My name is Faith Mushilundu Lutomia. I was born in Tombo village, Kakamega County in Western Kenya. I am the second to last-born in a family of six. My late dad was a retired primary school teacher, who turned to peasant farming to sustain the family and give us an education. He was the sole breadwinner until he passed away. I thank God for my Mum, who has been strong throughout, and continues to support us in any way she can.
Unlike many families around us, my parents believed in the importance of education for all their children, regardless of gender. They struggled to ensure all six of us attended school. It was never easy for us and while in primary school, we lost many days and weeks of school, as many times there was no money for school fees. I remember I used to cry every time this happened, but my parents encouraged me to have faith and not to lose hope.
I had to repeat my 6th grade for lack of school fees, but luckily, in 2003, the free primary education program was rolled out in Kenya. This was a God-sent opportunity for it enabled me to go through my primary education smoothly. The challenges that I went through as a girl from a humble background, together with the encouragement from my loving parents, and trust in God, propelled me to work extra hard in my studies. I wanted a better future.
Joining Starehe Girls’ Centre was the turning point of my life. For it is at this Centre that I came to learn of the Global Give Back Circle, and in 2009, while in my final year of high school, I was once again privileged to be selected among those joining the Circle. I was assigned a mentor, Sarah Jacobs Forbes from the USA, who was willing to walk with me and guide me in the next phase of life. I felt so privileged and humbled, for not many girls from where I came from got a chance to be mentored, let alone have a personal mentor! Sarah has been a vital part of my life ever since. She is amazing! And she is not just my mentor; she is my best friend and a big sister with whom I share every aspect of my life.
During the gap period between high school and university, I was given another amazing opportunity thanks to the MasterCard Foundation and Microsoft. I attended a 9-month IT course and gained invaluable IT skills.
Furthermore, I have been empowered through life-changing workshops on financial literacy, reproductive health, social etiquette, careers, leadership and giving back. The program has instilled in me the spirit of giving back and now, giving back has become a part of me; something that I cannot live without. Over the years, I have been involved in various give back commitments, including: tutoring fellow students while in high school and college, working as a volunteer lab technician at the local health centre back in my village and currently as a mentor and a motivational speaker to students and pupils in schools with the aim of reducing the number of school dropouts due to early pregnancies and drugs.
The happiest day of my life was the day I was informed me that the MasterCard Foundation also awarded me a scholarship to pursue university. I joined the University of Eldoret, where I pursued a Bachelor of Science degree in Microbiology. Thanks to this scholarship, my studies were not affected in terms of finances. Without this scholarship, my educational journey would have stopped at the end of high school. I am thankful to the Global Give Back Circle and KCDF for forming a partnership with the MasterCard Foundation.
Through the many workshops organized, including workshops on leadership, I learnt that I am my own leader and I can be anything I put my mind to. During university, I was elected as the Chairlady of the Microbiology Students’ Association and did a good job during my term. Furthermore, my undergraduate project on the analysis of contamination of borehole water was among the best projects and my supervisor and I are working on getting it published.
Today, I successfully completed my degree and an internship at the Kenya Medical Research Institute in collaboration with the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (KEMRI/CDC). Furthermore, I am happy to say that I was privileged to land yet again a MasterCard Foundation scholarship to pursue my Master’s at the University of Cape Town in South Africa. I will be pursuing a Master of Science in Medical Microbiology, as I am passionate about scientific research, specifically health research. I wish to use my research skills to improve healthcare in my society.