My childhood was filled with the offerings of many communities. These diverse groups shaped me, and filled me with an understanding of the strength and power of what it means to truly live together in community. The people who raised me were extremely poor in materials, but their wealth could not be defined by the dichotomy of rich and poor as we so often understand it. They were generous in their hearts, wealthy in their kindness, and deep in their knowledge of human connection. These are the people who raised me.
I spend most of my early childhood and adolescence in Kibera—but Kibera was not my only home as a boy. I spent part of my childhood in Rongai, where I lived in small slum known as Kware. Many times, my family would leave me in our rural ancestral village in the Western part of Kenya.
Kibera, Kware, my village: all of these communities raised me. Each one gave me a different way of seeing, a different way of feeling , a different way of knowing—and each of these additions shaped my values and insight into the person I stand as today. I am the roots of the grass: rooted in the community of my childhood, as my spirit springs up to meet any challenge or call to action that faces me in the present day.
The most powerful tool all of these communities instilled in me was togetherness. In one we stand, but divided—we fall. Growing up, I learned I would accomplish little if I tried alone. The real power surfaced when we could come together and focus on a cause. Of course, a call to action was always needed—a rallying point, a story and vision to believe in. My communities growing up did not have Twitter or Facebook for their followers, and yet they moved mountains.
My supporters recently reminded me of the power of the grassroots movement. We were reaching for a finalist spot in the Girl Effect Challenge—in hopes of winning over $25k from the Girl Effect fund and the opportunity to share Shining Hope’s work with Girl Effect fans all over the world. I did not know how to get the donations to win—but was then reminded of the grassroots movement. In Kibera, although we had no Facebook or Twitter, we were able to come together and unite as one. In the village, we even joined together, collecting money to bury the dead according to their wish to rest in peace. We collected money and helped families bury their dead. We collected money to help with hospitals bills for the poor and cheap hospitals. And if we could not afford the bill, we gathered and demonstrated on the streets until the government listened to us.
Here in America more than 710 people joined together for the Girl Effect Challenge— on family tables, schools, at work—to ensure Shining Hope could win $25k to better the dreams of girls in Kibera. That was grassroots for me. And it taught me a lesson—those who gave to help us win the Girl Effect proved that Kibera’s struggle is their struggle. If Kibera can dream, then it will be a dream felt across the world.
Realize that the little things in life go far. If you are waiting for tomorrow to do big things, remember that there is no certainty tomorrow will come. That’s just the reality of it. You must be present and answer the call to action in the now. Thank you everyone—for standing up with our grassroots organization that was founded in the hearts of Kibera.