news/

Do not hesitate to contact us for any clarifications.

Launch of Water Tank at Mirogi Boys Secondary School

Youth empowerment can be done in many ways; and one of the ways that the Alfred Polo Foundation decided to do this was by improving the water situation at Mirogi Boys Secondary School.

During our previous visit to the school, read about this visit here, we made a number of pledges to the school and one of the pledges was to donate KSh. 50,000 to the school’s ICT program. After thorough consultations with the school, it was decided that the money be used to purchase a water tank. This is because water was a more crucial priority.

The launch date was set for 30th June and the APF team set out to grace the event. Also present at the event was the school’s board, principal and teaching staff. The students had organised a number of entertainment activities including: dances, skits, singing among others. The entertainment side of the event showed just how talented and all-rounded the students are; in addition to focusing on academics they also are able to take part in extra-curricular activities.

Following the entertainment, speeches were given by the APF team and the school board members. Focus was giving on discipline, academics and the students were encouraged to pursue their talents such as music, drama etc. With this, the event proceeded to the dormitory area where the water tank and taps have been set up and launched to much pomp and glory.

View photos from this event here https://www.facebook.com/pg/AlfredPoloFoundation/photos/?tab=album&album_id=964134700414524

Alfred Polo Foundation Visits Homa Bay Schools

On 9th March, 2018 we made a trip to Homa Bay county for a series of events. Among our entourage were two of our guest speakers: Carine Umutoniwase, Executive Director at Footprints For Change, and Ken Ogolla, a career administrator from the University of Nairobi.

First on our stop was Manga Primary School where we had scheduled to speak to the pupils in classes 6, 7 and 8. We were received by the school’s principal and after introductions to the teaching staff and student body we commenced the day’s activities.

Being young minds, our team had to be especially descriptive to ensure the message was well received and understood by all the pupils. After the talks, an interesting Q&A (Question & Answer) session was done and the team was quite impressed with how mature and smart the pupils were. Pledges made at Manga Primary School were:

  1. Support the staff trip financially (Accomplished)
  2. Notebooks and pens for the teachers (Accomplished)
  3. Football kit (Accomplished)
  4. Computer and printer for the school (Accomplished)
  5. Kiswahili story books (Accomplished)
  6. Full secondary school uniform for those that will get 400 marks and above in the 2018 KCPE examinations (Pending)

Shortly thereafter, we proceeded to Manga Secondary School which is right adjacent to the primary school. Here a more lengthy discussion was held that focused on peace, discipline matters and careers. The students were reminded that secondary school was just a short phase in their lifespan but that it would greatly determine how their futures would turn out. At the end of the discussion the students promised to adhere to school rules and regulations to avoid cases of indiscipline; they also promised to focus on excelling in their academic work in readiness for their KCSE examinations.

The following day, 10th March 2018, the APF team embarked on two more visits. The first being Mirogi Boys Secondary school. This was an especially important visit being that 3 of the foundation’s team members (Alfred Polo, Maurice Okello, and Sunday Ochieng) studied here.

The themes focused on peace, discipline and career. Madam Carine took over the peace and discipline discussions as she presented major points on a slideshow. Her discussion was meant to encourage the students at Mirogi not to engage in acts that might deter the peace in their school, home region or even the country itself. Acts such as incitement by politicians generally affect the youth as they’re more vulnerable; the 1994 Rwanda genocide was used as a point of reference for this.

Mr Ken Ogolla then took over for the career discussions. The students were reminded that their secondary school education and subsequent KCSE results would be crucial in determining what career paths they will end up on. Students were also asked to identify their strong areas and weak areas in order to be able to make the right choice when choosing a career path.

The session ended after an interactive Q&A session with the APF team and the two guest speakers. Students promised to improve on discipline; the APF team also made pledges to the school. One being that they would be donating KSh. 50,000 to improve ICT facilities in the school (this money was eventually used to buy a water tank for the school as it was of higher priority), secondly was a pledge made to one of the students who would get a full school uniform. The school’s headboy was gifted with new mattress, as were most students who were awarded pens and notebooks.

