COP greatly impacted my studies- Sally Rotich

|By Sally Rotich|

I recently graduated with a Bachelor of Commerce – entrepreneurship – degree in the 17th Graduation Ceremony held on Friday, September 24.  I’m currently an entrepreneurial trainer. I teach people from low-income areas to create social impact businesses in one of the NGOs in Nairobi.

I joined the Community Outreach Programme (COP), now under the Community Service Centre (CSC), in 2018. I became a team leader at the end of 2019.  I attended my first work camp in the same year. This experience fueled me to serve in the centre and, yes, that camp turned my life around. Since then I’ve attended four other work camps. It could have been more had the pandemic not happened.

That particular work camp gave me a reason to finish university. I was on the verge of dropping out but got the push I needed after realizing I should live by the advice I give the young girls. Hard work and fighting for your dreams; this is what I would tell the girls and I’d afterwards ask myself if I was doing the same. It was a major turning point for me and I’m grateful to Strathmore Community Service Centre for saving my grades and degree.

I remember in 2019 boarding a bus that was headed to Kitui. I didn’t know anyone except one of the ladies in charge of the trip. I’m glad I’m not socially anxious because I’d have opted to go back home. I was sure I would make friends with the ladies by at least day three of the week. Cool story, I made a few by the time we got to Kitui. Pros of being an extrovert!

A back story may be necessary here. COP organizes mentoring camps twice or thrice annually for both ladies and gentlemen. At these camps, we get to mentor primary and high school students for a week. The areas that have most benefited from these workcamps are Kitui, Turkana, Kwale, and Kisumu.

A summary of what happens in the workcamp.

  • When we arrive at our place of residence for the week, we have a briefing of the schools we will visit.
  • In the morning we depart at 8:00 am or earlier depending on the distance to the schools.
  • At the schools, the mentors are divided into working groups.
  • In the morning session, we talk to the students about education, a wide topic of discussion. We talk about careers, life at university, study tips and time management.
  • After around 3 hours, we go for a break for at least an hour. It gets exhausting so getting some tea really helps to refuel.
  • Kitui is very hot which consequently means the students get very sleepy. Therefore, as mentors, we discuss all the fun topics in the afternoon session which lasts an hour. By fun topics, I mean boy-girl relationships, hygiene, mental health, friendships and so much more.
  • We also have a Q&A session where the students write questions anonymously. This allows us to know the issues they face and where necessary, give feedback to the teachers.
  • We repeat the process for all the schools we visit in the week.
  • The beauty is that, by the end of the week, we each get to spend time with all the forms or classes. We do a reshuffle of workgroups so there’s no monotony, save for the topics, which remain the same.

In the evening when we’re back “home” we have conversations after dinner. After an outflow the whole day, we have a round table, catch up, and have wholesome conversations. This is the best part of the camp. We discuss trendy topics or issues we face as young people, such as dating, courtship, and cultivating healthy female friendships. It’s very interesting to hear different perspectives from each other and get wisdom from those older than us. I’ve also made beautiful friendships from the camps, some of whom have become very dear to my heart to this date.

I go to mentoring camps because it’s an opportunity to transform lives by sharing my experiences as a student and young adult. I believe in changing the world one step at a time. This is possible when we mentor young people and it’s our responsibility as mentors to make way for them by giving them real-time advice that will allow them to thrive and survive in the world.

They say: don’t give a man fish, teach him how to do it. Camps have allowed me to be a big sister to so many beautiful girls. Having young ladies who look up to me gives me the energy to press on when situations get tough.

For those students who say Strathmore doesn’t have engaging activities, please visit their office, 3rd Floor STC, and sign up as a volunteer.