Kelvin Gumwa

“ If you are willing to be a self-learner you will develop yourself” ~ Lailah Gifty.

The willingness to self-learn has enabled Kelvin Gwuma to develop holistically and achieve his dreams. This story of how he turned his pain into a powerful impact in his community amplifies why more young people should embrace self-learning. An article  by Forbes, Jan 2021 shows some radical recruitment changes, which includes skills Vs pedigree are  being experienced in various industries. The more advanced the corporate world is becoming, the higher the need for young people embracing self-learning mindset. 

Now more than ever,  corporations are recruiting people who are able to learn and develop the right attitude, skills and mindsets in line with their duties. Google, Tesla, Price Water Coopers (PWC) are among the global brands that are building a pipeline for non-traditional talent. This strategy is informed by the 2020 Global Employment  Trends for Youth report which highlights the need to have equity in the Job Market. Here in Kenya, most high achievers have pointed out that the ‘how to’ of climbing the corporate ladder has changed with time. There is a growing encouragement directed to young people to keep an open mind while pursuing opportunities they think can result in career growth. James Mworia, CEO of Centum Investment during his interview with CNBCA Africa in 2018, narrated his  journey on how he rose from being an Intern to CEO of the company, clearly showing the importance of embracing a self-learning mindset by a young person.

Growing up Kelvin’s hope of accessing education and progressing while at it was cut short by circumstances beyond his control. He spent most of his teenage years taking casual jobs to get by.  

“In an attempt to keep up with other students, I befriended some of the children within our neighbourhood so as to know what they were learning. A necessity at the  time I couldn’t access!” He recounts thoughtfully. “Up to date I enjoy reading because I have come to firmly believe in the power of self-learning.” He discloses happily. 

Once he graduated in his O Levels in 2010, he was unable to join a higher education institution since he didn’t meet the cut off points. Yet, Kelvin applied for a job  – in Kakamega County as a merchandiser for a local wholesale company-  to build the skills he required to compete in the job market. Later on he was posted back to his community in Vihiga County. This was when he noticed an opportunity to help solve a challenge he faced whilst impacting his community positively.  

Birth of Saide Community Library

“I had begun meeting children early in the morning before their lessons to encourage them to read short stories. This led to improvement in their studies; which  eventually led to the teachers embracing the self-learning culture.” He narrates. “ In an effort to grow this initiative, I discovered a community library which had since been turned into a local pub because people were not utilising it. With time, having convinced the founder, SAIDE Community Library was revamped and it became a resource for children and the community at large to access during holidays, before and after classes.” Kelvin notes. 

child readingA child self-learning at the SAIDE Community Library 

Accessing opportunities at DOT Kenya

“One day in 2017 while at the library, a friend of mine shared with me about DOT Kenya’s Youth Leadership Program. A program that was looking for young people creating impact within their communities and out of curiosity, I researched about it, applied and fortunately, I was accepted into the program.” He recalls.

“During the program, I began learning and sharing my experience with other young people. Through the learning and coaching sessions, my understanding of various aspects of starting and growing my initiative increased. We also had peer to peer engagements which solidified my understanding of branding, building teams, enterprise financials, lean operations etc. The program opened my eyes to many opportunities and equipped me with skills to enable the growth of the library.” Kelvin expounds.

“Mentorship and support from various stakeholders was key to establishing an educational program for children between 10 to 18 years of age at SAIDE!” Kelvin says proudly. “We charge Ksh. 20 only per day, which is affordable for the children to access space and learning resources. With  time we have seen more and more children access the facility and it has also become quite an important resource to those who lack accessibility to formal education.:”

“Unlike popular belief  in our society today of instant gratification among the youth, I have come to appreciate the process and patience it takes in life to achieve important goals and the power of having a strong support system!” He concludes. “In my experience I have engaged at diverse levels with people from different backgrounds, some with even higher academic qualifications than myself yet I find that I belong as a result of my ability to keep on learning.” He shares.

Kelvin has served as a DOT Youth Advisory Board member and as a Street Team participant. Through these programs he was able to grow the community library to impact more children. 

Thriving  during a pandemic and recent successes

When COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, to curb the spread, the Government of Kenya announced the guidelines which led to the closure of  schools and prevented any social gatherings. SAIDE Community Library felt the impact as well as the number of children visiting the library dropped drastically. In an effort to shield the library from the economic shock, born from his passion of videography and taking photos, Kelvin diversified by establishing a photo studio where people could capture moments they treasure. He recently fundraised on a local app to buy equipment for the studio. A move that has enabled the  studio and the doors of the library to stay open.

He has also attracted the attention of  global renowned authors and donations from various stakeholders who share a common vision of encouraging self-learning from an early stage in children. 

DOT Kenya envisions young people who are impacting their communities positively by creating opportunities. It supports these daring social innovators with skills, knowledge and networks using effective content delivery methods online on a learning platform known as Moodle.

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