The final leg of the Homa Bay visit was in St. Elizabeth Koyoo Mixed Secondary School. Here the team had a hearty lunch with the school principal and staff before the forum with the students started. Theme points for this forum focused on discipline and careers. The APF team was delighted to be informed that discipline levels at the school had improved tremendously ever since our last visit to the school. The pledges made here were:

  1. Tablet to be given to be purchased and gifted to the principal (Accomplished)
  2. School uniforms for some of the students (Accomplished)
  3. Monitor students who previously had cases of indiscipline and reward them for upholding discipline (Continous)
  4. Award and celebrate with the school if at least 8 students manage to get into university after the 2018 KCSE examinations (Pending)

This final session concluded this rewarding visit to Homa Bay by the Alfred Polo Foundation. The team looks forward to having more additional forums in other counties.

View pictures from the visits here:

  1. Manga Primary School – https://www.facebook.com/pg/AlfredPoloFoundation/photos/?tab=album&album_id=898046140356714
  2. Manga Secondary School – https://www.facebook.com/pg/AlfredPoloFoundation/photos/?tab=album&album_id=898060160355312
  3. Mirogi Boys Secondary School – https://www.facebook.com/pg/AlfredPoloFoundation/photos/?tab=album&album_id=898064550354873
  4. St. Elizabeth Koyoo Mixed Secondary School – https://www.facebook.com/pg/AlfredPoloFoundation/photos/?tab=album&album_id=898069093687752

Empowering The Girl Child: A Challenge For Us All

When we empower girls, everybody benefits. Girls who are educated, healthy and free can transform their communities and pass on the benefits to their children, and to their children’s children. Yet the reality is that women are still treated as second-class citizens of this world; girls are almost completely ignored. Girls have no status, no protection and no prospects in many families and communities – and this is simply the way things are. Inequality is so entrenched that it isn’t even questioned.

That is why today, the International Day of the Girl, marks an important step. The importance of investing in girls is increasingly understood among policy-makers. Kenya is already doing good work, focusing specifically on girls’ education and economic independence, preventing violence against girls and women, preventing forced early marriages, preventing Female Genital Mutilation, and supporting safe childbirth.

Yet there is still much progress to be made.

When we look at some of the important areas where we can work towards the empowerment of the girl child, education stands as top priority. If international conferences on empowerment of girls are anything to go by, education is by far the most critical of aspects to be examined. While we take Kenya as our primary example, the truth is in fact widespread internationally. Of the children not attending school, girls seem to be in higher numbers than boys. This naturally translates to a higher number of women being illiterate, compared to men.

Providing girls with basic education is a simple assurance of giving them greater personal power and independence. They will be able to make better choices for themselves than depend on those around them for the same. This ability must not be a luxury for them but rather a necessity.

Going by just the fact that we will have happy and healthy women with such a move should be motivation enough for us to promote girl’s education. If we look at the bigger picture, an educated woman may also contribute to society in several ways with her skills and confidence. Her efficiency as a parent, worker and a citizen of her country are greatly improved.

Educated girls are likely to postpone marriage to an age when they are well prepared mentally and materially as well. In our country alone, infant mortality rates among primary level schooled mothers are half of what they were when compared to illiterate mothers.

Studies also show how women get more productive at work and thus command a better pay scale. International studies show that every additional year of schooling increases a woman’s earning capacity by 15%. For a man, this figure stands at only 11%.

There is a lot that can be done to improve on the quality of education as well as the avenues and opportunities for a woman. Here is what we as a nation can do:

  • Get more parents involved: A family and community will need to work together to understand the importance of female education and provide them opportunities for the same.
  • Budget education and flexible timings: Basic education must be free or at a subsidized rate. If stipends and scholarships are included, the incentive to enroll students will be higher. Being able to compensate for the lack of a working member of the family is what is needed.
  • Schools in the vicinity: Parents worry about child safety. Having schools close by and having female instructors will be of great help.

The Alfred Polo Foundation works towards empowering the girl children by promoting education among the under-privileged. This is done through donations as well as collaborations with schools that may need help.

