Kijani, a project of Springs of Africa, consists of young people from around the globe who envision a just and sustainable world and believe that together we can take steps to realize this vision today. One of the team members writes:
We’re wrapping our heads around the topic of sustainable forest rehabilitation, using our multiple skills to tackle various aspects of the project – from community engagement, website design and business modeling. This amalgamation of diverse cultures, skill-sets and perspectives in the team makes us unique, but working primarily in the Kenyan context – it is also easy to be viewed as inexperienced.
The truth is, an organization consisting entirely of youth, is somewhat of an anomaly in Kenya. In this culture, young people have to “earn” the respect of the “elderly” – it does not come automatically. There is an implicit dissimilarity of treatment between the demographic groups of the youth, and those who have jumped the proverbial fence into “adulthood”.
Last year, Kijani members visited a certain office in the field with the aim of gathering ecological information for our project. From the reception to the main office, we were not treated fairly. After leaving, we had time to debrief and noticed that the unfairness with which we were treated was due to the notion that we were youth; a pretext for inexperience.
Although it is true that we are young, the flip-side is that we are unique, dynamic and peculiar. We represent different fields of study, as well as different backgrounds and experiences. We are from different cultures and races. We represent a united world, working on shared solutions to the crises of the future; working on shared solutions to the crises of our own future.
I believe in our uniqueness. When other organizations are dishing out handouts to enhance community participation, we advocate for voluntary participation so that community members can solve their own problems. When other organizations think of capacity building through workshops in communities, Kijani is thinking about walking together and building relationships with community members. When other organizations are thinking of imposing ideas to the communities in which they work, Kijani is building its foundation on the already local available knowledge.
These are the factors which make our organization stand out. We are willing to bring change and we are determined to do so. The very things that make us peculiar motivate us to achieve the goals that we have set for ourselves, for Kenya, and for the sustainable future of this planet.