On 18th May 2012, Ufadhili Trust led Kenyan corporates in marking the International Day of Employee Volunteering dubbed, “Give & Gain Day 2012”, an event held in 24 countries across the world. The ‘Give & Gain Day’ seeks to mobilize businesses to spend a working day volunteering for a good cause in the community.
It was the first time that the Give & Gain Day was marked in Kenya. This day brought employees from six companies/organizations to participate in a series of activities aimed at helping the residents of Kibera slum, within the City of Nairobi. The residents had reasons to be joyful and hopeful especially the elderly and youth, who benefited immensely from the employees expertise in different areas.
The companies that participated in the Give & Gain Day 2012 were: Unilever Kenya; a subsidiary of Unilever Conglomerate; APA Insurance Limited; one of the largest insurer in East and Central Africa, Resolution Health Limited; a leading medical insurance provider in Kenya, Huawei; a global telecommunications company, the Nairobi Women’s Hospital; Kenya’s leading women’s hospital, and VSO Jitolee; a leading volunteer organization in Kenya. Uchumi Supermarket Limited, one of the largest supermarket chains in East Africa sent a donation of Kenya shillings 5000 (approximately 60 US Dollars) to help the elderly.
The elderly benefited from ‘healthy talks’ as well as free medical check ups. This was an event of its kind. The elderly have never had such an opportunity in the past, to interact one –on- one with the health professionals as well as get free medical check ups. They also got food donations and clothing. The speakers from the Nairobi Women’s Hospital, APA Insurance and Resolution Health, tackled issues such as healthy living, lifestyle diseases; diabetes, high blood pressure, cancer, arthritis as well as the role of exercises in a person’s well-being.
Evelyn Tole, an elderly beneficiary had a reason to be delightful since she not only had a free medical check up but also benefited from the talks on healthy living, and how to avoid and manage lifestyle diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure among others. She is also happy that, with patient’s card issued by the Nairobi Women’s Hospital, she can now attend their cancer screening sessions at a discounted fee; which is affordable to her. It was also a joyous movement for John Njoroge aged 59, a resident of Kibera since 1973, who not only benefited from ‘healthy talk’ but as also went home with food and clothing.
At Kibera Girls Centre, the girls whom majority comes from humble backgrounds were delighted to have mentorships sessions with the companies’ employees. They were not only mentored on living positively but also on health matters. The Center is managed by the Kenya Girl Guides Association, and its core purpose is to empower girls and young women from the informal settlement. This is in addition to offerings skills/trainings such as: computers, entrepreneurship, guiding, dress making, environmental and life skills. Dress making has not only imparted skills, but also provided full time employment to hundreds of girls who come to the Center and specialize in dressmaking. According to Ms. Fridah Makuthi, a volunteer at the Center, dressmaking students have benefited immensely from the “Learn and Earn Initiative”, which entails the girls making uniforms for the Kenya Girl Guides Association throughout the country. They are paid per piece work, and each month, Kenya shillings 1200 (approximately 15 US Dollars), is deducted towards saving for a sewing machine. This is a way of ensuring that, after the training, the girls don’t leave empty handed, but instead they have at least a sewing machine to start off dress making business.
Mercy Muhonja, a beneficiary from the Center, noted that this was valuable day in that she learned about hygiene, recycling of waste (especially at an area where waste management is a major problem), and more importantly, is that she can change the world by doing small things that spur change among her peers, the community, the nation and the world. Her sentiments echoed the story of the humming bird as told by environmentalist and Noble Peace Laureate, the late Professor Wangari Maathai of Kenya.
The story talks of the humming bird along with other animals having been caught in a fierce forest fire. They fled and stopped at a stream to watch their habitat burn. The humming bird started flying from the stream to the forest, each time taking one drop of water, and dropping it on the fire while the other animals just watched and scolded the little bird. The humming bird was not discouraged, but challenged the other animals to also play their part in saving their habitat.
Mercy Akinyi, another beneficiary from the Center, noted that she re-discovered her potentials and that it is possible for the youth to be self employed, but one needs to be focused, determined, identifying the right company and more so, seeking mentorship.
Moses Thiong’o of Resolution Health noted that the Give and Gain Day, fitted well within their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) work in which they give back to the community. Thiong’o added that being international day of employee volunteering; it provided an excellent opportunity to give their expertise in helping the less privileged in society. Further, Resolution Health donated food and clothing to the elderly, and Thiong’o noted that the company focuses on giving basic human needs such as food and clothing, in which most of the community members do not have/access to.
And as Tom Oketch of La Vie Foundation, an organization that works with the elderly in Kibera noted, “It was a great Give & Gain Day with companies coming in to give back to the community. I loved it.”