Wawira Njiru, is the founder and executive director of Food for Education, an organisation that works with vulnerable children in Kenyan public schools to improve their lives by providing subsidised and nutritious school lunches.
She has been recognised as a Spark International Change Maker 2012 and a Hunger-Free Ambassador. In 2016, she was one of 16 participants of the Global Social Benefit Insititute Accelerator Programme.
Wawira is also the youngest recipient of the University of South Australia’s alumni award 2017. Wawira is a 2018 Rainer Arnhold Fellow, a Mulago Fellow (2018), a recipient of the Builders of Africa Award 2018 and was selected as one of 2018’s Top 40 Under 40 Women in Kenya.
The 27-year-old has achieved so much impact through hard work and resilience. Her organisation feeds more than 2,000 children daily, a number that could grow to 20,000 in January 2019. The programme provides lunches at Sh10 to15 a plate. They also partner with corporate bodies to provide free lunches.
Wawira started Food for Education with only 25 kids in 2012. She always worried about the sustainability of the project. She knew that for the project to have a lasting impact, it had to be sustainable and able to cater for repetitive costs.
She then decided to start a pig farm which would provide running capital. She would manage the farm while undertaking her Bachelor’s degree in Australia.
The pigs would later die but Wawira’s dream did not. She later started Double Portion, a food delivery and catering company whose profits are channelled to the food for the education program.
She has learnt that to be an entrepreneur you have to give your all.
‘I have learnt to be an entrepreneur, to be a marketer, to source for funds, to be an economist with the funds I get, to be a better communicator, to be a leader, to be a servant. Entrepreneurship is not just one job. It is several rolled into one,’ she enthuses.
The firstborn of three has always loved giving back to her immediate society. In primary school, she would give out food from her mother’s kitchen to anyone who needed it. She even gave out frozen githeri once.
While schooling at Precious Blood Riruta secondary school, she started a community service club which exists to date. She studied nutrition in university, something that chiselled out her desire to help people into this singular step that saw her start food for education.
Wawira has learned a lot in the six years she has been at the helm of food for education.
‘You have to pace yourself so that you do not burn out. Learn to plan your time and create time to do the things that you hold dear, whether it is dinner with family or friends or just a quiet night in.’
Wawira also believes in having a good team as one is able to do and achieve more, both professionally and personally when their team is efficient. She has a team of 21 people in total who work on both Food for Education and Double Portion. There is also the main board and advisory board whose role is to hold Wawira and her team accountable as well as offer advice, guidance and expertise to the team.
For those looking to start a social enterprise Wawira’s advice is to just start.
“Talk does not achieve anything. Just start. Besides, there is only so much advice you can get. Start, make mistakes, learn from them and grow!”
Wawira, however, warns against starting a social enterprise for selfish reasons such as fame, accolades or money. She cautions for people to start for the right reasons as the journey is hard.
‘Money is merely a consequence of what you are doing; it should never be the goal. Through the lean years, just remember that resilience is a muscle that has to be trained. And like any training, learning resilience will be painful,’ she concludes.