Girl’s courage to mentor young people landed her the prestigious Nelson Mandela Washington fellows in us

Eva Mvera Kazungu a beneficiary of this year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders together with other colleagues
Picture by Benson Karisa
Eva Mvera Kazungu a beneficiary of this year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders together with other colleagues Picture by Benson Karisa

Eva Mvera Kazungu started Fimbo Youth Initiative in Kilifi county several years ago as a way of mentoring young people to remain safe and realize their potential in life.

Mvera was inspired by the fact that a big number of young girls were dropping out of school after getting pregnant at an early age.

Some she said were hooked to drugs and this was a burning issue she wanted tackled especially in Kilifi town and its environs.

In a recent interview she said that she felt unease with this trend and she wanted to make a change in her society, although with little knowledge that her efforts would one day make her travel to the United States.

Mvera was among beneficiaries of this year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders. She went to the US in June and returned to the country on August 4.

The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders is the flagship program of the Young African Leaders Initiative. It targets young and accomplished professionals in the ages of 25 and 35.

Opportunities

It provides for academic, coursework, leadership training, networking, professional opportunities and support for activities in their community at a U.S. university or college.

Mvera who is a 29 year old broadcast journalist from Kenya Institute of Mass Communication and currently a second year student in communication and public relations at Mount Kenya University, used her internship at the Kilifi county information office to write stories about the plight of young girls in the county but still running the initiative by the side.

“I would write stories on defilement and seeing what was happening I felt I wasn’t doing much and that is how I came up with the initiative,” she said.

Mentorship Program

In February 2015, she attended a mentorship program with her fellow co-founders in Kilifi. “Here, we came face to face with sad tales of young people and this opened my eyes on the sorry situation of the boys and girls.

“That is when we decided to come up with the Initiative since we felt there were a lot of social injustices happening then,” she said.

‘Fimbo’ is a Kiswahili word for the cane, adding that it was aimed at ‘caning’ the social injustices happening in Kilifi, with defilement being one of them.

She is currently working on a rescue centre project she said will be established through her MVERA foundation.

But how did she found herself in the prestigious Fellowship program that is the envy of many young Africans?

Ms Mvera said that one of the Fimbo youth members posted a link on how to apply for The Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders on the initiative’s whatssup page.

Application

In September 2016, she applied but never bothered to check her email because she was least skeptical about winning the chance of going to the US through the program.

“It was a tedious process and after filling all the required information, I forgot about it but in February this year, I

Eva Mvera Kazungu a beneficiary of this year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders together with other colleagues Picture by Benson Karisa

Eva Mvera Kazungu a beneficiary of this year’s Mandela Washington Fellowship for Young African Leaders together with other colleagues
Picture by Benson Karisa

checked my mails and I saw an email from American Ambassador Robert Godec informing that I had been considered. The email required me to avail myself for interviews at the American Embassy in Nairobi.

“A call from the Embassy followed days later confirming the same and so I went for the interviews,” Eve said.

This year, she said Africans sent 64,000 applications that were received, with Kenyan having 6,000 applications.

“Only 200 Kenyans were shortlisted and after the interview, 60 were selected to go. In total, those selected for the program in Africa were 1,000 and I was delighted and happy by being one of them,” she said.

She left the country on June 15 and after a seven week stay in the land of opportunities, returned to the country on August 4.

“My journey was long because I had to travel through Germany, and then connect a flight to Chicago, then to Indianapolis before finally arriving at Indiana University Bloomington in the Indiana state.

“We stayed for four weeks in Bloomington together with the other 24 visiting Mandela fellows in our category. Then we went to Indiana University-Purdue University in Indianapolis on July 17 for two weeks of meeting our Indianapolis counterparts,” she said.

Later on, she went to Washington DC for the biggest African congress for three days where she met different people from around the globe, an experience she said will forever linger in her mind.

They then returned home to embark on their payback proposals she is sure will be able to make a significant mark in her life.

“There were a lot of culture shocks during my stay in US. First I never thought that there are American beggars. I saw a lot of them in the streets of Indiana and even in Washington DC. But I discovered that the Americans do not tell these stories. They will never tell their ugly sides but rather concentrate on the better side of their lives. This is contrary to Kenya where we tend to focus on the evil and dirt in our society that always scare away investors to the country,” she said.

She has now focused her energy on making sure that her mentorship program succeeds and brings change to girls in Kilifi who have no access to equal opportunities like boys in education and their welfare.

“I will be going to all the schools in Kilifi county and talking to the young boys and girls on the importance of education and what they should do to remain safe and achieve their intended dreams in life,” she said.