When anyone mentions the G-Youth project to a person in the Garissa Branch of Barclays Bank, they will get a smile. G-Youth is well-known to Barclays because it employees former students from the G-Youth Work Readiness Program – Musa Hassan Dek and Aden Ali Sadik. Although both young men are very busy nowadays between working at the bank and remaining active community leaders, Musa agreed to share his story with us.
Musa received his primary education from Jaribu Primary School in Garissa but the path to obtaining his secondary education was rocky. Although the initial plan was to complete high school in Garissa, Musa was forced to change schools several times, and even drop out of school for 3 months due to the difficulty he encountered paying school fees. In Musa’s case the difficulty with schools fees was not due to poverty, but to the fact that his parents didn’t prioritize education highly enough to set aside money for the fees. Eventually however, Musa graduated from Mandogo Secondary School in Coast Province. Musa believes that had he been able to study in the same school throughout that he would have had better grades. At the same time, he acknowledges changing schools has also had some positive impact. Musa now has many friends in Mombasa and he believes that the challenge of coping with new people, situations, and environments during the four years of high school made him stronger and more adaptable to new circumstances.
After completing high school, Musa stayed in Mombasa for two years. He admits that during this time he was mostly idle and felt a great deal of uncertainty about what to do with his life. Finally Musa joined Mombasa Polytechnic College where he studied Marketing Management. After graduating from college, Musa returned to Garissa but without much confidence that there would be any opportunities to use the skills and knowledge he had learned. The evening he returned to Garissa, he happened to hear about the G-Youth project from his friends. The name itself – Garissa Youth – says Musa, is what initially attracted him so to the project because for him the word “Youth” implied the opportunity to make youth voices heard.
Musa registered himself the next day for the Work Readiness Program and completed the first phase of this program in December 2009. Musa says that he appreciates all the people who have contributed in enabling youth to participate in this kind of training. But above all he is thankful for his facilitator, Mercy Mauki, who helped Musa to better identify and develop his personal strengths and professional skills that have helped to reach his goals. Musa says that the Work Readiness Program has been also been excellent in helping him identify new opportunitiesin Garissa and the potential of Garissa’s youth.
While enrolled in the Work Readiness Program, through Community Service learning, Musa started volunteering for the Child Rescue Center. Musa says this was an extraordinary experience for him, one that opened his eyes to some of the challenges facing his community. For example, while at the Child Rescue Center, Musa met a two week old baby who was left on the street without any care. Before, says Musa, he was not aware that such things happen in Garissa, in front of everyone’s eyes and without anyone noticing. The experience left Musa feeling grateful for the opportunities he has had in life, and determined to give something back to his community. He volunteered at the Child Rescue Centre three times a week for a month.
Work Readiness youth were also shown an encouraging movie about a well known Kenyan environmental activist and a Nobel Prize winner named Wangari Mathai. Inspired by the movie, Musa and few other youth (Susan Mwove, Sadam Rashid, Nasra Noor, Awale Hussein, Fatuma Muhamed and Abdullahi Adow) decided to create the Garissa Environmental Movement. Today, the number of members has grown to almost 200.
Musa believes that the biggest challenge for Garissa’s youth is to find a balance between having self-confidence to take initiative and make change in their community, and respect towards their elders who have more life experience and traditionally make decisions that affect the lives of youth in Garissa. Musa says he is happy that the G-Youth program has helped him to discover himself and greater self-confidence.
By using his newfound skills such as knowledge of how to present himself professionally and how to write cover letters and CVs, Musa was offered a job at Barclays Bank in Garissa. Today, Musa is working in the sales department selling Barclays products such as accounts and loans, and he enjoys his job very much because it enables him to interact with new people.
Musa encourages everyone who wants “to get out of” Garissa to go to the United States or Europe to make a new life to open their eyes and find their own way here at home. He believes that opportunities in Garissa are the same as elsewhere and with the help of projects like G-Youth, opportunities can be found or made anywhere.