The Uuuhs and Aaarghs of my life

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Courage is an Attitude

I had just come from Nairobi Garage where I had hosted an early-morning speed networking event for young Nairobi entrepreneurs. It was the very last event. I could not afford to produce another one. So I had a little cupcake and coffee party to thank my guests, and to encourage them to keep on with their good work. I went home.
 
With my handbag still on my shoulder, I sat on the couch, silent.
With a box of stationery still on my lap, I stared at the feedback forms inside.
Warm tears slowly slithered down my cheeks into the box.
Suddenly, a loud cry burst out of my mouth and echoed into the box.
 
I felt like such a big failure!
A failure to my company. A failure to myself. A failure to my parents who’d invested in my business. A failure to my supporters. A failure to my country.
 
After weeping, I sat on the couch for a while, trying to figure out my next steps. Normally, I would write an evaluation of the event and plan for the next one. Then send a message of thanks to guests, along with a networking tip.
 
But this time round, I had no idea what would be my next step.
I could not afford to pay back the loans from my parents because the banks I had visited didn’t offer loans to young unmarried ladies with small enterprises. I got to understand why there are so many microfinance banks for women in Kenya. Despite modernisation, most banks still see women as high-risk customers.
 
I could not reach out to my mentor because our relationship had been tarnished by his sexual advances. He had been in the process of supporting my application for a grant at an embassy, the accounting firm already set to receive the funds. But when he realised that I stand firm on my principles, he blocked the process and sent me this message: “I can’t be a mentor to a person like you. The people I mentor understand how we work. No wonder your startup is not working!”
 
So I put down the box of stationery, slipped off the couch onto the floor and removed my shoes.
I prayed. I wept. I prayed some more.
 
Exposed and vulnerable is what I felt as a human being. But I did not care at that point. If I were to be broken and all vulnerable, I would rather be so before my God who is also my friend. I asked Jesus to show me that all my effort had not been in vain. I asked for His guidance.
 
A wave of calmness came over me and I found the strength to smile. Suddenly, I noticed the chocolate cupcake that had remained from the party I had with my guests. I grabbed it, took a bite, and told myself: “Happy Birthday Michelle! All will be well.”
 
One birthday later, I am so grateful to have my prayers answered.
My parents chose to look over the loans I owed them, and invested in furthering my education in Social Innovation Management at the Amani Institute. So happy that I’ll be graduating this month. Yay!
 
I found the courage to take a few steps back on the idea I had had to focus on the core, which is positive conversations that inspire positive change. Now, I serve change leaders as a coach through a project that celebrates storytelling for leadership.
 
Despite not having surplus funds at the moment, I have never lacked. Opportunities are showing up along my journey. Not to mention the amazing people I’ve had the pleasure to meet and learn from.
 
I’ve got a strong roof over my head, food to put on my table and clothes to keep me warm. Every day, I wake up to new opportunities to serve people by doing what I love.
 
The greatest lesson I have learnt is that…
Failure is a great teacher with an ugly face.
It takes courage to look past the ugly face and see a resource to learn from.
 
Courage is a key word this new year of my life.
 
My hope is that this little story of mine encourages you never to give up on you. And remember…
 
Courage, Prayer & Chocolate cake!
 
Happy Birthday to me
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Totally Femme and Able!

A woman is enough.

She can protect herself and her loved ones. 

She can be confident to step out of her doorstep and be safe.

She can be in the company of a man and know that she too can defend.

She can discipline her mind to think heroine and not victim when in danger.

Femme is enough.

 

Action Time!

I believe that women and girls in Nairobi need to be proactive with their personal security. I’ve had close-shave incidents at work, school, in the streets of Nairobi, and in the company of friends, where to be honest I wasn’t equipped enough to defend.

So this is how we can always be prepared heroines …

 

Krav Maga Women's Self-Defence Class Poster

 

Shadow Krav-Maga Female Self-defence Classes

Yuly G, an International Krav-Maga and Karate instructor invited me to join him in signing-up groups of 20 women and girls in Nairobi for self-defence classes. We both believe in proactive over reactive personal security measures. The classes will begin from Sunday, 27th March 2016 and sign-ups are ongoing via the email provided on the poster above.

Ladies will be trained using the Shadow Krav-Maga technique which was initially developed as an unarmed combat system for the Israeli Defense Forces. Its goal is to stop violence without violence. The Karen, Parklands and Jaffery Centre (Lavington) Sports clubs will be the locations for the classes which will be happening on Sunday and Saturday afternoons and Wednesday evenings at 6pm. Ladies can sign-up for the One-day or the 2-month classes as shown below:

+ One-day class for 3 to 4 hours at Ksh. 2,500 or USD $25. Acquired Skills include basic self-defence skills against grabbing, choking, pushing and theft.

+ Two-month class for 16 hours at Ksh. 8,500 or USD $85. One hour per class twice a week, or more hours per class if the group is happy with that. Acquired Skills include basic and advanced self-defence skills from attacks with sharp objects, punching, kicking and ground attacks (like sexual attacks). Psychology self-defence and manipulation of mind and body of attacker. Self-defence by using surrounding objects. In addition, there will be Fitness, Cardio, weight management training.

 

Yuly Profiler

 

How to Prepare for Class

First, ensure that you’re signed-up in a group of 20 ladies for either one of the classes on offer. This is done through sending a request via email on poster above and making an advance payment of 50% (non-refundable) of the total class fee to the Mpesa number that’ll be provided via email. The other 50% can be paid right before class.

Second, once your group of 20 ladies is all set, a date will be confirmed for your class. Yay! All you need for class is proper training gear (long trouser and strong T-shirt), a bottle of water and a towel. Training equipment and shower rooms will be available at the locations. NB: Girls between ages 13-18 should come with a guardian or parent.

