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Great artwork wins young Kenyan artist global award

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By JOSIAH MWANGI

One of Kenya’s youngest paint artists, Sheila Sheldon, has received global recognition as her works continue finding their way into the global market.

Sheila shot to fame last year after painting a portrait of President Uhuru Kenyatta and presenting it to him at State House, Nairobi.

The 10-year-old, who is in her fifth year in primary school, has artistic prowess that has caught the attention of art enthusiasts globally.

Last October, she visited California, USA, following an invitation from the Tese Foundation.

“The foundation honoured me with a tour and an award for my contribution to society and my role as an inspiration to other children across the world,” says Sheila.

The award from the foundation, titled Youngest Lioness Award, recognises her accomplishments in art.

When Weekend visited her parents’ home in Nyali, Mombasa, hundreds of portraits done by Sheila dotted her newly launched home art gallery.

Tese Foundation, a non-government organisation rooting for the welfare of destitute children in selected countries in Africa, came to Sheila’s attention when it announced a fundraiser for destitute children in Zimbabwe.

Sheila had offered her paintings for sale to raise money to assist the vulnerable children of the southern African country suffering as a result of a battered economy.

“I have been in the streets before and I know what it means to be destitute. I offered my pieces of art to the organisation because it was what I could afford,” she explains.

Sheila has also struck a deal with a Danish publisher to have her story used in an English text book for the country.

In the book, titled Yes We Can, which is both in print and digital form, Sheila’s story of love for art is told with illustrative pictures to teach children of her age how to spend their time at home and in school. The book is part of Denmark’s school curriculum.

Her international standing has also been boosted by local and international media. For instance, she has featured in BBC and Fox 40 television stations, among others.

Sheila says her tour of the US exposed her to the importance of art globally. “I realised that art is more appreciated in other continents than in Africa when I visited the US. I could not believe the attention I received for my works,” admits Sheila.

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Her current painting is titled ‘Real Life in Africa’. It shows multiple activities taking place at the same time. From a traffic jam, patients stranded in a hospital to traffic police officers taking bribe from a matatu, the huge, magnificent painting is an attention grabber.

Some of her notable paintings include portraits of former US President Barack Obama, rights activist Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Oprah Winfrey. Sheila has also drawn and painted governors Hassan Joho and Salim Mvurya of Mombasa and Kwale counties respectively. The artist who dreams of becoming a designer and a model when she grows up is already cashing in on her portraits.

“I have sold numerous portraits locally and internationally because of the publicity I have received,” she narrates.

She promotes her art through her Facebook, Twitter, website and Instagram accounts. Her 77,200 followers on Instagram have been a boost in promoting her art online. Thanks to her overseas connections, Sheila is currently refining a section of her portraits to fit the international art market.

Her mother, Viviane Otieno, says she discovered her daughter’s talent when teachers kept telling her that the girl had rare talent. “When Sheila was in Standard One, her teachers noted her rare talent in art. They advised me to help her nurture it,” says Otieno.

Sheila can also draw animals and various aspect of nature. Her favourite animal is elephant. She uses her free time, especially on weekends, to draw and paint. She notes the time it can take her to draw and paint one portrait varies.

“Some portraits can take me up to one month to finish while others can take me minutes or hours, depending on what I am tasked to draw,” she says.

This year, she is seeking to participate in art exhibitions across the country. She says she is determined to ensure her paintings are viewed and bought.



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Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard

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Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.

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However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.

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Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard

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President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow

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Drastic life changes affecting mental health

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Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.

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Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.

Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.

The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.

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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.

In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020.  It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.

A study by Dr. Habil Otanga,  a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says  that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.

The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.

KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.

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Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.

As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.

“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”

Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.

“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.

Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.

“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”

Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.

“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.

Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.

Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.

She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.

Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.

“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added

Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.

“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and  also engage in   reading that would  help expand their knowledge.

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