Creating Opportunities for Disabled Youth

On Monday, 3rd Dec 2018, the world observed the annual World Disability Day with the theme being “Empowering persons with disabilities and ensuring inclusiveness and equality”. It is critical to ensure, in this regard, the full and equal participation of persons with disabilities in all spheres of society and create enabling environments by, for and with persons with disabilities. This also means the inclusion of disabled youth in all youth programs and activities.

Youth with disabilities are amongst the most marginalized and poorest of all the world’s youth. They commonly face more discrimination and severe social, economic, and civic disparities as compared with those without disabilities, especially in developing countries. Yet, youth programs seldom address issues of youth with disabilities, much less include them into activities.

Key facts about youth with disabilities:

  • The World Report on Disability estimates that 220 million youth with disabilities in the world today are marginalized and largely invisible in society, especially in education and the labor market; nearly 80% live in developing countries.
  • UNESCO estimates that 98% of children with disabilities in developing countries do not attend school and 99% of girls with disabilities are illiterate.
  • A disproportionate number of youth with disabilities will find themselves on the street, with one estimate suggesting that 30% of street youth have a disability.

When youth with disabilities can fully participate alongside peers without disabilities, they have an opportunity to gain skills and experiences, demonstrate their capabilities and change attitudes.  Inclusive youth programming benefits not only youth with disabilities, but will ensure that all youth can contribute fully to their country’s development and economic growth.

The following essential strategies can be used to ensure inclusiveness:

  1. Provide mentorship for youth with disabilities. Mentors and role models can break down preconceived notions for what is possible, challenge stereotypes and change community perceptions. There are many adults and youth with disabilities who can serve as mentors and role models. They are leading change as social entrepreneurs, citizen diplomats and community activists.  Non-disabled adults can also be powerful mentors for youth with disabilities.
  2. Use the Internet, social media, software adaptations and other technological innovations to create opportunities for youth with disabilities to break down barriers and increase their sense of belonging and interaction with their peers.
  3. Empower youth with disabilities through sport and recreation programs. Remember to use the twin-track approach. You can offer disability-specific adapted programs, as well as sport and recreation programs for youth with and without disabilities.
  4. Recruit youth with disabilities as volunteers. Youth with disabilities should have opportunities to contribute their skills and gain valuable work experience.
  5. Collaborate with families of youth with disabilities to conduct successful outreach strategies, and to educate them about the importance of youth with disabilities’ participation.
  6. Ask for input from youth with disabilities in the planning of both inclusive and disability-focused programs.

Sanitation as a Human Right

Did you realise that through your last trip to the toilet, you were actually exercising one of your fundamental human rights?

Consider how different your day would have been today had you not had access to a toilet at home, at school, or at work. Globally, 2.3 billion people still do not have access to basic sanitation facilities (World Health Organisation, 2017). The WHO also attributes that about 13% of Kenyans do not have toilets, and go to the bush for calls of nature. As a result, about 23,000 Kenyans die every year as a result of poor sanitation and hygiene (World Bank Water and Sanitation Program Report, 2012).

Not only is access to safe sanitation integral to the right to health and a clean environment, it also evokes the concept of human dignity through the ability to manage one’s bodily functions. Human dignity is fundamental to the right to life.

The human right to sanitation entitles everyone, without discrimination, to: “have physical and affordable access to sanitation, in all spheres of life, that is safe, hygienic, secure, and social and culturally acceptable, and that provides privacy and dignity” (UN, 2015).

The human right to sanitation is not fulfilled by the presence of a toilet of any kind, in any condition. It delineates a five-pillar criteria that sanitation services must meet in order to satisfy the right to sanitation. They must be:

  1. Available (near to households, schools, workplaces, health centres etc.)
  2. Accessible (to all, without discrimination)
  3. Affordable (should not exceed 5% of households’ incomes)
  4. Safe (free from heath hazards, and in locations that are safe for all users, e.g. where women feel safe from harassment and violence)
  5. Acceptable (culturally and socially, and must protect peoples’ privacy and dignity)

The right to sanitation is therefore highly intertwined with many other universal human rights and is essential to an adequate standard of living. In fact, in many cases, sanitation provides the foundations upon which access to other human rights can be built:

  • Lack of sanitation obstructs the right to life and health. Human excreta encourages the transmission of many infectious diseases including cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, polio. Diarrhoea – a disease directly related to poor sanitation – kills 3100 Kenyan children every year.
  • Lack of sanitation hampers the right to education. 5 million school days are lost every year due to sanitation and water related issues. Inadequate school sanitation facilities are a common barrier to school attendance, especially for girls.
  • Lack of sanitation thwarts the right to dignity. Sick and elderly people face a loss of dignity when sanitation facilities are not available in the near vicinity.

