Alice Wanjiru Waruguru’s mother was a hard working entrepreneur who single-handedly took good care of her four children.
Alice, who grew up in Nairobi’s Eastlands estates of Makadara and Kayole, remembers vividly how they had a good early childhood from the proceeds of their mother’s businesses. “She made sure we never lacked any basic items children of our age would want. We were always smartly dressed at school,” she says.
Life, however, took a turn for the worst while Alice was in class six after her mother fell sick and became bedridden for long, leading to the collapse of her businesses. The family’s support structure was messed up due to the huge medical bills, and although their mum recovered, life remained a struggle ever since.
“It was a real challenge for my mother to put food on the table thereafter. Were it not for the free primary education programme that was introduced by the Government, I would have never cleared primary school,” says Alice.
Alice was lucky to have scored high on her final examinations and was among the first cohort of students to be admitted to Starehe Girls’ Centre, which was established to provide free secondary school education to bright girls from poor backgrounds.
At the school, Alice’s determination to excel in class and join the University was never deterred by her family’s diminished fortunes and while in Form Two she was selected among the first batch of students to join the Global Give Back Circle (GGBC), which started as a mentoring programme.
“We were chosen on the basis of good performance and leadership skills. We would write letters to our mentors and exchange ideas about life and career prospects,” said Alice. But that was not all Alice was destined for. When she got to Form Four, the Circle was remodelled to include sponsorship for tertiary studies and a series of workshops on various issues including ICT and sexual reproductive health, which she attended during the period between high school and university. The beneficiaries also received lessons on financial literacy, job readiness, and an upkeep allowance from GGBC apart from fees. Today, Alice is all smiles as she recounts how life has changed for the better, thanks to the Circle, which she says gave her hope in life.
“From the financial literacy lessons, I learnt new strategies of savings and creative ways to cut down on my expenses,” she says, revealing she also had the opportunity to intern at Equity Bank after high school.
Mentorship has, however, been a key input for Alice who sees her mentor as an “accountability partner” whom she shares with things she commits to achieving and helps her realise them.
Although she has met her once while on a visit to a conference in Boston, she says Robyn Macy, a US national who advises college students on career paths, has been “a second Mum” to her. They communicate up to three times a day through email to share experiences and follow developments in each other’s country.
Today, Alice is a graduate of Moi University, where she earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Engineering. She is now employed as an Engineer at MRM, and in 2016, earned the “Employee of the Year” award.
Despite her busy schedule, she still finds time to help organise workshops on financial literacy, health and ICT for fellow students as her give back commitment project.
Looking back at how far she has come from under the umbrella of GGBC, Alice gives me a firm gaze as she concludes, “It has been a transformational vehicle in my life. It has equipped me with the resources I need to be whoever I want to be in life. And for that, I am grateful.”