Third or even immediately, do share this information with other women and girls so that just like you, they can proactively equip themselves for self-defence. Imagine the news stories changing to: “Nairobi woman defends herself against armed attacker.”

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I choose to be a heroine.

I choose to be prepared.

I choose to be totally femme & able.

 

Let’s do this ladies!

🙂

 

Where is Boni?

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Boni* is a street boy whom I met a year ago.
I enjoyed a chat with him as we walked towards a nearby grocery market to buy some bananas for him and friends.
I remember him sharing that despite being a street boy, he will, “Never give up!”
The boys used to stay and nap under some trees along Ngong Road. The trees were their homes.
After an early meeting today at iHub Nairobi, I walked past the same trees that are now chopped, burnt to ashes, abandoned.
No longer tall and green.
No longer a home.
“Where is Boni?” I thought.
But the lonely air responded with heartbreaking silence.

 

Berta Caceres 2015 Goldman Environmental Award Recipient

Berta Caceres stands at the Gualcarque River in the Rio Blanco region of western Honduras where she, COPINH (the Council of Popular and Indigenous Organizations of Honduras) and the people of Rio Blanco have maintained a two year struggle to halt construction on the Agua Zarca Hydroelectric project, that poses grave threats to local environment, river and indigenous Lenca people from the region. Source: goldmanprize.org

 

As we chase after modern knowledge, skills & lifestyles, are we loosing ourselves?

We are all indigenous to somewhere on this earth.

We all came from somewhere!

Our human identity isn’t in fashion brands, fast cars, academic achievements, air mileage and fancy houses.

Our identity depends on real connections with humanity, not things.

Berta Cáceres has taught us an expensive lesson – to protect our identity or allow our footprints to vanish from existence.

This International Women’s Day 2016, I celebrate Berta’s courage as a female warrior who fought for equality, environmental conservation, protection of her indigenous culture and peace!

Visit goldmanprize.org for more about Berta Cáceres!

#IWD2016

 

 

Lessons from Betty the Bean

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Betty the Bean

So a few weeks ago, I planted Betty the bean in the backyard. She is a special bean because she can produce about 300 beans even in a tiny space!!! I had to search for a safe place for her to grow and I found it. But it took her longer than an ordinary bean to germinate.

I was afraid that she wouldn’t make it. The rains fell upon the ground for a number of days and I kept checking up on her every morning and evening. At last, she sprouted off the ground but some ants ate up one of her food reserve on her cotyledon.

Still, I kept watering her and feeding her some organic manure. Monday morning this week, as I brushed my teeth I went straight to the backyard and saw Betty standing tall and strong with two whole leaves 🙂
She’s now a strong little seedling!!!

In my journey to discovering my purpose, I keep facing challenges that make me doubt if that great purpose is really for me. But even when the time takes longer than usual, even when stormy seasons almost drown me, even when adversity tries to bully me… I still believe that by standing my ground, I’ll break through the tough times.

I’ll soak up the good from all that’s around me and turn it into a motivation to help me get to the next part of the journey.

It’s not easy, but after coming this far, it’ll only be silly to give up hope when everything in me is already showing that little by little I’m almost there.

Do you feel like a Betty bean today?

Be strong, courageous, and believe in your able roots.

Finally, I found purpose!

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Atop a Crater at Lake Naivasha.

I’m sitting at the top of a high crater that surrounds Lake Naivasha like a cylindrical tower studded with lush greenery. In silence, I absorb the magnificent sound and scent of nature in its glory.

Below, beautiful ripples over the Lake Naivasha and Rosa a lonely flamingo standing on one leg in a distance.

Over the crater, welcomes a carpet of green fertile land with cows grazing and their shepherds guiding them.

The wind blowing, leaves rustling, I sense the comfort of new friends around me.

Suddenly, I realise that I am right where I need to be in this moment.

Ready to start a new chapter of my life that gives me permission to obey the longing voice in my heart – PURPOSE.”

Flag of All Flags!

Flag of all flags is love.

Flag of all flags is love.

FLAG OF ALL FLAGS: It’s heartbreaking to watch people fight on social media about something that should actually bring us together as humankind.
“Why haven’t you changed your profile picture to support France?” “Why haven’t you changed your profile picture to support Lebanon?” “Why haven’t you changed your profile picture to support Syrian refugees?” “Why haven’t you changed your profile picture to support…?”

If you’re like me, you might have already picked up on the real purpose of the virtual flags: Love for humanity.
But by choosing to isolate and attack each other because of Facebook flags, we’re choosing that which the terrorists are promoting? Fear, the mother of terrorism.

Fear makes us believe that we are more different than we are similar.
Fear makes us violent with our words, thoughts, intentions, and actions.
Fear makes us strip people of their power of choice.
Fear makes us foolish enough to be inhuman.

So whether or not you choose to use a Facebook flag, the biggest question we have to ask ourselves is, “So what next?”
So what next, after the terrorist attacks?
So what next, after we change our profile pictures?
So what next, after fear knocks at our doors?

Instead of fighting over Facebook flags, why not focus on what really matters? Sharing love with humanity.
How do we do this? It’s in the everyday simple things like smiling with a stranger. Sharing your meal with a homeless child. Offering a friend your shoulder to cry on. Affirming what’s good in someone instead of magnifying the faults.

As we start the new week, I encourage you to observe the world around you and spot opportunities in which you could directly respond to fear with love.
We are all superheroes if you think about it. We fight in the background with acts of courage that save the world from further decay.
This is how slowly, we get to change the world one act of love at a time.

Love & Sunshine

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