|Vivian Onano [Photo: Martin Mukangu/Standard]|
21-year-old Vivian Adhiambo Onano’s passion for community service has earned her a place with royalty. She was among those invited to the White House last year to celebrate the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day with First Lady Michelle Obama, writes NJOKI CHEGE
Tell us about yourself…
I am currently on Zawadi Africa Scholarship to Carthage College in Wisconsin where I am sophomore with a major in Pre-med and a minor in Computer Science. I was born in Kisumu and I have two young brothers. Our mother, a small businesswoman in Kisumu, raised us. It was a struggle to attend primary school because my mother was unable to support me financially. I depended on my teachers to help pay for books and lunch.
I felt hopeless and wondered who would pay for my high school education. In spite of the challenges, I worked hard managed to join Starehe Girls’ Centre. I got the opportunity to exploit my talents and serve the society. After high school, I decided to impact the lives of those in my community through the knowledge I had gained.
You are one of the 25 Moremi Initiative Leadership and Empowerment Development (MILEAD) Fellows representing Kenya and the Diaspora. Tell us more about the programme…
The MILEAD Fellows Programme is a leadership programme that brings together Africa’s young women leaders aged 19 to 25 years who want to lead and shape their local communities. Through a competitive selection process, the fellows were chosen for their outstanding leadership promise, community service accomplishments and commitment to the advancement of women in Africa.
The MILEAD Fellows will converge in Accra, Ghana to kick-start the 2012 MILEAD Leadership Institute with a three-week intensive training programme, which will be hosted by the Institute of African Studies, University of Ghana, Legon.
You seem to be very passionate about the empowerment of girls. Why so?
Having been raised in a rural area, I faced many obstacles growing up; hence my passion for girl-child empowerment through education and health care for women and children in developing countries. I have volunteered with Mama Maria Clinic in rural Kisumu and was the Project Officer in charge of HIV and Aids outreaches in the community.
During this period, I was able to reach out to 5,000 people and created awareness on the need for testing and knowing one’s HIV status. I also assisted the clinic to access test kits from the Supply Chain Management. I also volunteered with Flying Kites Children Home, Kenyatta National Hospital and Children of Kibera Foundation.
You are also part of the Global Give Back Circle. Tell us how this has benefited you and the community you serve?
I was among the first 30 girls chosen to become part of the Global Give Back Circle (GGBC). Each girl in the programme is given a mentor who helps her discover her five ‘selves’ that include the physical, spiritual, relationship, intellectual and emotional selves. With the help of GGBC and my mentor, I was able to graduate from high school and enrol in the Microsoft ICT Lab, a curriculum that teaches computer skills such as accounting, business law, programming, web design and HIV and Aids awareness.