My Day as an Intern

7:13 a.m. – I am the first to arrive at our office which is on the 5th floor. Damn! The windows are open and it’s so cold. I quickly close the windows which have been left open by the cleaners. I just don’t understand why they have to open the windows on such a cold morning.

7:15 a.m. – I switch on the computer and quickly check for any new mail. I have developed a habit of checking my mail first before embarking on any other task because at times it gets very busy here. I am in the process of applying for different job opportunities because my internship is only for three months. So I subscribed to a website called My African Career, which has a portfolio of different job vacancies. I am drawn out to a particular vacancy for a Programme Coordinator for an NGO based in Somalia. Hmmm…I am tempted to apply but the thought of working in Mogadishu amidst the recent increase in shelling and attacks from Al Shabaab is scary. But this vacancy has an attractive remuneration, kwanza one is paid in U.S Dollars.

8:16 a.m. – I decide to head to the front office to see if I can grab a cup of tea. I am so thankful that we are given tea at the office, otherwise this cold will kill us. As I take tea with the other two officers our Balozi (Ambassador) informs us that there is an East African Community (EAC) meeting that he would like one of the officers to attend. He suggests that I should also accompany the officer. I am super excited about this since it’s another opportunity for me to learn more about EAC issues. Last week I had a great privilege of attending an EAC Conference on Promotion of Good Governance and Regional Integration at Hilton Hotel. The meeting that we were to attend today is a Review on the Integration of Rwanda and Burundi into EAC as Partner States. That’s sound pretty interesting. The Balozi goes out shortly.

9:12 a.m. – Oops!! The Balozi is back again and he is surprised we haven’t left yet for the meeting. We hurriedly finish our tea and head hurriedly to Hilton Hotel for the meeting. On reaching there we learn that the meeting venue has been changed to Heron Hotel. We totally have no clue where this hotel is located, so we make inquiries from the reception. Now how do we get there in like five minutes since we are way too late? After a few calls back and forth to our office, the officer I was with decides to take his car instead of us heading back to the Ministry and requisitioning for an official Ministry car which would take for ever. We learn that Heron Hotel is just next to the Integrity Centre at Upper Hill and it would take us about ten-fifteen minutes to be there. We pray and hope that there is no traffic jam kwanza given that its a Monday and this is Nairobi!!

9:57 a.m. – Lucky for us there is no traffic and we get there within 15 minutes where we find that the meeting has not yet started. We are ushered in by a lovely lady and are assigned some seats very close to the Deputy Secretary General (DSG) of EAC. Yikes!! What a great privilege. I hate arriving late for meetings because it makes me so nervous. Everyone is looking at us and the room is all quiet apart from Madam DSG who is talking on the phone.

10:00 a.m – Someone comes over and talks to the officer I was with. After they are done he tells me to step outside the conference room with him. He informs me that due to limitation in seating arrangements, the secretariat can only accommodate one officer per organization. I am instructed to head back to the office and he would brief me on the outcome of the meeting. What a bomber!! I was looking forward to being part of such a strategic meeting.

10:30 a.m. – Getting back at the office I am requested to sit at the front office desk since the other two officers have a meeting to attend and some errands to run. This week has been crazy. Everyone is running up and down in preparation for the arrival of dignitaries who have been invited to attend Kenya’s Big Party of the Year (promulgation of Kenya’s Constitution) come this Friday the 27th. I volunteer to begin working on drafting a report for last week’s conference. I didn’t jua that I was setting my self up for some brain cracking exercise. I learn I have to summarize a 10 page report to a 3 paged report. I love challenges so I dig in.

11:24 a.m – I get a text from a buddy of mine from Nax and I am informed there is a get together after 5 to catch up. What great news! At least I have a plot to look forward to after work and its been a while since I saw my buddies from Nax.

12:45 p.m. – I call Joash and Milka (fellow interns) to check out if they are going out for lunch but they inform me that they are rain checking on lunch because they have lot’s of work and deadlines to beat. I guess I will be going out for lunch all alone. I always enjoy going out for lunch becaues at least I get a chance to stretch my legs and also catch up with the other interns.

1:20 p.m. – Okay, I am supposed to be headed out for lunch by now but I am all alone at the office and I can’t leave. Luckily Balozi comes back to the office with another colleague and tells me that I can go for lunch. I usually have a one hour lunch break from 1-2 p.m. so this means I have to hurry up given that I am the only one at the front office. I decide to go to a nearby fast food restaurant for some fries. I know I shouldn’t be eating me some fries but given I only have kidogo time, it would be prudent to have the fries.

