Confidence is like a teaspoon of magic!

Confidence is like a teaspoon of magic!

Written by Alexandra Howard

Greetings friends! I’m sorry for the silence over the past month but my family and I have just returned from an incredibly productive and inspiring trip to visit my mum Hanne, Ted and my extended African family! I am returning with loads of goodies to share with you!

It is always such a pleasure to visit the project and connect directly with the children, youth and staff. I am greeted with gorgeous smiles and healthy looking children that fill my heart with joy and a sense that what we are collectively doing for these young souls is truly making a difference. It always sounds so ‘cliche’ to say this, but it’s really, really true.

The main reason for my month-long visit to Kenya was to deliver training sessions for the recent high school graduates and post-secondary students.

To give you some context, one of the big challenges facing youth in Kenya is the lack of skills training to support the transitional phase from high school to post-secondary and from post-secondary into the workforce.

The problem stems largely from the rigid Kenyan education system that does not place any emphasis on soft and hard skills training and/or career counseling. Youth are left to their own devices to make informed career decisions based on very limited knowledge. As a result, students often get stuck believing cultural myths that are rooted in ‘hearsay’ fueling narrow and biased thinking. Naturally, confidence levels can also plummet.

Furthermore, most universities and colleges do not have mandatory career counseling and job preparation/placement programs to coordinate internships and trainings with industry. The result? A huge skills gap!

During my visit, it became crystal clear that in order to position HHFL youth to be among those short listed for the quality jobs in Kenya, we must focus more heavily on bridging the skills gap – and in my humble opinion, the earlier, the better!

In March, I developed and led two training sessions: a two-week Career and Empowerment workshop to help HHFL’s 14 high school graduates determine their career path and a CV writing seminar for the post-secondary and high school students. Both sessions confirmed the need for such training as the students were visibly hungry for knowledge.

I started the two-week graduate workshop with a creative activity that resulted in 14 fascinating dream boards. This was the perfect ice breaker because I got a glimpse into the minds and hearts of the students. I realized that our dreams are not that different – we all want the security of a nice home, a happy family, the freedom to roam and good food!

The remainder of the workshop focused on exploring the self (rather intensely), the scope of ‘in-demand’ occupations in Kenya and gaining a stronger understanding of the different school types (vocational, college and university) in the context of the student’s career aspirations, their personality type and financial feasibility.

The sessions were rooted in healthy and open group discussion with a focus on building communication, critical thinking and leadership skills. Most of the students were unable to speak with confidence when we began working together – I could barely hear them when they spoke. It was also difficult to engage the students in meaningful discussion. Few wanted to speak his or her mind for fear of judgement or repercussion. Unfortunately, these are symptoms of fragile upbringings and a rigid school system.

On the final day, each student had to present their research, career goals and workshop learnings to a panel of folks including Hanne and Ted. Were they nervous? Of course! But the result was magnificent – a true transformation. We heard and saw confident voice projection, good posture, no fidgeting, good eye contact, intelligent, honest flow of thoughts and above all, a deep sense of accomplishment. Eyes were sparkling and minds were electrified! (the celebratory chocie sprinkled donuts may have helped 🙂

Chosen career paths span engineering, dietetics and nutrition, human resources, sales and marketing, wildlife management, IT, hospitality, education and accounting. Some will likely go to University, others to College and a few to Vocational…but ultimately, they know now that success rests in their own hands regardless of school tier.

I have returned to Canada feeling incredibly inspired by this amazing group of young men and women. Thank you Paul Sane, Carol, Albanus, Faith, Moses K, Sharon A, Peter, Moses C, Sharon J, Yvonne, Hillary, Bonny, Magdaline, Kariuki and Dominic for welcoming me into your lives and trusting me. I’ll be seeing you again soon. x

We’ll be launching a campaign shortly to support these worthwhile candidates on their journey to success – but you don’t have to wait, you can donate to post-secondary now!


Some post-workshop student quotes:

“There were days I would walk into a room full of people and wonder if they liked me…….but now I look and wonder if I like them! Being confident is like a teaspoon of magic!  Hillary Kiendi, aspiring Aeronautical Engineer 

“You might not always see it in our faces but deep down our hearts, there is vast gladness and a new journey for change.”  Sharon Akinyi, aspiring Accountant 

“The workshop has helped me a lot in discovering all about myself and identifying the best careers which suit my personality. I have leant that people may have different personalities but everyone has a drop of greatness. When I get into the university, I promise to work smart and focus much on the practical skills that I shall acquire in the university through the attachments.” Paul Sane, aspiring Civil Engineer

“At first I did not have a vision and if I had one it was not clear to me. I can now see my vision of becoming a computer expert, especially in web design, coming true. Thank you very much for helping us think broadly and make us realize our own greatness. I really liked your interactions and making us feel confident when speaking in front of a group. At first I was nervous but as we continued on, I gained so much courage. Now I can really speak with confidence.” Albanus Mbuvi, aspiring IT specialist 


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