How Acumen Brought Back my Fire

By Eda Esilaba on August 07, 2014

Eda is an East Africa Regional Fellow from Nairobi, Kenya and is the Founder and Director of Halisi Trust, an organization that seeks to challenge the vices that plague society and encourage transformational development in Kenya’s youth. When Eda applied for the East Africa Fellows Program, she felt disillusioned and stuck. Below, Eda discusses how Acumen’s Regional Fellowship Program brought back her fire. Now, Eda has engaged nearly 6,000 people through outreach events and the Mkenya Halisi movement continues to grow. Acumen is currently accepting applications for the next class of East Africa Fellows. APPLY TODAY!

When I started Mkenya Halisi  two and a half years ago, I had an unquenchable fire in my heart to see a movement of people with an alternative value system take their place in changing the narrative of our country. Mkenya Halisi invites the community to have conversations around key Kenyan issues that affect our nation. I envisioned engineers, teachers and doctors standing up against corruption, mediocrity and negative ethnicity. I had a clear and compelling vision and I sold it to whoever would listen with a whole lot of passion. Soon enough, people who believed in me stood behind me and doors started to open. It was exciting, it felt like I was doing something that mattered, and I didn’t want to be anywhere else.

It wasn’t long before I discovered that vision, passion and good intentions aren’t enough. I made some critical structural mistakes at the beginning and paid heavily for them. Two years later I was weary, disillusioned and stuck. I felt like I was sitting on my hands as a leader, unable to make critical decisions and extremely unsure of myself.

It was at this time that I applied for the Acumen East Africa Fellows Program. I was stretched beyond my capacity and I couldn’t actually see how I could possibly make time for a fellowship on top of my role as a leader, a wife and a mom. I went to an open forum where I heard the Acumen staff explain what the fellowship year was about. I walked out thinking, “I really want to do this!” It was exactly what I needed: direction, skills and a strong community.

I could not have imagined how timely, strategic and critical the learning in the fellowship year would be for me. By the time the program kicked off, I was in a major transition with the Mkenya Halisi movement. Every Seminar assignment addressed where I was as a leader and the difficult decisions I was facing. I found a community who extended their trust, networks and support at a speed that was genuinely surprising.

I was home! I found a place where I can be vulnerable, where I can be a hopeless idealist, where I can dream of a Kenya that is free of corruption, negative ethnicity and inequity without eye rolls.

My fire is back, my roar is louder. I am all of 5 feet 2 inches, but just half way in to the fellowship, I feel unstoppable. And at the end of it, I look forward to joining a strong alumni who share my deep conviction in changing the way the world tackles poverty.

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