|By Kennedy Karanja|
With the support of corporate partners, colleagues, friends, family, and the Community Outreach Programme (COP), Christina embarked on a journey that has so far impacted a marginalized community. Started in May 2019, STEP is a mentorship initiative carried out by youth volunteers living and working in Turkana. Guided by the belief that education is a powerful tool in reducing inequalities, STEP has several projects under its wings: a mentoring programme, teacher enhancement programmes, community engagements and establishment of resource centres. STEP, a collaboration between Strathmore University, the Catholic Diocese of Lodwar and other stakeholders, is currently working with volunteers to provide teaching assistance and mentoring in four primary schools and six secondary schools in Turkana North and Turkana Central.
On the 27th of February 2022, a group of four students: Mariah Gitau, Wairimu Manyara, Mercy Mwikali, and Hillary Renson Nyongesa, took a journey to Napetet Village, at the heart of Turkana County. This was to become their home for the next six days, a time they spent facilitating revision sessions with candidates due to sit for the national exams. Out of these and other efforts, more than 25 students from these primary schools qualified for admission in national secondary schools in 2023. Of these, four are fully sponsored courtesy of CSC, in addition to other six from the KCPE class of 2021 who benefited from bursaries raised by CSC. Apart from these impressive individual outcomes of high school transition, all the schools under this program saw improved overall performance, with one school churning out a 27 percent increase in their mean score.
STEP facilitates revision camps, life skills training, and leadership programs in these target schools. Courtesy of a generous grant of 40 computers and 40 desks, STEP was able to establish two digital libraries in Turkana North and Turkana Central. In fact, one of our students who was doing her Service Based Learning (SBL) was instrumental in setting up two computer labs – the Anna Nanjala Resource Centre and one in Kokuselei – and providing pro-bono computer courses over a four-week period.
In a conversation about the STEP programme with Christina Garashie, Manager in the Alumni Relations Department, I gathered that no act is too small to make a difference. Christina, a stronghold in the Community Outreach Program (COP) and Macheo Program, and a mentor and friend to many, embodies the story of the Hummingbird as was aptly expressed by the late Prof. Wangari Maathai: ‘We should always be like a hummingbird. I may be insignificant, but I certainly don’t want to be like the animals watching as the planet goes down the drain. I will be a hummingbird; I will do the best I can.’
In her own words, Christina is ‘passionate about life.’ Not just her life, for which she is grateful for having many material, academic and circumstantial privileges, but also the lives of a myriad of children and youth that she mentors. She runs camps under the COP to teach underprivileged young people service, virtue and values. She hopes to expose them to the adjacent possible so that they can step up and be better versions of themselves.
She sets an example by constantly trying to exceed herself – socially, mentally, physically. When she is not working, she prefers to spend quality time in the company of close friends. Her predominant daily habits include: attending Mass, taking an evening jog, and empathizing with characters in her favourite books, such as Leo Tolstoy’s “Anna Karenina.” Despite the fact that she spends most of her time in the company of her work colleagues, family and Macheo mentees, she strives to have an inexhaustible social battery.
She endeavours to acquire an indefatigable character like that of her role models – Mother Teresa and Princess Diana – who were untiring and gave fully themselves to service till their sunset years. In her lifetime, she is working to improve the quality of education. She hopes to achieve her ambition of building a school for every three kilometres, so that most children will access quality and holistic education. She is happiest when at the end of the day, even if tired, she has taken a small step towards this goal.
Christina took a personal initiative to inaugurate the Christmas Caravan Drive, which runs in tandem with STEP. The Christmas Caravan received a huge boost from Kianda and Makini Schools, Citibank and Toto Care Box Africa, who supplemented donations from Strathmore University staff and students, to fill an entire truck with clothes, foodstuff, sanitary pads and school supplies, that greatly aided the Turkana students. She also testifies that STEP has received a lot of support from Strathmore University staff, some of whom have sponsored bright and needy high school students, especially girls, who have been nurtured by STEP.
Having carried out this project for over four years, and worked with several volunteers, she encourages prospective volunteers to be open minded and have a magnanimous heart.
If you would like to volunteer or support STEP, you may contact email@example.com or drop your donations of school supplies (textbooks, files, desks), dry foodstuff, sanitary towels or cash to the Community Service Centre located on the 3rd floor of the Student Centre.