Often, stories of success start in the mind. They start with a belief that a person has within him all the resources they need to achieve success. Because at some point, when things get hard, that inner voice would need to drown out the critical voices that come from outside.
And sometimes it takes an external intervention for that voice to influence someone. Take for example John Lokongit, who lost everything in a fire accident in 2017. “That night, my youngest child accidentally hit the kerosene lamp from which the mattress caught fire which spread into our whole house. The flames consumed everything in our home including my motorbike which was my income source”.
After attending the Entrepreneurship classes run by Kuza Biashara, he waxed lyrical about the mindshift he experienced. To quote him, he said, “I have attended the program with a clueless mind but got out of it with a whole new perspective. I learned how to maintain good customer relations and financial management at both family and business level.”
John believes that he will regain his good fortunates with hard work and great hope. This belief itself is key in moving John forward as there has been a lot of research in the field of positive psychology that extensively show how the formula for success is contrary to what is conventionally known in societies. For generations, people have bought into the idea that happiness comes after hitting achievements, whereas the work of researchers like Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage, show that happiness fuels success, not the other way around, which is why feelings like hope are important in driving someone forward. When we are more positive, our brains become more engaged and creative, and we become more resilient and productive.
Another person for whom Kuza Biashara’s program, ‘Digital Training Program,’ organized in association with SPARK Consortium partners has been influential in sparking the flames of inspiration is Fredrick Saidi. He settled in Kakuma at age 19. Coming from a French-speaking country, he enrolled in an English language course before pursuing a diploma in ICT and a certificate in Business Management. Despite carrying the papers, he could not find any job and felt demotivated. That was before he attended Kuza Biashara, after which he said, “The course opened up a new horizon of opportunities in front of me. Right now I’m thinking of 3 business ideas like selling fish from Lake Turkana, opening a photocopy and a lamination service place as well as running an M-pesa [business].”
The mindshift that programs like Kuza are tectonic, because people like Fredrick think beyond being employed by someone else and instead find themselves taking solid steps towards an entrepreneur’s path. This sentiment was echoed by Nyamuo Kai who ran away from South Sudan’s war and reached the border with her 5 siblings after 60 days.
“All I wanted was to take my young brothers and sisters to a safe place even if it meant sleeping anywhere as long as it was safe. To our good fortune, the border police were friendly enough to tell us about Kakuma refugee camp and in fact, help us reach there.”
As the eldest among her siblings, she had to drop her studies, and work hard to take care of them. After attending the program, she highlighted, “The course opened up a new horizon of opportunities in front of me. Until then, I didn’t know that entrepreneurship is also possible for people like us. It motivated me to try harder and learn new skills to change my thinking, my identity, and eventually my life.”
Nyamuo is now saving as much as she can from her current jobs so she could open her own salon in Kakuma area.
According to positive psychology research, the three predictors of happiness are optimism, social connection, and how we perceive stress. And there are people for whom life has never been easy. For example, take Eukuru Ewalan, who started his primary schooling at the age of 15 back in 2005. Following that, he starting working in a cloth store but the owner presented a big barrier between him and school, conjuring reasons to make sure he doesn’t attend classes. That eventually drove him to buy a TV set and a DSTV decoder to start an entertainment cafe and manage his schooling with his business.
However, in the year 2015, his landlord asked him to vacate his entertainment shop, pushing him into despair about what he was going to do next. It was during this time that he learned about Kuza Biashara’s Digital Training Program. According to him, the impact on his self-esteem was immense. He said, “The session helped me regain confidence and gave me motivation as well as workable solutions to my problems. I got introduced to a lot of things about running a business. So, I fixed my mind to first finish my school and do my own business. I have a piece of land in the hometown where I would restart my entertainment shop and even a ‘Mtumba business alongside.”
The revival of hope and optimism in Ewalan is proof of the impact that external interventions can make on a person’s mindset and self-esteem.