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On Friday 4th June, 2010, a group of ITE students from the Cisco Seed academy held a picnic at the Nairobi Arboretum. The picnic was sponsored by Ayelet Baron, Cisco Director Emerging markets. In attendance were 14 students (12 girls and two boys) from the Seed academy, two instructors from the academy and a Canadian social worker who works in the  community where the academy is situated. Apparently, house girls are often looked down upon in our society and many of them have resigned to hopelessness and feel alienated and deprived of a chance to fulfill their dreams. 

The students got a chance to interact and learn a lot from various speakers who included: Charity Jones (Cisco HR Manager), Constantine Obuya (Director, Africa centre for women in IT), Alice Muigai (Flexi Personnel Director), Himesh (Karma Foundation) and the girls got a chance to learn how to apply make up too.

The event started with a tour of the Nairobi Arboretum. The Arboretum, set in the centre of the capital of Kenya, consists of 30 hectares containing a large collection of trees and shrubs from the tropics both native and from throughout the world. It has developed from a trial arboretum at the beginning of the twentieth century to a green refuge from the bustle of the city and a place for learning about biodiversity.

The students later engaged in team building activities and played some games. The objective of the event was to motivate the girls, help them to bond and feel loved, help them to build their self confidence and help to believe that they are valuable and have a skill that is in demand.

During the picnic, the students had participatory sessions with the speakers who took them through various aspects of mentorship and soft skills’ orientation. Charity from Cisco led a discussion on how to prepare for a job interview; Alice talked to the students about the “Power of Postive Thinking” and she shared a lot of inspiring stories about Kenyan girls who are successful. This was complimented by Himesh who led the students in taking part in group activities. In one of the activities, the students were asked to express their dreams visually through diagrams and the results were simply amazing. The students were not only creative in their ideas but also exhibited a strong desire and ambition to succeed in life by having their dreams fulfilled. He also showed them a few yoga tips to help them calm down and relax.

Constantine Obuya who is the Director of ACWICT talked to the students about her life history, how she faced challenges but managed to succeed in her career and she is now studying at this age! She also spoke to them about her experience in the academy progam and how her girls are getting jobs through the program. She advised the girls to always aim high and turn any huddles in their lives into opportunities. She challenged them to take the ICT training seriously as this is a sure way to guarantee them a better future.

The students then had pizza and coke for lunch and continued to play games and bond with each other. By the end of the day – the girls had totally opened up and were talking confidently and were willing to open up and ask questions and participate actively in the sessions.

During the Q and A session, the students expressed their gratitude to Cisco for giving them such a unique chance to interact and enjoy a new and fresh atmosphere away from their usual environment. They enjoyed the pizza, which was a first time for many of them, they also loved the games they played. They were absolutely impressed with the speakers and had very good things to say about each of the speaker.

It was agreed that next time, the students will be taken to Kibera to see the academy there, meet with former students, see the projects that former students are doing, visit ACWICT and then come to the Cisco office for a telepresence with Ayelet. By the time this happens – Ayelet will be meeting “new” girls with smiles on their faces and full of confidence!

Some of the feedback from their evaluation forms:

Name three things you learned today:

“I learned to have positive thoughts; to be confident so that I can achieve my dreams; to have hope and self confidence”. Beth Gakuha

“To always believe in myself and have hope”, Set goals and objectives for myself”, “Take discouragement and disappointment as a stepping stone in life”. Mariam Akinyi

“To be presentable, neat and tidy when going for an interview”, “Always set goals and objectives to achieve your dreams, “If you conceive a negative thought in your mind, it will happen”. Peter Maingi

Give one quote to summarize your view of today:

“It was a wonderful day, I have never had so much fun and what I can say is that may God Bless you and enlarge your territories”

“I really enjoyed myself and I know that I can do all the things I put my mind to do”

“Be optimistic towards your dream and hold on until you get what you want”. 

By Hital Muraj, East Africa Cisco Networking Manager and an inspiration to us all … Hital shows us how one person can make a difference in so many people’s lives and her investment in youth and ICT is infectious.

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