3 Ways Leadership Impacts Business Positively

The burden of unemployment rests disproportionately on the shoulders of the youth. Due to demographic shifts that have created a massive youth bulge, today one-third of the country’s population is between 18 and 34 years old – far more young people than there are jobs to support them, according to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The situation grows worse every year: According to the World Bank’s Kenya Economic Update, while 800,000 youth reach working age annually, only 50,000 new formal modern-wage jobs are created. It’s because of this imbalance that 80 percent of the country’s 2.3 million unemployed are between the ages of 15 and 34.

Faced with this grim scenario, Kenya’s youth are flooding into the informal sector, which, in 2011, created six times as many new jobs as the formal sector did. Those with enough capital and technical know-how go about founding start-ups. Whether starting an informal business or start up, various skills are important in determining the survival of the business.

When it comes to achieving business success, most people think it is mostly because of the strategy that the business comes up with. Strategy is one part of a whole range of reasons but not the only reason for success. There are a lot of things that amount to the success of an organization, and leadership without a doubt is one of the main reasons for this success.

Some businesses succeed despite their leaders, but as a general rule, it’s the leader that determines the direction of the strategy, provides the inspiration and shapes the culture that will keep the talent motivated and productive. The leader employs the tactics and decisions that form, to a large extent, how the competitive advantage will play out.

The following ways  can leverage your leadership to impact your business positively:

  1. Developing talent
    * Effective leadership is about mentoring, coaching, and teaching your team. The more you can work toward developing the talent you already have, the more likely they are to increase their productivity. It also helps them stay loyal and committed. It will help them feel inspired to offer ideas that can further help the business gain a competitive advantage. Personally I’ve found it helps you reach your strategic targets faster.
    * Your interest in developing the gifts of the talent already on your team illustrates that you are acknowledging they have a tremendous role in business results. It also shows them that you value them as individuals.
    * In return, they will want to do more for you and the business. They’ve been made to feel more like an integral part of the organization.
  2. Creating greater efficiencies
    * Your ability as a leader to see where improvements can be made is crucial. You should clearly communicate what can change to further efficiency gains. This includes providing the resources necessary to make those improvements.
    * First, in being able to show how efficiency is needed illustrates to your team that you are interested in continuously improving the business and that you are willing to put the company resources into building greatness. This makes their job easier and alleviates some of the time-consuming tasks or duplication of efforts. Your team can focus more on your customers or other aspects that drive revenue for the business.
  3. Pushing innovation through organization
    * This can help the business do things differently to press forward and succeed in a big way. Moving your innovation through can also be a means for developing the disruptive solutions that can set the business apart from the competition.

Suicide Cases Among The Youth Rising; Time To Confront It

There are two peak ages in suicide cases: among young adults and the elderly. More women attempt suicide but more men complete the act. Men are also more likely to engage in methods that are most lethal.

The World Health Organisation statistics show that the average rate of suicide in Kenya stands at 10.8./100,000, males at 16.2/100,000 and that of females at 8.4/100,000. In Africa, the highest rate was in Mozambique, with an average of 17.3/100,000 population. Suicide is treated as a crime in Kenya (it is a misdemeanour, if found guilty, an imprisonment follows for a term not exceeding two years), thus there may be many unreported cases of successful and attempted acts.

In another study published in 2012, over 70 per cent of some 458 patients admitted to Kenyatta National Hospital were as a result of intentional poisoning, and were aged between 21 and 30. Most of the patients were young adults with relationship problems.

Several predisposing factors have been identified for the rising suicide incidences among Kenyan youth. Depression, mental illness, drugs and alcohol abuse, strained relationships, inadequate parenting, poverty, abuse, trauma, domestic violence, broken homes and chronic diseases. If we want to help prevent our young people from taking their lives it is important to recognize the warning signs and risk factors of suicide and know what to do if you want to help prevent tragedy. Find out more on these here.

When youth die by suicide they take the answers with them. But teens who attempt suicide and survive say that they wanted to die to end the pain of living. For them it is often a combination of events and issues that pile up and just become overwhelming. It makes them feel that they do not have the strength or desire to continue living.

Many youth show warning signs if they are considering suicide, and early intervention can save their lives. Often they just need a shoulder to lean on or somebody to listen. By reaching out and showing care and concern, many youth may be helped before reaching the point of feeling suicidal.

