What would your approach be if you wanted to find a way for Kenyan youth to be key partners in their own development and in the development of their communities? For Pamela Wesonga and Nynke Nauta their response was to form Youth Initiatives – Kenya.
Youth Initiatives-Kenya, or YIKE as it is more commonly known, is a non-profit organisation whose vision is to create a society in which the youth are able to facilitate their development. Registered in 2003, YIKE started as the brainchild of Pamela and Nynke who at the time were both doing their masters in Community Development and were interested in interacting with Kenyan youth to find out what contribution they were making to their country.
Most people upon leaving university are motivated by one thing, money. Uniquely Charles Wafula, the Executive Director of YIKE, sees his education as adding to his responsibilities to his community and instead of chasing money, he now helps youth in Kariobangi chase their dreams. With the help of his team, Charles seeks to provide essential funding for youth initiatives that fall within the YIKE mission, without the hassle of bureaucratic red tape. As Charles puts it, ‘the collateral for the funds provided by YIKE is, simply, mutual trust’.
Eight years after its initiation, YIKE exists to support collective socio-economic, cultural, environmental and technological initiatives developed by youth in informal urban settlements. The organisation has attracted over 22,000 youth aged between 15 and 35 years old from over 72 youth groups seeking relevance in Kenya’s development. Located in Kariobangi North, YIKE occupies a modest office space on the second floor of Sanoda House. With children playing on the ground floor, which houses an after school programme and many more community-based organisations sharing the building, YIKE is significant hub for the community. The organisation uses some of its space as a cyber café and charges subsidised rates, which allows members of the community vital access to the Internet.
YIKE runs several programs: Business Challenge Competition, HIV/AIDS and Behaviour Change, Gender and Governance, Youth Information Centre, Community Events and Dialogues and a Capacity Building programme. Every year, the organisation recruits ten groups, which it assists to attain their goals by providing training in pertinent issues like team and peace building, team development and cohesion, and business management. It also analyses different youth initiatives and their impact on problems common in their locations. Groups are picked on the basis of their association with YIKE and as well on the basis of consultations by YIKE aimed at fully understanding the vision of the youth groups. Loans are given to those groups which have been involved with YIKE for at least one year. YIKE makes no compromises ensuring that by the time organisations graduate from its programs, they have a clear vision and a reliable composition. The effect of this is that youth programs develop with proper structures, able to accommodate youth eager to learn skills, earn a livelihood and be part of a larger plan – developing Kenya.
YIKE admits that it has faced some challenges. Minimal funding and sometimes lack of funding all together, has made it difficult for the organisation to achieve its own goals let alone fund those of dependent youth initiatives. Secondly, Kariobangi is a sensitive environment with its own socio-economic challenges and this, coupled with high expectations from the community, results in a lot of pressure for the organisation. While the organisation is constantly plagued by fears of insecurity in the area, residents still look to it for viable solutions for local youth. The challenges experienced, however, have only served to inspire the staff at YIKE to work even harder, carving a niche as an organisation that despite the odds has not lost sight of its vision-to help youth facilitate their development. YIKE boasts several success stories. Most notably is the Ngei 1 Development Youth Group based in Huruma, Nairobi. With help from YIKE, this organisation has been able to initiate and sustain water and sanitation, microfinance and garbage collection projects in Huruma. YIKE has been able to help youth initiatives in Kariobangi, Dandora, Huruma, Mathare Kibera and Kawangware, over the years.
The local community is constantly auditing YIKE, and for Charles, and others at this organisation, their passion for this initiative ensures that year after year YIKE continues to prove that the youth in Kenya are more than capable of facilitating development in Kenya.