Since 2017, Community College Initiative (CCI) Program participant Linda Otieno has been running a non-profit in Kenya called the Bishima Kids Foundation. The Foundation is a community-based organization that aims to increase and expand underserved children’s access to basic needs, including food and shelter. In a year, the Foundation serves anywhere from 100 to 150 youths, and many of the children that the Foundation works with are orphans or homeless.
Because Bishima Kids Foundation is only a few years old and requires the help of community volunteers, Linda wears many hats to help the organization succeed. In addition to event planning and recruiting and hiring staff, she also manages the Foundation’s outreach and serves as treasurer.
While abroad on her CCI Program, Linda has worked hard to maintain her connection to the Foundation and has continued to keep the organization running from afar. Earlier this year, she remotely coordinated a donation of 300 pairs of underwear as well as sanitary products from a local business owner in Kenya.
Linda is also using her time in the United States to develop her nonprofit management skills. One of the goals Linda set during her exchange was to seek different volunteer opportunities in order to learn more about how to manage the Foundation. In particular, she says her volunteer experience with the People’s Resource Center in Wheaton, IL taught her about nonprofit management, but also about the interpersonal skills needed to lead. Linda learned that working with vulnerable populations from different backgrounds can come with feelings of suspicion, distrust, and sometimes anger. Linda says, “As a leader … you need to make them feel comfortable in your presence.” She knows she’ll need to carry that mindset home with her to apply to the youth she serves in Kenya.
She also sees her field of study at College of DuPage—culinary arts—as critically important to her work with the Bishima Kids Foundation. She wants to use the knowledge she’s learned about nutrition to inform what kinds of meals the kids receive. After returning to Kenya, she plans to offer cooking classes to the Foundation’s older youth so they can gain self-sustaining practical skills.
Linda, who was orphaned at the age of 11 and experienced periods of housing insecurity, understands the needs and challenges of the youth she serves in Kenya. “It is my dream,” she says, “to have children’s homes all over the country.” Through her CCI exchange, she is honing the academic, technical, and leadership skills she needs to return home and make an even greater impact in her community.