2:11 p.m. – When I come back to the office, I meet the other two officers are back from their meeting and errands. So I choose to go to my desk and catch up on some news from BBC and Newyork Times over the net. I love keeping my self updated on global issues.

3:20 p.m – I am called to the front office to do photocopies of some documents and letters. I head to the ICT office where we usually do the photocopies.

4:40 p.m. – I am at the front office desk manning the telephone and answering phone calls. Oops I just dropped a call. I haven’t yet figured out how to transfer a call to the deputy boss’ office. I feel so embarrassed. I hope the person on the other end will call again so that I apologize. Luckily they do call back and I manage to give them the direct extension line for them to call instead of me transferring them.

5:00 p.m. – Time to head out. It’s been quite a day! I have to hurry becaues my buddies are already at the place where we are supposed to meet. I inform my supervisor that I am done for the day and I wish her a good evening. Can’t wait to catch up with my buddies.

(Currently interning at Ministry of Foreign Affairs and attached to the East Africa Community Affairs Division)

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Asante Mama – Yet You Loved Me

I pushed, I kicked, I came out screaming,
yet you loved me,
I caused you pain beyond words can explain,
yet you loved me,

I caused you sleepless nights,
I caused you to cry many a times,
wondering why I had to be rebellious despite all the love
that you had shown me,
I caused you to worry yourself sick over me,
yet you loved me

Now I am far away from you,
yet each day you mention my name to I AM,
There are many days I go without thinking about you,
yet you don’t forget to call out my name each day,

At 18, I thought I am finally a man,
I tried out many things,
Things that I thought defined me as a man,
yet you loved me still,
I sniffed the brown leaves, I smoked my lungs black,
I raved late into the night,
yet night after night when I came home late,
I met you on the sofa,
having fallen asleep waiting for me,

Despite my constant sneers and scornful gestures at you,
and my slamming of my bedroom door before you,
you still came and tucked me in bed,
you still switched off the lights
and put away the contents of the brown bottle that I had been consuming,
yet you still loved me,

Today I take time to whisper to you
to send this note,
that I wish I would have had the time to tell you
that I love you mum,
I wish I had had more time to be with you
to sit by your side and listen again,
as you told me the wisdom of life

Today I take time to apologize for the times
I thought I knew better than you,
for the times I jeered and got angry at you,
for the times I put my earphones and put on my favorite tunes on my I-pod,
as you softly and gently reprimanded me over staying out late at night
with the boys of the hood,
for the times I asked myself why did I have to be born
in the confines of your womb
yet you loved me still

Now I realize and know that you are my heroine,
today I have hope because you taught me to believe
you taught me to be myself,
you taught me that love is all that matters,
Thank you mama
I miss you mama

Youth Involvement in Leadership – The Kenyan Experience

Personal Statement

I am persuaded that what our country lacks as far as leadership is concerned, is transformed leadership. Whenever I look at our current leaders, I see well learned people who had the opportunity to acquire the best of education and life experiences. Talk of Mr. Mwai Kibaki, Mr. Raila Odinga and Prof. Anyang Nyong’o if I may just mention a few. These leaders had the opportunity to acquire higher education in foreign countries and lived in places where democracy, advanced technology, high standards of living and human rights issues were deeply entrenched in the respective countries where they lived and studied abroad.

However I always ask myself “Why then do these same fellows lead us like they have never stepped into a classroom nor have any clue what true leadership entails?” The logical conclusion that I can come up with is that these leaders fail because they do not practise transformed leadership.

Transformational Leadership

By transformed leadership I mean a leadership that begins with a mind and heart transformation. This transformation entails a leader putting his personal interests aside and sacrificially serving the people with one heart and mind. Such a leader does not use the position of leadership to their advantage by amassing personal wealth and using state apparatus or systems for personal gains.

In transformed leadership, I envision a change where a leader’s values are defined by being a servant of the people and by caring about the needs of the people first. In this leadership, the citizens are given the right to demand from the government the provision of jobs, security, basic education and their fundamental rights are respected and protected. This is the change that I envision in transformed leadership.

