Ms. Leah Wambui, the Chief Executive Officer at Cheriez Properties, accompanied by the Business Development Manager, George Ochieng, took time from their busy schedules to meet with the girls for the mentorship. Cheriez Properties is a real estate company with an estimated value of over KES 1 Billion and provides employment to over 300 employees. This was their first time to Mukuru kwa Ruben informal settlements, and their first experience in a community service capacity. The event was held at Mukuru kwa Ruben Center of HOPE, strategically located to serve the community in about 10 villages around Mukuru.
Mr. George Ochieng, Business Development Manager Cheriez properties, motivates the young ladies
The attendees were out of school girls aged 15–24 years who had just graduated from various vocational skills trainings sponsored by HWWK projects. The trainings included fashion and design, hairdressing and beauty, and catering and computer application skills. These skills are offered at the Center and also in partnership with other training institutions. Most of the girls are looking forward to being linked to employment opportunities or to receiving support to start or expand their own businesses.
After a brief site tour, the two mentors walked into a hall full of eagerly waiting girls.
Mr. George Ochieng, the Business Development Manager of Cheriez Properties started to narrate his life experience in ‘sheng’- a form of Swahili language commonly used by residents within such settlements and immediately captured the attention of the girls. He openly described what it was like growing up in Kibera – a similar settlement and one of the largest in East Africa, in the early 80’s.
"I grew up sharing a small 10 ft by 10 ft room with mud walls, a dirt floor, and a corrugated tin roof where I lived with my parents and siblings. My greatest ambition as a teenager was to be a bus driver which was a job admired by young men at the time. Negative effects of peer pressure were rampant and my parents' counsel fell on deaf ears. As a result, I had a near death encounter when my close friends were caught in crime. Luckily my life was spared, but I lost many friends to crime," narrated George.
His mother never gave up. Through her persistent pleas he was able to get through high school after achieving excellent grades at primary level. His life turned around during his high school years. He remembered a quote: ‘You are what you think’, and remembered how he had to change his mind and perceptions of who he desired to be.
The company he kept changed and so did his dreams and ambitions. He began to work hard after being challenged by other students on his performance. He later pursued an Economics Degree and was employed in a bank. His life completely changed. He encouraged the girls not to allow their backgrounds to determine their future and to work hard so they can rise above their current situations. He gave them hope. He challenged them to set clear goals and encouraged them to work towards unlocking their potential for a better quality of life.
Ms. Leah Wambui- CEO of Cheriez Properties motivates the girls during the mentorship event
Ms. Leah Wambui, CEO of Cheriez Properties, warmly greeted her audience and moved closer to them as she began narrating her story.
" Life was going okay for me and my family until we lost our mum who was the sole bread winner while I was still in high school. As the first born, I was forced to take care of my siblings and was constantly in and out of school for lack of school fees. Life was even tougher because I was a girl and no one believed I would amount to anything," narrated Leah.
Most of her audience could relate with her story which raised their curiosity. She worked hard and was admitted to university but due to lack of school fees she had to stop and look for employment opportunities. Leah worked hard and went through many trials as she hawked goods – to the point of having a physical scar on her shoulder which she showed the girls. Her determination, spirit and desire for a good life became her driving force. She became very disciplined and diligent with her finances, however little they were, and encouraged the girls to do the same. She encouraged them to make their own money and not depend on men who only take advantage of them leaving them in a worse and more vulnerable state.
She shared photos of Cheriez Property homes with the girls as she described the real estate industry as being predominantly managed by men. She shared that no matter the industry, if she provides an excellent product and services, she will remain competitive. She concluded the session by challenging the girls to peruse their passions with excellence, to have a great attitude, to identify their niche in the market, to value themselves, and to think big and keep their desires alive.
A participant captivated by an image of the Cheriez homes during the mentorship event
There was no doubt the girls were encouraged and that a spark within them was ignited to desire and pursue a better life. There are many challenges that girls in this community go through daily. They need encouragement to face their challenges and to have the courage to step forward.
On behalf of HOPE worldwide Kenya and our community girls, we sincerely appreciate the time that Leah and George from Cheriez Properties spent with us and for their giving of themselves to serve the girls in the community where we work. We look forward to more mentorship in the community through this partnership.