In Kenya, with the current slow growth of our economy, employment is hard to come by. Frustrations about money and jobs can lead to depression, drug abuse and alcohol addiction. When the young people feel inadequate and powerless they may be tempted to commit suicide. The fact is that although many people are unable to see alternatives to their problems or an end to their pain, they just want to make it all go away forever. Many more who consider taking their own life, really want to live.

Any suicidal thoughts or behaviours should be taken very seriously and addressed as soon as possible. If you notice the warning signs for suicide or the young person tells you directly that they are thinking about suicide there are a few very important things to do:

  • Always show them that you are concerned – listen , ask about their feelings and avoid trying to come up with a solution to their problem.
  • Ask directly about suicide – be direct without being confrontational; say “are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?”

If the answer to your question is “yes” or you think it is yes, go get help – call a crisis line, visit the school counsellor, tell a parent or take the teen to a clinic so that someone professional skills can help. You could also contact the following organisations for free support and counselling:

  • Call LVCT Health on 1190 for free.
  • Call Befrienders Kenya organisation on 0722178177, or email info@befrienderskenya.org

Starting and Managing a Self-Help Group (Part 4)

Welcome to the final part of our this series on starting and managing self-help groups. If you missed the other parts, click on any of these links: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3. Now last week we focused on relationships and membership and this week we will focus on how to manage arising issues in the group as well as terminating the group.

1. Achievements

  • What is it feasible to achieve? Take into account:
    *Your members’ situation.
    *The size of your active membership.
    *What resources you have, initially.
  • What do you want to achieve?
    *Goals – the overall aims of the group. You and your members must determine this. Even if groups share the same problem, the goals they set themselves may be very different; e.g. all members feel welcomed and supported.
    *Objectives – these are the smaller and more precise aims the group sets itself in order to reach a goal. They may vary over time, and change as the group changes; e.g. meet monthly with a social programme and events.
    *Set priorities – these will evolve as compromises between various points of view of group members. They should be a realistic way of appreciating that the group will probably want to do a lot of things, and that people’s views will differ on what should be done first.

2. Conflict

  • Some conflict is likely to be a part any group, including a self-help group, where feelings may be running high, and there are expectations within a group.
    *The bigger the group, the greater the potential for conflict.
    *It’s how it’s managed that is the key; it must be treated effectively if the group is to survive.
    *Do you need guidance in conflict resolution?.
  • Assumptions:
    *Conflict can only occur if the people involved are interdependent.
    *Conflict is rare if relationships are tenuous.
    *Results of conflict become more serious as group members become closer personally.
    *Conflict faced and managed creates real potential for growth.
    *The larger the number of healthy conflicts, the greater the stability of the organisation.
  • Difficult behaviour:
    *People talk too much; dominating.
    *People who over-intellectualise, preventing members from handling nitty gritty issues, or making progress.
    *People whose body-language indicates that they are disinterested, or bored.
    *People who wander off the point of discussion.
    *People who continually interrupt, or talk over others.
  • Response:
    *Build support from other group members.
    *Build on contribution of others to develop discussion.
    *Interrupt the speaker.
    *Challenge the speaker to be specific.
    *Clarify what the difficult person has said.
    *Avoid being defensive in your criticism.
    *Don’t compete with this difficult person.
    *Break groups into smaller groups.
    *Get individual to be precise about their criticism/complaint.

3. Ending a Group

  • A group ending is sometimes the reality; it can be better to end well than to have it fizzle out.
    *This could be due to:
    *Lack of meeting place/resources.
    *Apathy among members.
    *Rural area, “scattering”.
    *A key dominant member leaves.
    *At some point a decision needs to be made.
  • Could members disperse to other groups? With more groups around the country, hopefully it will be possible to find a new group to join, which is not too far from the finishing group.
  • Perhaps specific publicity would be an option, to inject new blood into a group, thus averting any shut down.

Starting and Managing a Self-Help Group (Part 3)

In this part of our series on ‘Starting and Managing a Self-Help Group’ we will focus on group establishment, leadership among other areas. If you haven’t had a chance to read parts one and two of the series click on the following links: Part 1, Part 2.

