In May, YALI Network members were invited to share stories of people creating positive change in their communities. More than 100 stories were submitted. From young women enhancing education with technology to public servants helping citizens fight corruption in their court system, each entry revealed the great work YALI Network members are doing to improve their communities. Click on the titles in blue below to expand each section and read the winning submissions.
In parts of Nigeria, poor sanitation, indiscriminate waste disposal, inadequate waste separation and ill-conceived landfill locations have resulted in the constant outbreak of cholera, typhoid, malaria and sometimes death.
Recently, there has been a loud cry from citizens about the effect poorly managed waste is having on the environment. Some Nigerians have taken the lead to curb this menace. One is Cajetan Okeke, co-founder of Alamonk Recyclers Ltd.
“Alamonk Recyclers is a hybrid company that recycles tons of waste each month. It also teaches community members the best steps to proper waste management. In an interview with Okeke, he said the idea was born out of a bid to save the environment and to make money from waste.
“The tonnes of recyclables that end in unsanitary landfills gave me concern and inspired me to begin a recycling company,” Okeke said.
“Focusing on recycling will not effect adequate social change on the people,” Okeke added. “In this line we have initiated programs that will educate the people on proper waste separation, disposal and recycling, because recycling is more effective when it is community-based.”
“Alamonk Recyclers is still at the startup stage. The company operates in Abia state, Nigeria, and has attracted federal grants and state support. Alamonk Recyclers participates in a live radio program where people talk about the steps to managing waste properly and listeners can call in to give their opinion and ask questions. The company also moves around streets, collects people’s waste and gives incentives for those who separate their waste.
“Okeke and his team believe that a veritable step in this journey is education and, ultimately, a mindset change. Together with his team, Okeke is working hard to reach as many people as possible.
“It is a change that when embraced by many will be beneficial to the world at large. Even little actions affect the world with time.
This article was written by Benedine Obiekea of Nigeria and was submitted as part of a citizen journalism initiative. It has been edited for clarity and length. The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.
For every story of a life claimed by AIDS, there is another of bravery, compassion and solidarity.
Shalom Kaseketi’s history is one such story.
Kaseketi did not choose to remain silent about his HIV status and the stigma around it. Now 19, he was born with the disease and went public about his status when he was only 12. In so doing, he has become a role model for his peers.
In 2006, I accompanied the young Kaseketi, then a youth ambassador for an NGO, as he discussed HIV prevention with young people in schools, support groups and churches, at sports events and even in their homes. He said then that he had lost three sisters, a brother and his father to the disease.
These days, Kaseketi stands tall and proud at about two metres. He has a mellifluous voice, a positive spirit and a forward outlook. He puts aside his own concerns and talks of his new project.
“There has been a lot of alcohol and drug abuse in the area, so I decided to move in. … I started a football team and now I am a coach,” Kaseketi said. He helps the kids see that there is more to life than just drinking and drug abuse.
Kaseketi acquired the disease from his HIV-positive mother, who is still alive. Speaking of his 19 years of living with HIV, Kaseketi admitted that it was not easy going through the education system. Stigma, he said, is still an issue that many children living with the virus struggle with every day in schools.
“You can’t force stigma out. In one way or another I have experienced it even in this day and age,” Kaseketi said. “I have seen kids crying, telling me they don’t know what to do. You don’t know whether it is something you should confront or you just talk to the people themselves. It is really tough.”
This article was written by Charles Mafa of Zambia and was submitted as part of a citizen journalism initiative. It has been edited for clarity and length. The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.
Purity Wanjohi and Kevin Okech are the two faces behind Mazingira Safi Initiative (MSI), a community-based organization in Nairobi, Kenya, with a mission to inspire change in how Nairobi residents treat the environment.
The two have run the initiative alongside other members for almost two years and have shown dedication in mobilizing volunteer students and youths to achieve this mission.
In March, they rallied their team to do something different from the routine community cleanups and environmental education. March is Women’s History Month, a theme meant to recognize, appreciate and celebrate all that women and girls contribute to society — and to create more awareness of the need to support them.
In recognition of the month and its theme, Wanjohi and Okech organized a visit to Maryfaith Children’s Home, a rescue shelter for sexually and physically abused girls. Located in Riruta Satelite, Nairobi, the shelter houses more than 50 girls ranging from infancy to age 18.
Wanjohi and Okech raised roughly $200 to purchase foodstuffs, sanitary towels and toiletries, items the shelter determined were most needed. The girls were very happy, and they enjoyed hanging out with the MSI team.
Despite the fun, the visit was also sobering. Interacting with the girls and listening to their stories, one is made to realize that there is a dark force detaching humans from their sense of humanity. Most of these girls had gone through dehumanizing experiences in the hands of their guardians, denying them a chance to hope and dream.
The team from MSI was very deliberate to encourage them to keep hope alive. The innocence of children has to be protected and a sense of confidence built inside them.
The shelter’s founder, Margaret Mwangi, said in one session, “I need the government to protect our girls, the law to defend them, and the community to accept them.”
The visit was simply a reminder that we all cannot cease to counter ignorance, increase awareness to stop domestic violence, and support young girls and women to pursue their dreams. There are little things that we all can do.
This article was written by Kevin Okech of Kenya and was submitted as part of a citizen journalism initiative. It has been edited for clarity and length. The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.
Shittu, a man in his 30s, read the title of a book and asked the owner for its meaning. An implausible idea for some, but worse realities exist in Nigeria where an estimated 40 million to 45 million people are illiterate.
Thousands of preteens cannot boast of Shittu’s English language proficiency, and is it any wonder when the education sector received 10.7 percent of the national budget in 2014?
While most young people take delight in using social media to revile the first lady of Nigeria on her gaffes and grammatical blunders, people such as Chisomebi Okoroafor, an architect by training, a project manager and YALI Network member by choice, take positive steps to battle semi-illiteracy among youth.
Okoroafor gives her time and finances as a volunteer in children-centered initiatives such as Slum2School and Feed-A-Child. Every year, Okoroafor coordinates activities in summer camps for disadvantaged primary school students. In August 2013, she joined the volunteer staff of the Education Resource Group Summer Camp, a subsidiary of the Awesome Treasures Foundation.
The staff tutored 120 children ages 10–15, selected from government schools in Ilupeju vicinity in Lagos state. The children were taught subjects such as general mathematics, English, science, French, etiquette and basic sex education.
Okoroafor also holds art classes for some children in her neighbourhood. She plans to start book clubs to help children older than 12 years of age learn to read.
“In 10 years, I want to have made a tangible impact in my nation in a positive way,” Okoroafor says.
This article was written by Patricia Ogunleye of Nigeria and was submitted as part of a citizen journalism initiative. It has been edited for clarity and length. The views and opinions expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect those of the YALI Network or the U.S. government.