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May 18, 2015 5 Min Read

A Grassroots Organization with a Difference

The Kijani team consists of college and Masters graduates and students with varying expertise. We’re wrapping our heads around the topic of sustainable forest rehabilitation, using our multiple skills to tackle various aspects of the project – from community engagement, website design and business modeling. This amalgamation of diverse cultures, skill-sets and perspectives in the team makes us unique, but working primarily in the Kenyan context – it is also easy to be viewed as inexperienced.

The truth is, an organization (an NGO for that matter) consisting entirely of youth, is somewhat of an anomaly in Kenya. In this culture, young people have to “earn” the respect of the “elderly” – it does not come automatically. There is an implicit dissimilarity of treatment between the demographic groups of the youth, and those who have jumped the proverbial fence into “adulthood”. Don’t get me wrong, we are adults, but that word has a bit of a nuanced definition in this part of the world.

Members of the Kijani team in the field in Marmanet
Members of the Kijani team in the field in Marmanet

Last year in September, members of the Kijani team visited a certain office in the field, our main aim was to gather ecological information for our project. From the reception to the main office we were not treated fairly. After we left that office we went back to our offices in Nairobi where we analyzed our visit, conducting a small debrief about our meeting. It was shocking that our debrief revealed that the nature to which we were treated was due to the notion that we were youth; a pretext for inexperience.

Although it is true that we are young, the flip-side is that we are unique, dynamic and peculiar. We represent different fields of study, as well as different backgrounds and experiences. We are from different cultures and races. We represent a united world, working on shared solutions to the crises of the future; working on shared solutions to the crises of our own future.

Members of the Kijani team saying a prayer before sharing a meal together
Members of the Kijani team saying a prayer before sharing a meal together

I believe in our uniqueness. When other organizations are dishing out handouts to enhance community participation, we advocate for voluntary participation so that community members can solve their own problems. When other organizations think of capacity building through workshops in communities, Kijani is thinking about walking together and building relationships with community members. When other organizations are thinking of imposing ideas to the communities in which they work, Kijani is building its foundation on the already local available knowledge.

These are the factors which make our organization stand out.

Liz Wasirimba and Frithjof Gressmann are Kijani volunteers
Liz Wasirimba and Frithjof Gressmann are Kijani volunteers

We are willing to bring change and we are determined to do so. My point here is that regardless of people’s perception about you, whether negative or positive, you have the final say about who you are. This is our motivation as an organization. Since we are unique we are peculiar, and what makes us peculiar motivates us to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves, for Kenya, and for the sustainable future of this planet.

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  1. Great,i see a path and break through, for the incoming youths of the same interests , never stop! keep going until they realize your preciousness.From experience, community opens very slowly, at first time, but after winning their trust (from your good work),you will have lots of ambassadors, lets go Kijani.

    • Enock.E.Kawira
    • Jul 24, 2015
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  2. long ago there was a young man from Anathoth who was chosen to say important words to his people. He was told “Don’t say: I am too young, but you should go for what you have been told”. So don’t be afraid to go on your great mission. But be creative in confronting conservatives with their own behaviour that they can learn and get convinced by your action. Tell about your communication with the community people in concrete words and their needs and ideas which you are willing to support. Then your message gets even more strength. All the best, Georg.

    • Georg Wagener-Lohse
    • May 19, 2015
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  3. Good writing! Yes, it can be a challenge to be “young” when navigating things in Kenya. But we appreciate your youth! We affirm the zeal, vision, energy and fresh wind that you bring. That, coming from the next generation, is what we NEED! Keep going — you will make an impact.

    • YES; this is a mere perception of contempt but, with our heads up we can change the tradition

      David
      • David
      • May 19, 2015
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  4. Powerful post – thanks David!

    Daniel Omondi
    • Daniel Omondi
    • May 18, 2015
    • Reply