Growing up in Marsabit, Kenya, Christine Sabdio Roba felt a special connection to the outdoors and to the natural beauty that surrounded her.
“I loved spending time with friends in a nearby forest,” Chrstine says. “We’d collect firewood, play hide-and-seek; we enjoyed every minute there.”
Christine, a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow and GIRL project officer at Mercy Corps Kenya, is still rooted in her community and in helping those around her to thrive.
“One night — I was in eighth grade then — I was struggling to read by a kerosene lamp in our temporary, mud-walled house,” Christine says. “It was then and there that I vowed to support vulnerable girls, to ensure that they never missed out on an opportunity to learn.”
Today Christine is providing young women with the skills and resources she lacked while growing up, setting an example in her community of selfless, servant leadership.
“I work with girls aged 10 to 19 to teach them basic literacy and business skills in a weekly format,” Christine says. “We aim to empower and inspire them.”
Christine also sees the value in mentorship, especially at life’s crucial junctures.
“We talk to young adults about setting goals, about being leaders, and about understanding their rights,” Christine says. “We discuss harmful cultural practices and how to overcome them.”
“In the end, we want to create the support network needed to build a better generation.”
In addition to her mentorship training, Christine is also working with young women to educate them about menstrual hygiene and to provide them with access to sanitary materials.
Most recently, Christine has helped those in her community to understand COVID-19 guidelines and the safety measures put in place to contain the virus’s spread.
Still, Christine has faced various challenges in launching these initiatives, including a lack of interest in volunteering for mentorship programs.
“We found that sharing success stories encouraged others to join us,” Christine says, citing the popularity of these stories on social media. “Whatever you do for others comes back to you in one way or the other.”
“I have learned over the years that nothing is permanent; every child has the potential to be a changemaker with hard work, enough resources and the right support,” Christine says. “And those setbacks are our stories, the stories that connect us.”
Years ago, Christine was invited to speak about her work to a group of high school girls and was taken aback by their outpouring of support.
“After the talk, a group of girls approached me and shared their own stories, stories just like mine,” Christine says. “I knew then, standing there with those amazing girls, that this was my passion, that I would pursue this work, and that I would never turn back.”
Interested in Christine’s work? Learn how you can serve your community on our YALIServes page.
The views and opinions expressed here belong to those interviewed and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.