Another key component that I envision in transformed leadership is the youth involvement in issues of governance and social-economic activities in our country. Statistics have it that majority of the Kenya’s population is composed of young persons aged between 15 and 35. Most of these youths are faced with the challenges of unemployment, drug-abuse, involvement in conflicts as perpetrators of violence, high rates of HIV/AIDS infection amid a moribund of other challenges. It is important to note that the youth despite the challenges they face, have a kinetic potential of contributing to political and socio-economic development.

This can only be so if they are given ample opportunities and are included in the governance process as mentees if not equal partners. Given the experience of the post election violence in Kenya, where the youth were seen majorly as perpetrators of violence, it is important to note that these same youths could have been used constructively in conflict resolution had the conditions been different. Different in the sense that majority of the youth are unemployed and lack the financial and material resources to be self reliant.

In the transformed leadership, the youth ought to be provided with necessary resources for them to be self reliant where they can become entrepreneurs and innovators of solution based technologies which our country so dearly needs. We commend our government for staring the Youth Enterprise Fund through Ministry of Youth and Gender Affairs but there is a greater need for easier accessibility of these funds for the young people especially those living in rural and marginalized areas.

In 2008, I was part of a team that conducted a research on the Reformation of the Kenya Youth Policy. The research entailed interviewing various youths from different places of Nairobi such as Kibera slums and Kangemi area. From the research we found out that many youths at that time were not aware on how to access the Youth Fund and most of them did not even know that there is such a fund available to them. Dissemination of information beneficial to the young people should be a key strategy that the government should embrace in incorporating the youth in the agenda of economic and societal development.

Changing with the times

Another key component of transformation leadership is the ability of our leaders and individuals to embrace change in every sphere of our lives. In the day and age that we live in change is inevitable. Today the world is regarded as a global village thanks to globalization and proliferation of information networks which has made my neighbor not to be that person living within my neighborhood but rather a person living in a remote town in Kuala Lumpar, Madrid, Buan, California or Jerusalem.

The advancement of technology and the ease of transportation have further polarized change in our world. The best that we can do as individuals is to ensure that we change with the times and change for the better in that case. As an individual it has been my resolve to learn about the changes happening in my surroundings and the world at large. It has also been my resolve to see how I can make any small or big efforts with regards to the changes happening in the world and in my social sphere.

I am a firm believer in the saying that I want to be the change that I want to see in the world. For example today the world is faced with the threat of climate change and global warming and all over the world people are being encouraged to “go green” and adopt initiatives that would cut down on green gas emissions hence mitigate the effects of climate change. It has been my personal resolve to always use recycled paper more often or switch off unattended lights in buildings. It is my belief that such small efforts are what entails transformational thinking and positive change for our world.

Feature on The Standard Newspaper

Varsity student realises dream after walking into US congressman’s office

By Harold Ayodo (Published on 07/10/2009 )

He had the gumption to walk into the office of a US congressman to request for an internship and was rewarded in a big way.

Mr Rufus Karanja, a University of Nairobi student, had just completed a one-year academic exchange programme in June when he went to the office of Michigan congressman Fred Upton to look for an internship.

Impressed by his confidence, his staff gave the third year political science and communication student a form to fill. A month later he was informed that his request was successful.

Karanja has always been intrigued by the way the US political system works. “I got a phone call to report at the offices of the Congressman on June 15. I worked there for two months,” he says.

Karanja spent part of the time by the side of the Republican congressman as he went about his duties in and out of the office.

During his stint at the office, he was struck by the glaring differences between the US and Kenyan politicians. “Mr Upton did not have security, a fuel guzzler, and drove himself to meet his constituents. He insisted I call him Fred,” says Karanja.

“He set aside time to meet his constituents unlike here where the electorate struggle to secure appointments with their MPs,” he says.

First to arrive

The congressman was always the first to arrive in the office before 8am and left last after 9pm. The US Congress is a bi-cameral legislature of the Federal Government consisting of the Senate and the House of Representatives chosen through direct election.

The congressman would note down the concerns and grievances his constitutients for discussion in congress. He rehearsed his speeches in the car on his way to public functions. Karanja assisted in research to prep Upton for media interviews. “Reading mainstream newspapers daily was part of my duties as we kept had to keep him informed,” Karanja says.

But his most demanding responsibilities came when Upton was attending Congress in Washington DC. “My job in Washington was to receive telephone calls from constituents airing their concerns for debate in Congress,” Karanja says.

