IPI’s College Scholars Program
Among the poor in Kenya, income and quality of life aren’t much better for those who complete high school compared to those who don’t. To overcome poverty, further education is needed after high school in order to obtain vocational skills or professional credentials.
The IPI College Scholars Program (ICSP) supports promising candidates in attaining post-secondary vocational training and bachelor’s degrees. IPI pays school fees and living expenses, when needed, that enable individuals and families to break the cycle of poverty. Since ICSP was founded in 2006, the program has supported more than 30 students in obtaining their undergraduate degrees in teaching, medicine, and business. Here is an update from one of those students, Enoch Owina.
The Power of Communication
I am a firm believer that communication is a powerful tool for sustainable social change. From my teen years, I experienced the healing power of communication through affirmations and acts of kindness through service. I grew up in a little village West of Nairobi plagued with cattle rustling, Marakwet, with significant missionary church activities. I was always intrigued with how the local Italian missionary priests and the missionary Sisters were able to bring fighting local communities together for peace talks and maintain peaceful relations. I had a rare opportunity as a teenager to be part of several charity activities organized by local missionaries to distribute food during drought, provide peer counseling to different primary schools, organize youth sporting tournaments, conducting peace debates in schools, and distributing school supplies during back to school drives.
In all these, it is the communication aspect of it that stood out for me. I was fascinated by the power of people coming together and talking about issues affecting their lives and the power of choice; choosing to peacefully resolve conflicts as opposed to going to war. These little acts of compassion sparked a desire in me to follow the path of service to humanity in my education and career. When the time came for college, Communication studies was a natural pick for me.
I studied development communication and media studies at Chuka University in Meru. College was a beautiful experience since it was away from home and I had the opportunity of meeting students from all over Kenya and experience the rich cultural diversity and heritage of my country. My first job from college at International Peace Initiative’s program at the Kithoka Amani Children’s Home was an eye-opener for me. I was hired as a Communications Assistant, an opportunity that has had an enduring profound impact on my world; my perspective about service to humanity, compassion, ethical leadership, and sustainable community empowerment. I saw a connection between challenges my community faced and other parts of the world, that global problems could be solved through partnerships and collaborations with like-minded groups regardless of their geographical locations.
I learned that ethical leadership was at the heart of solving problems at every level. This experience opened my eyes to a new world, where politics affected the quality of life of people in a society, that ethical leaders can propel a community to new heights of greatness. I was intrigued by how political choices affected public policy in every facet of life. This experience led me to an MA in Political Science and Public Administration at The University of Missouri in Kansas City.
My most memorable experience in this program was my six-month Congressional internship for Congressman Emanuel Cleaver II of Missouri 5th District. I had a first-hand experience on the nexus between people and power. I was able to handle the real-life challenges of constituents by assisting them to get help from federal agencies across the United States. Again, at the center of it all was the undying influence of the power of communication to influence positive social change in society. I learned that organizations with clear well-defined communication structures and ethical leadership tend to progress better.
Now I realize more than ever that communication plays a critical role in shaping the world around us. I chose Communication because I aspire to work with local communities to empower them to be fully involved in key decision-making processes that affect their lives. People’s participation is the cornerstone of sustainable community development and social change. I hope that this will allow them to identify common grounds for action and build a sense of identity and fully participate in public policy processes. My key interest is communication in the areas of rural poverty, ethical leadership, and public policy. Park University offers a great opportunity for me to grow and be a global citizen. I love Kansas City. It is such a beautiful place with incredible people and the home of the Kansas City Chiefs! I am falling in love with football and baseball here too. I am looking forward to an incredible journey of learning and fun.