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On the Finalist Block! 2021 East African Philanthropy Awards and Conference!

We would like to congratulate our Shining Brighter Scholar | Intern from St. Paul's University (Community Development program of study) and our Girls Empowerment Coordinator, Michelle Akoth! Michelle was nominated for the individual level award with the 2021 East African Philanthropy Awards and Conference that took place September 7-9, 2021 in Nairobi, Kenya for her work in our community of Kibera through The Angaza Project. The Angaza Project is glad to be among the organizations in attendance and of course even prouder that Michelle was named a top ten finalist for the individual- level philanthropy awards, earning 4th place of the top ten finalists. What makes this incredibly exciting is that this status is among over one hundred nominees from three countries (citizens of Uganda, Tanzania, and Kenya)! Way to go Michelle! Keep shining!

Michelle was recognized for her commitment to empowering girls in Kibera and her innovation during the COVID crisis. Michelle organized block tutoring to keep the girls engaged and still learning, she oversaw the mask making project in our Maridadi Skills and then delivered 600 masks to people in need and she also organized and devised creative ways to distribute emergency food packs to our participants from the Friends of The Angaza Project with either social distance or no contact. Michelle does so much more for the girls in our community though.... she keeps tabs on them in school, visits the classrooms and holds them accountable. She also co-created Nuru Club, which is a special meeting group just for Form 4 (12th grade) girls in our Girls Empowerment. She led the development of special topics like creating a CV and cover letter, interview skills, volunteering to gain transferrable skill sets and entries on the CV, money management and savings, the activity of opening a teen bank account for each Form 4 Nuru Club girl with one of our local lady banker relationships (that we truly appreciate!) and she is helping to plan research for our model of care and operations.

This year's Conference theme was "Re-engineering Philanthropy" which was a call to the philanthropy ecosystem in East Africa to redesign its philanthropy processes and systems, improve collaboration efforts, and achieve improvement in the sector's impact in the East Africa Region. This 2021 conference was an opportunity for an in-depth look at innovation and work in the community post-crisis as well as how to build resilience to thrive at the next level of development.

Let's hear from Michelle! We enjoyed talking with her about her work in our community!

Michelle, what motivates you?

"My passion for empowering others goes beyond words sometimes. Having grown up in an informal settlement, I have experienced and lived through most of the challenges that the young girls I mentor are dealing with right now. I survived the challenges of a lack of resources to live, emotional support, or that push to do better, and I want to empower the girls to not only survive it but build together for change. As the girls increase their scores in school, reduce their absences, and I see them engage other girls in the community sharing the lessons we cover in Girls Empowerment, that motivates me to keep going. I am seeing that the 18 + girls I reach at a time are stretching that reach even further with their friends for a greater impact. The big wave of change that I see along with each one reaching one more -- that motivates me to keep going."

Your passion for empowering girls is unmatched Michelle! Tell us, what does this nomination and top ten finalist status (out of over a hundred nominations from THREE countries) mean for you?

"It is an honor to have been nominated and then selected as a top ten finalist for this prestigious individual- award. To receive such a status marks achievement of change across the community to date and this nomination and top ten finalist status is a symbol of even greater responsibility in philanthropy. It means that I am obligated to continue mentoring the girls behind me, showing them the essence of networking, leadership, and building partnerships with other change makers for a better tomorrow in our community.

We love hearing that Michelle, especially teaching the girls the importance of networking, being leaders, and building partnerships with others! Impressive! One more question for you...... How would you encourage others in the region to participate in their communities?

"I would encourage others in the region to participate in their communities by reminding everyone that change starts with them. Every person can make a difference and every contribution, no matter how big or small, has an impact on people and the community. All it takes is each person to reach another one and it generates greater involvement and stake in our communities across the nation. You are the key to change. We can all make a difference where we are by recognizing the gap within our society and taking the initiative to mobilize and utilize the resources available within our communities. It is through these local methods that we can continue to develop and sustain the nation."

Wow, thank you for sharing this with us Michelle and CONGRATULATIONS to you on your nomination! We are so proud of you every day!

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