World Toilet Day, celebrated on 19th November, is about taking action to ensure that everyone has a safe toilet by 2030. This is part of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6: sanitation and water. Although the moniker “World Toilet Day” might sound peculiar, or laughable – or even cringe inducing – the statistics mentioned here are dire.

Ensuring access to sanitation is imperative for health, education and dignity. It is a fundamental right that must be promoted.

Implementation of an Entrepreneurial Mindset

In our two previous blogs, we talked about, ‘How Youth Entrepreneurship can Tackle Unemployment’ and  ‘Teaching Entrepreneurship in Schools’. In this third and final blog of the series, we are going to look at implementing an entrepreneurial mindset. This is possibly the most crucial aspect of being an entrepreneur: taking action.

An entrepreneurial mindset requires: 1. ‘Thinking’ and 2. ‘Taking Action’. You will be hit with mistakes, failures and set backs, but your mindset has to be prepared to bounce back and make sure that next time you achieve what you want.

To create the entrepreneurial mindset, surround yourself with and indulge in whatever it is you’re passionate about. Watch YouTube videos, TV programmes, read as much as you can on your passion and – in my opinion the most important task of all – network.

Networking takes some getting used to. You need to build up both an online and offline networking system. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media sites are a perfect platform for creating contacts around the world, if you use them efficiently. If networking online, constantly think about what you say because you are your own brand. It is crucial you know who you are and what you stand for in order to effectively create an online personal brand.

Networking in “real life” or “in person” is just as effective, if not more effective. Research what’s going on in your area, go and meet people. It’s scary at first, but lots of other people are doing exactly the same thing, and you will benefit from it, not just in terms of contacts, but in personal development, too. You’ll build up communication skills and confidence in no time.

Networking effectively can get you places you never thought possible. An old business adage goes like, “You’re never more than 7 people away from the most powerful people on the planet.” If you meet someone, who knows someone, who knows someone else, before you know it, you could be talking to a big decision maker.

So get out there and network!

We hope you have enjoyed my series of short blogs on entrepreneurship. If you have any questions or would like to talk with me more about ‘Tackling Youth Unemployment through Entrepreneurship’, then please feel free to contact us through our website or social media platforms.

Teaching Entrepreneurship in Schools

Entrepreneurship is not your average subject. You don’t learn about or go about teaching entrepreneurship alone like you would with most subjects. You have to experience it hands on.

It is a subject that can develop your outlook and your personal character, not just in business, but in everyday life, too. If we could recommend one thing to the Kenyan government today, it would be to make it compulsory that all children experience entrepreneurship from a young age at school. We should not be bringing up generations of students that go to school, expecting to go to university and then getting a job. There is so much more out there than that set pattern we have fallen into. The daily news portrays doom and gloom, but it truly is a land of opportunity for those that are only willing to look further, think different and work harder.

We need to be telling, showing and teaching students about self-employment, apprenticeships, internships, entrepreneurship, social enterprises, volunteering and how to brand themselves in a unique way for the job market. No matter what the subject, it’s possible to integrate entrepreneurship and business.

Teaching entrepreneurship provides the skills and development to live a confident life with the unwavering courage to make things happen and change how people live. Skills like communication, networking, pitching, leadership, negotiation and teamwork are learned through entrepreneurship. Just imagine how much improvement and progress we could make in the world if entrepreneurship education were provided at a much younger age.

This is the second in a series of three blogs on Entrepreneurship as a way to tackle youth unemployment. The third and final blog is on Implementing the Entrepreneurial Mindset.

How Youth Entrepreneurship Can Tackle Unemployment

One of the most popular topics on Alfred Polo Foundation and one of the most popular topics among youth in general, entrepreneurship is at the height of its popularity.

Within this topic of entrepreneurship, the term social entrepreneurship is simply flourishing. It is being talked about over and over again, and young people from all over the world are actually becoming social entrepreneurs – they are starting their businesses as incentives for social and economic change. Aside from chasing a profit to stay afloat, they are trying to solve different social issues within their communities whether they be health, nutrition, education or something else. By dwelling into these areas, the young entrepreneurs are boosting their area’s economy and even fostering development of some new industries, especially in the rural areas.