1. Establishing The Group.

  • What kind of group will it be?
  • How big will it be and what kind of structure will it have?
  • Be flexible to other member’s ideas.
  • Keep an open spirit – don’t become closed and cliquey.
  • How frequently will the group meet?
  • Always set an agenda, with different activities from week to week.
  • Post the agenda to members.
  • Accepting new members – agree on how to introduce and involve new members.
  • Develop a group newsletter through social media networks such as Whatsapp or Facebook groups.

2. Leadership

  • All groups need leaders. They naturally evolve, or are elected.
  • Leadership behaviour will be determined by various influences:
    *His/her personality,
    *Behaviour of other group members, and
    *The situations facing the group.
  • A good group leader :
    * Communicates empathy.
    * Communicates respect.
    * Is concise.
    * Has good listening skills.
    * Is flexible and adaptable.

3. Behaviour

In a group setting, behaviour is everything. Recognise the following :

  • Aggression, attempt to dominate.
  • Submissiveness – can be an indirect way of seeking control.
  • Assertion.
    * Greater self-confidence.
    * Greater confidence in others.
    * Increased self-responsibility.
    * Increased self-control.
    * Respect.
    *Leads to increased chance of everyone gaining
    something useful.
  • Groups must be sensitive, and respond to difficult behaviour from
    members ‘withdrawing’, to members becoming ‘overbearing’.

4. Relationships

  • A group needs to be formal enough to be well-organised, but friendly enough to
    make new members feel welcome and involved.
  • A framework is needed, so that:
    *Decisions can be made.
    *No one person dominates the group.
    *The group has stability and continuity.
    *New members understand what is going on.
    *New ideas can be introduced.
  • Take into account:
    *How big the group is?
    *How large might it become?
    *Are you going to restrict numbers?
    *Are there professionals in the group?
    *Formal constitution?
    *Sharing jobs out.
    *Concentrating on mutual support.
    *Rotating positions of responsibility.
  • For groups being professionally organised and led:
    *Choose a structure which allows most members to join in.
    *Encourage new members to take on jobs.
    *A time-limitation for the leadership?
    *Keep simple records.
    *Don’t let discussion of the organisation take over.
    *Avoid ‘cliques’.

5. Membership

  • Ask yourself three things:
    *Who will be members of the group?
    *What do you want to achieve?
    *What activities could you undertake?
  • Membership:
    *Are you going to require subscriptions?
    *What happens if people don’t pay – do they stop being members?
    *Will members need to make some commitment; i.e. agreeing with the objectives of the group?
    *Will they be required to attend regularly?
    *Must they take on some task at some stage?

Starting and Managing a Self-Help Group (Part 2)

Welcome to the second part of our series on how to start and manage a Self-Help Group (SHG). If you haven’t already read the first part of this series head on over to this link http://www.alfredpolo.com/starting-and-managing-a-self-help-group-part-1/

1.  Communication

  • Communication is vital to a group’s success – it is the lifeblood.
  • It improves contact between group members.
  • Communication allows members to understand what’s going on.
  • It gives people more opportunity to join in.
  • What affects communication in a self-help group?
    * Size of the group.
    *Financial turnover.
    *The problems facing members.
    *The structure of the group.

2. Meetings

  • The ideal venue for most SHGs when starting is usually the members homes, then rotating.
  • However in the long run, a regular venue adds continuity to the group.
  • Factors to consider when selecting an ideal venue:
    * Public transport accessibility.
    * Toilets.
    * Disabled access.

3. Finance

  • Share the cost of running groups.
  • Do you need a treasurer?
  • Renting a venue.
  • Refreshments.
  • Document printing/photocopying.

4. Publicity/Advertising the group

  • Local newspapers:
    *A feature article.
    * Item in the community announcements/notices column.
  • Posters :
    * What type of group?
    * Where does the group meet?
    * Contact information.
  • Other Sources:
    * Samaritans.
    *Local directories.
    *Churches.

Next week we will look at leadership structures in groups. Questions or comments, let us know what you think by contacting us here http://www.alfredpolo.com/contact/