It all started four years ago as a simple idea. But today, it has developed beyond her wildest dreams.
But for Linda Lockhart, work has only just began. And she is prepared to see it through, till the very end.
Global Give Back Circle director Linda Lockhart speaks during the opening of Starehe Girls Centre learning lab. With her is Dr Manu Chandaria (centre), the chairman of the school’s board of trustees, and Education permanent secretary Karega Mutahi. Photo/JENNIFER MUIRURI
Mrs Lockhart, an American citizen, wanted desperately to give back to the society that had played a big role in shaping her success as a career businesswoman. Unfortunately, the international banking consultant did not have a clue on what this could be.
For many days, she hoped and prayed that ‘this perfect idea’ would come. Unfortunately, it didn’t. But despite this, she did not give up.
Noble idea struck
But one day, a noble idea struck her. And it came from one of the most unlikely sources — former US President Bill Clinton. She smiled. Her prayers had finally been answered.
Her decision to come up with a mentorship plan for disadvantaged girls in Africa and Kenya in particular, was inspired by a speech by the former US President, who had highlighted the need to embrace a new model of global leadership.
“His speech clearly inspired me. President Clinton said individuals should never shy away from implementing any ideas. He told us that an individual was never ‘too small’ in this world to make a difference,” says the global director of Cohen Brown Management Group.
And to this end, the Global Give Back Circle initiative, a not-for-profit organisation, was born. Coincidentally, the programme, three years later, caught the eye of the Clinton Foundation in New York with Mrs Lockhart being invited to the Clinton Global Initiative in September where she obtained sponsorship for 35 of the girls in the programme.
“I founded the organisation to address what I felt was a critical gap in development that has left marginalised women in the continent paralysed against the inequalities they face,” she says.
She didn’t have enough resources to aggressively roll out her initiative. ‘‘I relied on friends most of whom offered lots of support.”
The give-back plan seeks to transition a group of selected girls from poor backgrounds, from the cycle of poverty into one of ‘participation, contribution, fulfilment and independence.’ This, she adds, will in turn empower the girls to become ‘catalysts for change in the society.’
Mrs Lockhart says the project will be accomplished through a five-phased process where each girl has her own mentor.
Already, some 35 girls in three selected schools around Nairobi are benefiting from it. The beneficiaries are in Starehe Girls Centre, St Martins for Girls situated at the sprawling Kibagare slums in Nairobi and the Blessed Generation Children’s Centre in Ruiru. Mrs Lockhart says her simple idea had grown over time, with the inclusion of more women mentors.
During her recent two-week trip to Nairobi, she met powerful women leaders who were willing to join her initiative.
This, she reveals, has created a global network that currently consists of more than 160 mentors. And the number is rising.
Her work in Kenya has further benefited from a number of sponsors that include Commercial Bank of Greece, Equity Bank, and the Kenya Community Development Foundation (KCDF).
“My partners have committed themselves to the successful transition of these disadvantaged girls from high school to college and employment through this comprehensive mentoring and educational programme,” she says.
“All we require from the girls is commitment, passion and dedication to ensure the programme succeeds,” she adds.
Even as she spoke highly of the girls, she said they needed assistance to ensure their success.
Take Ms Wendy Nzula for instance. Losing her parents at a very young age, Wendy and her siblings were left homeless. This was after her relatives sold all her parents’ possessions and neglected them.
Charitable organisations helped her to join Starehe Girls Centre, where she currently studies. Wendy dreams of becoming a lawyer and taking a leadership role in Kenya.
“With our help, she will have the chance to pursue this dream, and for the first time, live a life filled with hope and happiness,” Mrs Lockhart says.
Under the programme, she says, the girls are assigned mentors with who they are supposed to develop a strong relationship.
The mentor is required to guide them in planning for their future while they engage in activities that increase their participation in society and access to jobs.
By DAVE OPIYO Posted Sunday, June 28 2009 at 22:30 – Daily Nation