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Mar 8, 2014 6 Min Read

There Are These Moments

There are these moments, these situations and encounters that change something in you. Most likely the change does not stop there but manifests itself in the lives of other people and your surrounding as well. However, when such a moment occurs you may not know it, you may not notice. Only days, months, or years after is it that you might understand the significance of that particular interaction or experience. It is even more fascinating to then trace back your pathway to the power of a single event, or a series of events that, collectively, assemble to the powerful cognitive narrative in your head that continues to leave its footprints in your actions.

Did I just experience one of these events? I’m excited to find out. The past nine days I spent in Nairobi, Kenya. The purpose of my trip was a conference of the United Nations Forum on Forests (UNFF) where I serve as a “Focal Point” for the Major Group Children and Youth, bringing in youth perspectives in the UNFF policy process and raising awareness about forest governance among young people around the world. For the last two days of my stay, I stayed at Daniel’s wonderful house, green garden, and farm. Meeting the driving force that coordinates Kijani in Kenya was a fantastic experience. It allowed me to look under some of the layers from where Kijani derives its collective motivation, inspirational drive, and natural belief for its actions.

The Co-Founder of Kijani Daniel and Kijani's Chairman Ibrahim Omondi

I also met a great group of the local team in Nairobi, all with a sense of ownership for Kijani; feeding their values of social responsibility and justice, environmental stewardship and restoration, and overall sustainability into our common vision of a pioneer project of youth empowerment and reforestation. Dickens, the computer science graduate driven by his love for people and his mission to use his skills innovatively to ensure peace and well-being of those less fortunate than us; “the soul, driven by morale, leading by example, and definitely up for surprises.”  Haron, the law student with the vision to capacitate young community leaders to make use of the recent Kenyan constitutional provisions instating participatory decision making at the county level;  “the thinker with limited freedom, bound by law, drawing on his legal expertise to navigate the system.” Liz, the economics graduate including a powerful combination of history and literature, enabling her to develop concepts for the economic self-sufficiency of Kijani, and taking into account historic contexts to ensure sustainable outcomes; “the creator, limited by nothing but her ability to develop and defend hypotheses to explain successful business models and ‘create the system’.” David, the community development expert with an endless toolset for sincere relationship building, understanding the needs of people in socially severe conditions and strategies to address them; “the empathetic believer, seeing truth in action.”

Sitting around a table in a beautiful garden, eating wonderful Kenyan food and drinking tea, we chatted along the course of the afternoon. The dynamics, harmony, and deep connection in the identity as part of Kijani were a fantastic experience. Humans rely on relationships. It is social interaction and experiences of empathy from which we draw our convictions and our drive for action. If this basis is given, the prospects for productive cooperation and a functional project are bright.

There are many unknowns, besides risk there is also uncertainty. If this wasn’t the case, there would probably not be the need for a group like us to come and actively develop a project strategy in the first place. Mastering this risk and uncertainty, successfully bringing relevant actors onto our side, constantly reevaluating our strategy, and using setbacks as an opportunity for growth will be paramount to bringing Kijani to where we envision our group to be.

Was this moment in Nairobi one of these life-changing events with far-reaching and long-lasting consequences? I couldn’t be more undecided, no one knows. All that remains to say is that I am tremendously excited to be part of this amazing assembly of thoughts and actions. We’ll see where it goes from there …


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