Members of the Abraham Lincoln Youth Intiative met at the US Embassy in Nairobi. Instead of becoming merely friends, they teamed up to fight the country’s oldest foes –disease, hunger and illiteracy
Harriet James @PeopleDailyKe
Young people are known for their affinity for fun. With bubbling energy, many people wrongfully assume that the only thing they care about is partying and merry-making. An organisation made up of youth has found a way to channel the energy and charisma into community work. Abraham Lincoln Youth Initiative is a group formed by young people who share the same views on sustainable development and human security. Led by their president, Linda Chepkwony, the group met as students at the United States Embassy Resource Centre in Nairobi where they had gone to register as members. “We met as students who are passionate about foreign relations, diplomacy, politics, governance, youth and women empowerment and entrepreneurship,” says Linda.
At first, they began meeting as individuals until they decided to form an organisation that would unify them. The group started in 2015, but was officially registered in 2016. As Linda recalls, they named it the Abraham Lincoln Youth Initiative because they formed it on American ground.
“We decided to name it Abraham Lincoln because he was the 16th president of USA and was one of the best presidents that America ever had,” Linda says.
They engage in various activities to give back to the society. In most instances, they carry out projects in the slums and all their programmes are aligned to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. For instance, to end poverty, they empower women and youth to do capacity building programmes and link them up with institutions that give loans to youth groups. To fight hunger, they have a school feeding project in Mathare slums. Their long-term sustainability programme at the school is to ensure it becomes self-sufficient. On good health, they have programmes on good hygienic habits teaching children how to wash their hands to prevent cholera, diarrhoea and good oral hygiene.
When it comes to empowering the youths and women, the group prides itself with offering knowledge on entrepreneurship and exposing them to opportunities they never knew existed.
“We let them know of Access to Government Procurement Opportunities (AGPO), the process of registering and pre qualifying Youth, Women and Persons with Disability owned enterprises so that they can access government tenders and contracts. We also advise them on how to register a company and do supplies under the AGPOs,” says Linda.
One of their success stories is Upendo Community School in Mathare Mabatini, where they have a school feeding programme. Here they met Vincent Omondi, an orphaned student who scored 378 marks, but has defied all odds to become the top student.
“When I met Vincent a few months ago, we were carrying out our school feeding programme. I was told he found his way to Nairobi by hitch-hiking. He had gone through a lot of mistreatment and humiliation at his relatives house and he had to escape and come to Nairobi,” says Linda.
Luckily, a Good Samaritan picked him from the streets and brought him to the community school where he is now excelling.
Despite all these successes, like many other groups doing volunteer work, they face a lot of challenges. One of them is financial constraints.
“We are feeding over 120 children in Mathare Mabatini, some of the children only have a meal per day at home and most of them come from poor socio-economic backgrounds. We therefore give them porridge during break and nutritious meals at lunch, which sometimes can be costly,” explains Linda.