Pauline’s Story

Five years ago I was selected to join the Global Give Back Circle. To say that the Circle has changed my life is an understatement. It has given me the power to climb mountains and achieve things I never knew possible. I kept a journal, and one of my entries was a letter, which I named the “Letter from the Top of the Mountain;” it was to a great extent, hypothetical. At that time, I still wasn’t so sure that there would be a top of the mountain to get to, or that I would have the climbing power. It was a little hazy but I made the entry anyway. Fast forward and it is evident I am climbing all the mountains I can find. I am excited about the climbing. And the top is no longer an imaginary creation of the mind. I know what I want, I strive for the best and I am unapologetic about getting there.

My life has unfolded in a rather interesting manner. I grew up in Naivasha. My parents worked on a flower farm. I grew up seeing my mother work extra hours to get an extra few coins added to her wages. The relentless unending hard work and perseverance of a woman who knew she had a family to provide for. I know I have a purpose in life, which is to make her proud and happy of my achievements, as they also reflect on her own sacrifices. I remember the kind of jubilation I’d see in my parents whenever I’d memorize a verse in church; when I’d bag presents for academic excellence or conduct the choir. I knew of Starehe Girls’ even before the school opened its doors to the world, and to me. An alumna of Starehe Boys’ Centre had visited our primary school and mentioned that the girls’ school was about to be opened and that only the best-performing students would be admitted.

I worked very hard and managed to get an admission to Starehe Girls’ Centre, for my secondary education on full scholarship. One Thursday afternoon, when my father left me at the Starehe Girls’ Centre, I knew my options were wide open. I could amount to anything. It was a glorious moment. I applied myself to schoolwork, and a new door opened soon enough. I became part of the Global Give Back Circle (GGBC). I thank God for the opportunity to be part of this wonderful group of sisters that is the GGBC. I have met some of the most amazing people in this circle, from mentors, fellow scholars, coordinators and dreamers. It is an amazing support.

I was matched with my mentor, Antoinette Terrana from the United States, and with constant communication, we have developed a very close relationship. We have communicated via electronic mail since the inception of the mentorship. I have learnt a lot from Antoinette. She’s encouraged me to see beyond the dark patches and focus on the positives of life. She has given her time and finances to help me and other people. Most interesting is the way she has developed an understanding of me despite the difference in culture and upbringing. It is amazing that despite these differences, we still find a common ground. We’ve shared progress about my Give Back Commitment and have worked out solutions and mechanisms to upscale my impact. Antoinette has given me the push when I doubted myself. One such instance was with my pursuit for an education abroad. She’s continuously encouraged me to follow my passions and go further. I have strived to follow my passions and to be unwavering in pursuit of the things that matter to me.

I was awarded a Zawadi Africa Education Fund scholarship to study in the United States. I enrolled at Syracuse University in the Fall of 2016 and I’m now studying Economics and Computer Science. This is quite the highlight in my life. There’s just something very special about achieving such a goal, because I did not do this alone, I did it as part of a broader community that helped me overcome many shortcomings. I am living proof that everything is achievable. My Give Back Commitment is to enlighten adolescents of the many possibilities ahead of them. We want them to achieve better and amount to more.

As I embark on this new phase in my life, living abroad and away from only community I have known until now, I know that this is only one more mountain to climb, and I truly cannot wait to get to the top. I am conscious that I have not done this alone, and it is for this reason that I make sure to bring others along the way, to mentor others, and to Give Back so much that was given to me. A lot more is expected of me, not just by my community, but also by me. This is only the beginning!