Digital is not always best. Since our start in 2016, Cultivate’s programs have been offered online, so that anyone, anywhere, can access them. But nothing can replace true human connection, the kind that can only be created when we spend time together. I recently had the opportunity to travel to Kenya, where I spent two weeks meeting with 32 people from Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, and Uganda. Thanks to support from our funding partners We One Action Network and the Rechtzigel Family Foundation, we held two events in Kenya at the end of April for community leaders currently in Cultivate’s capacity-building program and for others who were interested to learn more.
It was the first time leading an in-person event like this since 2018! These 32 leaders represented grassroots organizations that are serving their communities in various ways – from mobilizing youth to address climate change, helping NGO leaders address their own mental health challenges, educating impoverished children, helping families grow their income, and much more. We spent dozens of hours together, building strong networks, new friendships, and helping each other learn more about how we can collectively make this world better for those who suffer the most.
First we hosted a public workshop in Nairobi, in the Kibera slum. Human Needs Project offered us space in their community space – the Kibera Town Centre. The workshop was attended by over 20 people. In the span of three hours, we dove deep into the process and best practices of how international NGOs, CBOs, and community programs can get started fundraising with American and Western donors. We had a very engaged audience, with many questions and people shared great ideas with one another.
That night, 16 of us drove to Athi River, Kenya, about an hour outside of Nairobi, where for the next four days we spent time together. Of these 16 leaders, several are current Cultivate trainees, and several were new friends who heard of our work through social media and word of mouth. For me, Elaine, going back to Athi River held some very special significance. My first time setting foot on the African continent was in 2004, when I first journeyed to Athi River as a young, idealistic college graduate trying to figure out my future. I had joined a Christian group called YWAM, and it was in Athi River that I spent my first few weeks before journeying onto Uganda and Tanzania. Almost twenty years ago I was moved by East Africa and knew that it would not be my last time there. Little did I know that Cultivate was in store and how much of my international development journey would take place in this part of the world! It was wonderful to see the community once again. Much development had taken place, but it was still very much the place that helped me first fall in love with Kenya.
For four days, all of spent hours together in a classroom. I lectured for about 8 hours each day, and together we learned from one another as well. We explored many themes, starting with personal leadership development, moving onto asset-based community-led development practice, to program design, fundraising, program evaluation and finished up with communications. It was a whirlwind, but also so wonderful. Friendships were built, ideas were shared, plans were made for future partnerships and joint endeavors. All in all, every minute together was worthwhile. By the end, all of us were exhausted but also so grateful for the time we spent together.
But why was this trip so worthwhile? Because it gave us all a much-needed surge of energy and passion to collectively build our capacity to lead change. For me, it was not just an opportunity to teach on the things I already know, but also an important time to learn from the people that I serve through Cultivate. It was a time to hear of their challenges and successes, a time to be reminded that this work is so needed. Our world needs local leaders to be the ones to lead change, to be the advocates and changemakers that we desperately need. But these local leaders have to be supported. They must be remembered and they must be given the opportunities to show all of us the amazing things they are doing, and can continue to do.
I’ll leave you with some of their comments about our time together – it’s a reminder for me, and for all of us at Cultivate – that we must prioritize times together like this more often.
~ Elaine, Founder & Chief Empowerment Officer
“Thank you for this lifetime opportunity to learn and birth my program.“
“It was great to have this experience. It helped me to shape the program that I am launching.“
“Thank you so much for equipping us with knowledge to effectively impact our communities.“
Thank you again to our funding sponsors, We One Action Network and The Rechtzigel Family Foundation.