Diana Wendy Atieno is giving back to the community by mentoring girls and reaching out to children living with disability
Barry Silah @obel_barry
Tell us about yourself I am a 23-year-old Agricultural and Biosystems Engineer at Bubayi Products Limited in Trans Nzoia county. I am a graduate of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (Jkuat) and looking forward to pursuing a Master’s degree in Sustainable Agriculture next year. Besides my work, I am involved in many social projects that have a special meaning to me.
What are some of the social projects you are involved in?
Many of my programmes are around Kiminini sub-county in Trans Nzoia. Through my initiative called They Exist, we reach out to the vulnerable in society.
Our project is running at Kiminini Small Home, which houses 30 children living with disabilities. Our mission is to engage the children in fun activities that make them feel they are an integral part of the community and raise their confidence.
You said you run two projects, which is the other one?
I run a programme called The Girl Squad Mentorship with my friends.
We target girls from under privileged backgrounds.
The whole idea is to do motivational talks to inspire young women.
Many young girls with potential are falling off along the way due to vices such as early marriages or teen pregnancies, largely because of poverty. Currently, we are sponsoring the education of three girls. Going forward, we will be planning career weeks targeting four different schools.
In connection to that, we purchase and distribute sanitary towels. I train traditional birth attendants in Lamu county on alternative sources of income. At Pate Island, we have started a tomato farm that is helping mothers.
How would you gauge the impact of your programmes?
We have raised awareness on the rights of the girl-child and people living with disability. We are focusing on sensitisation. This is a continuous mission that has a long-term goal, but I can say that the response from various quarters has been positive.
We have supplied sanitary pads, paid fees and organised charity events in various parts of Trans Nzoia. To me the ultimate satisfaction is seeing a smile on the faces of the beneficiaries. We, however, need more resources and partnerships to make the programmes run effectively.
What are some of the challenges you face?
I feel a few people or organisations are working genuinely with disadvantaged children. They are a sensitive lot who need care. It is, therefore, a sacrifice that requires dedication. Some families abandon their children, which then leaves an emotional void in their lives. The element of accepting these disabled children and integrating them into society is still a challenge to date. However, the biggest challenge is funding since equipment such as wheelchairs are not easy to come by due to costs.
How did your upbringing influence you to come up with these initiatives?
Our parents worked tirelessly to fend for our family of five children and I could not be more proud of their efforts. Despite the financial constraints, they struggled to ensure we all went to school. I admire their zeal even though they went through phases of despair. This opened my eyes and I worked extremely hard in school and swore to myself that I would go out and make a difference for others and myself. Even through my formal job as an engineer, I try to learn and help others so that they feel empowered.
Have you got any recognition or rewards for your work?
The biggest opportunity for me is the Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders bestowed upon me last year. I was among a select cohort to attend training in Texas State for two-and-a-half months. It was an eye-opener for me and I recall doing a volunteer programme for 96 hours. I found out about the programme, started in 2014 by former US President Barack Obama, on Facebook.