Starting a business increases competition in the market, creates jobs and promotes sustainable growth in the greater economy – all of which are key to tackling youth unemployment. After all, every job was created by a person or group of people who started off with little more than a good idea and the conviction to make it happen.

You can start off creating a job for yourself, but ideally, whatever enterprise you start will grow and provide jobs for others. Entrepreneurship is the seed that grows jobs. The global downturn has been like a mass deforestation, destroying thousands of businesses around the world; we need to act and plant the seeds again, so in the future young people have a prosperous world of opportunity with jobs for all.

Anyone can become an entrepreneur, as long as you work to get the knowledge you need for whatever field of business, social enterprise or charity you want to go into. Aspiring entrepreneurs often encounter financial risks and difficulties in accessing capital, as banks can be hesitant to lend to young people, who often are viewed as inexperienced. Though programmes that provide capital to start-ups are a solution, work on becoming an expert in your field first. Surround yourself with like-minded people. Network. Build contacts. It has never been easier to reach out to people, anywhere in the world.

This is the first in a series of three blogs on how youth entrepreneurship can be used to tackle unemployment. The second and third blogs will have more practical advice on what you can do to make yourself stand out and how to go about starting a business from scratch by implementing an entrepreneurial mindset.

Matatus: A Symbol of Kenya’s Urban Youth?

Matatus fill the streets, blaring music as they bounce and weave through traffic. Each matatu is louder than the next, complete with graffiti-style artwork, custom designs, flashy lights and on-board entertainment to pull the crowds. Convenient, cheap and sometimes chaotic, matatus are the choice mode of transport for most Kenyan youth.

Some people may argue that with a society that has done so little for young people to provide jobs, decent housing or mere role modeling, the matatu culture represents a form of defiance against this society. Despite the fact that this sector has been associated with crime and rowdiness, some elements – such as providing youth employment – exhibited by the industry’s key players have drawn support.

The youth have found income in the industry in a variety of ways, for example as drivers, touts, and through creativity by designing the artwork found on the matatus. The wave of creativity exhibited in these movable museums has helped take a lot of youth off the streets and nurtured their talents to countrywide stardom. These artistic expressions can sometimes be a cartoon character, politician, war hero, sports personality or even a movie star. Noisy exhaust pipes are also usually positioned to announce arrival and departure.

Did Kenyans invent the matatu? Certainly not. But perhaps if Kenya needed a 44th culture, it would probably be the matatu culture.

An Invisible Yet Devastating Killer

Kenyan writer Ted Malanda once quipped, “I can’t wrap my mind around the fact that depression is an illness… In fact, it is such a non-issue that African languages never bothered to create a word for it.”

These words capture the general attitude by Kenyans, held as much by officials as by ordinary people, towards an epidemic of mental illness in the country. Health experts have estimated that a fourth of the Kenya’s population suffers from a range of mental diseases, including schizophrenia and other psychotic disorders, bipolar disorder, depression and severe anxiety.

Kenya has only about 80 psychiatrists and 30 clinical psychologists, fewer than its 500 psychiatric nurses, of which only 250 work in mental health. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), yet the country spends only about 0.05% of its health budget on mental health. About 70% of mental health facilities in the country are located in the capital, Nairobi.

The widely held view in Kenya that mentally ill patients brought the disease upon themselves by using illicit drugs may be one reason the government does not prioritize mental health. Experts have also pointed to a tendency to view acute mental health diseases as supernatural afflictions that can be cured only through spiritual or traditional medicinal interventions. Families of the mentally ill often turn for a cure to these interventions, or to “prayer camps” – retreats where the sick person is often chained to trees and prayed for.

Over the past couple of years though, a significant number of Kenyans have gradually begun to understand the much-tabooed subject of mental health. Some celebrities have also become ambassadors of the topic and have taken to the media to share their personal journeys with problems like anxiety and depression. However, this still isn’t enough to stem the rising cases of suicide related deaths caused by mental health issues.

As a society it is imperative that we acknowledge the existence of mental health so that we may begin our journey towards remedying those in need. Despite age, fame, house, family, or surroundings; anyone can experience an imbalance of the mind leading to thoughts that don’t seem to make sense but are overpowering enough to force you to take your own life.

Perhaps the biggest problem as demonstrated by the many cases of suicide is that people with seemingly normal and healthy lives suffer deep within. We live in communities and it is up to us to be aware of those in our surroundings. A person with depression might not always cry out for help, it is the subtle change in behavior that hints towards mental troubles. By being more alert we can do our part in ensuring suicide rates fall as low as possible.

It is our job to help those who don’t even ask for help.

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

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

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