Nuru Kenya Leadership Program: Reflections on 2013

During this time of the year, it is only natural to look back and reflect on the accomplishments and challenges of the previous year. We reflect, regret, and realize how we have failed and where we’ve succeeded. In terms of the Leadership Program, there have definitely been a lot of challenges and some fantastic accomplishments.

In April, the Leadership Program welcomed our new District Manager, Jane Omanga, whose innate ability to empathize and understand the needs of the community is truly inspiring. In addition to hiring Jane, the Leadership Program also brought on board the new Senior Training Manager, Robert Kihara. One of Robert’s many strengths is his passion for learning and facilitation, which already has had a positive influence on the rest of the staff. During 2013 we also piloted a new training series, trained Nuru staff on the principles of Nuru, and began designing the Level 2 training series. All of these are important for our program’s growth, but if someone were to ask me, “what is the biggest accomplishment of the Nuru Kenya Leadership Program in 2013?” it’d be an easy answer: working together as a team to solve challenges.

The Nuru philosophy of servant leadership, community understanding, and passion for empowering those living in extreme poverty is epitomized by each and every member of the Leadership Team. This shared vision of what Nuru is all about has created an incredible bond between each staff member in the Leadership Program. It’s common to find the entire team working together to solve a particularly challenging problem or spending time during their lunch breaks enjoying each other’s company. Roles are assigned so that each person gets more experience in an area they haven’t worked on before and everyone is willing to assist someone when they need some extra help.

This strong team bond was evident during a recent exchange visit with another NGO here in Kenya. We were fortunate enough to be invited up to Homa Bay by Uliso, an organization that has a community-based approach to fighting the spread of HIV in the Homa Bay region. Our team was able to see the community facilitators in action as they talked with mothers and children about the importance of HIV prevention. Even though the majority of this facilitation was conducted in the local language, Luo, which only a few of the leadership staff were able to understand, the entire team was engaged, interested, and curious about every aspect of the organization. After our visit, we had lunch, explored Homa Bay, and told stories over chai. The next day, we participated in some interactive and creative activities aimed at strengthening our team dynamics. The activities were both challenging (for example, carrying a bucket of water using only strings and plates), and enlightening. In one activity, each team had to construct a house using only a few flimsy supplies. Easy enough, except this had to be done without talking. When there are a dozen facilitators in one place, doing anything without talking is no easy task. But with positive attitudes, patience, dedication, and a little bit of luck, both teams were able to complete the task. This seemingly simple task brought up a lot of issues about our current team dynamics; our strengths and weaknesses and how we can solidify our team bond going forward. As a result, we were able to have a really healthy discussion about our team, and how we can improve our teamwork moving forward.

As Nuru Kenya continues to grow, each program needs to adapt. For Leadership, we will continue to support Nuru’s growth by creating and piloting the level two training, rolling out the PMT1 training, and continuing to improve our curriculum. There will undoubtedly be some unexpected challenges that will test the strength of our team. There’s a great quote by Helen Keller that I’ve always liked: “alone we can do little; together we can do much.”  As we look forward to 2014, I am confident that the Leadership Team’s passion, dedication, resiliency, and strong team dynamic will help us achieve some remarkable things. Stay tuned, it’s going to be amazing.

About Brian Viani

Leadership Program Strategic Advisor — Born and raised in New York City, Brian has a BA in Political Science and English Literature from the State University of New York at Binghamton and an MA in International Relations from New York University, where he received the 2011 Lauren Moilien Johnson Human Rights Award.

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