He received an average of 200 calls a day most commenting on the Health Plan proposed by President Barrack Obama. “More calls came in at the height of the recession expressing concerns over lay offs,” he says.

The calls were all screened and passed to the congressman as he prepared for debates in Congress.

Michigan is the home of the motor industry, including General Motors and Chrysler that employ thousands of Americans. “Upton asked him a torrent of questions about the political situation in Kenya,” he says.

His CV got another boost when he shadowed another US State Representative and former Kalamazoo Mayor Robert Jones. “I was with Jones in his office for a day and was by his side as he performed his official duties,” Karanja says.

The oldboy of Nakuru’s Harambee Khalsa Primary School dreams of working with the United Nations or the African Union.

I am Rufus Karanja

Here’s a short interview about my take on my experience in America. This was during my study abroad at Kalamazoo College, Michigan (USA). Dates: Sept 9th 2008 – June 2009

That’s my take!! 🙂

What’s in a Signature?

Leo I had to sign some document on behalf of my boss. ( you know the way you sign using the words “For:” or “On behalf of:” then you append your kasignature hapo kando). As I was signing this document, I was amazed when I saw a colleague’s sophisticated signature above to the place where I was supposed to append mine. I thought to my self, “What’s in a signature?” I mean, what does your signature say of you? Okay, Okay I know this sounds cheezy. But really come to think of it. Does your signature portray your character? Does it show any form of professionalism, thoroughness, sophistication or plain simplicity?

I guess you must be wondering what’s all the fuss about signatures that is worth writing about. Trust me, after seeing my colleague’s signature, I felt embarrassed for my own kasignature. You see mine is just a simple inscription composed of a combination of my names and a couple of elliptical strokes running right, left and across, something that my 3rd grade teacher would call “mathogothanio.”(Ooops! Forgive my Greek!!) You know the kind of writing by a 7 year old or is it abstract drawings.

So I went googling about signatures and this is what I found from the most reliable site for majority of us who went through campus or college. I know by now you’ve already guessed it? Yah its Wikipedia. It describes a signature as “a handwritten (and sometimes stylized) depiction of someone’s name, nickname or even a simple “X” that a person writes on documents as a proof of identity and intent.”

What I get from this definition is that a signature gives the signatory an identity. It’s crazy to think that a bunch of inscriptions can represent you and can be used in a court of law. By the way it can also incriminate you or give you access to your chums at the bank. No wonder you can’t access your money from the bank if your signature conflicts with the one they have in their database. But this is creepy and woe unto you if some hacker gets to master your signature.

So as I was saying, I have discovered that there’s more to a signature than meets the paper. I have discovered that a signature speaks louder than the inscriptions we see on paper. There are those that say you are bold and sophisticated. I am telling you one of my pals has one of these signatures and I so envy him coz everytime he drafts proposals and signs off you would think it’s the President’s signature. Such are those signatures that you can hardly forge. You know like that of President Obama or our very own Mr. Uhuru Kenyatta. Yani no matter how hard you try to forge such you just can’t.

There are those like mine which are simple but mark you are hard to forge. The secret lies in their simplicity which makes them unique. Trust me try to forge mine and you will be in for a rude shock. Then there are those that comprise of two or three initials. I tend to think of this to mean that someone is of a mysterious personality. I mean with two or three initials you would be tempted to come up with all sorts of guesses for what the initials stand for. Such signatures say that the signatory has more going on behind the initials. What do you think?

Today as you append your signature on different documents, checks or letters, take time to reflect on what your signature stands for. Have a signatory day!!

Shredding Away

Today I was shredding some documents at the office and this got me thinking. As I watched the shredder mercilessly swallow up the white and brown papers, I wished if my heart had the ability and capability of a shredder. You see of late I have been going through some pretty low moments and I was just wishing I had the ability to shred away some of these bad experiences.

As I went about shredding the papers, I just thought of how at one point or another some of these papers carried important correspondence or information. I was tasked to shred some old memos, reports and letters. I just thought to my self how easy it would be if in life each of us had a heart like a shredder. A heart that shreds away every nasty experience, heart breaks, sad moments and thoughts that we would not be proud to share with anyone apart from self.

As I did this task, I kept thinking, what if I had the ability of this shredder. I would shred every nasty experience, every mistakes I have done in my life and everything that is making me sad. Today as you go about your day, learn to shred away everything that is keeping you down.

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