The youth are the custodians of a nation’s posterity and no country can develop sustainably without investing in its youth. The youth represent Kenya’s dreams and hope as a nation and where those dreams and hopes are smothered in despair, the entire nation falters.
The National Youth Service provides an opportunity to mould the next generation of Kenyan leaders, and citizens who will uphold this country and work diligently and selflessly to build the Kenya we all dream to have.
Many have asked: What is new about this new vision of the National Youth Service? Is it just about increased numbers and cleaning up of informal settlements? Is there anything new?
Allow me to use a little analogy; wines and viticulture.In viticulture, there are various factors that determine the quality, flavour and productivity of a vineyard and eventually of the wine that is produced.
This is the “Terroir” – or otherwise referred to as “the sense of place”; the sum total of the characteristics of the environment of the specific place where the grapes grow.
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With regard to soils, though the influence of soils is not as dramatic as that of climatic conditions, it is known that the best wine growing sites in the world are said to have well-draining soils with adequate water-holding capacity, lighter soil texture, which is less prone to soil compaction, moderate depth and low relative level of fertility.
These factors combined is what is referred to as the “Terroir”. Terroir, as a concept, doesn’t only apply to wines, it can apply to just about any agricultural produce, the reason why Kenyan Arabica coffee possesses the rich aroma that gives it its international acclaim is the terroir associated with the growth and production of coffee in Kenya.
So what does this have to do with NYS? The micro-climate in the National Youth Service, through the five-point plan launched in September 2014, is the Terroir for building our youth into a new more hopeful generation.
It is the sum total of an environment that will nurture a young person that is patriotic, selfless, has a sense of civic duty, and is ready to diligently build his or her country.
The NYS serviceman and woman will be distinguished because they have grown in a micro-climate that transforms their nature and nurtures their new nature.
There are other parallels that can be drawn from the process of making wine. Consider the process of wine making from the sorting of the grapes, crushing and pressing, fermentation, clarification and finally ageing and bottling.
The stages through which the NYS servicemen and women go through, from the day they are recruited into the service to the day they leave, is very similar.
During recruitment they are selected from among many.
They undergo a process of character building and pressing through basic and paramilitary training; fermentation and clarification through their service in nation building and social transformation, and finally ageing and bottling, through the vocational training that equips them with the requisite skills to take advantage of economic opportunities in the country.
All the while, they are being prepared and inculcated with a sense of patriotism, civic competence and self-reliance.
There is a spiritual connection between a place, a name and a brand. When we hear Bordeaux, we think of elegant French wine. This is because Bordeaux the place has distinguished itself in producing high quality wine since the 6th Century BC. A good name is better than wealth.
The Kenya National Youth Service is committed to making a good name that will outlive these first graduates of the new five-point plan.
A brand name that will not only stand out in the national arena, but a brand we can export to other parts of the world, just like our Kenyan Arabica Coffee.
A common practice in the wine and coffee industry, is a realisation that when you can’t produce enough of the gourmet product, then you use it as a blend to improve the quality of other varieties.
Kenyan Arabica coffee is used as a common blend for other varieties from Vietnam and Latin America, to increase and improve their flavours.
The discipling principle of the five-point plan, where one serviceman/woman disciples 5-10 community youth as they undertake national service, is all about blending; ensuring that the values and principles taught to the few who manage to get into the NYS filters across a broader group of youth, and lights up a fire of change across communities of young people throughout the country.
So just like good wine, it is critical to build a community of youth directly through the NYS and indirectly through our community engagement that will drive the revolution towards development, peace, security and national commitment.
Youth who will be TRUE to SELF and TRUE to COUNTRY. As the good book reminds us, you cannot put new wine in old skin, as the skin will tear. Re-engineering the NYS goes hand-in-hand with delivering the Jubilee Government’s youth promise.
At a time when the sitting President is committed to transforming your lot, to whom much is given, much is also expected.
Kenyans expect NYS officers to be change agents of the youth in this generation and in generations to come.