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May these letters encourage, inspire and embolden you

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By DAISY OKOTI
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This week, we go soul-to-soul. With the myriad of challenges around us, we take note of the bright spots, reflect on them and celebrate the victories. To help us do this are five young people who so graciously let us into their intimate spaces. This is also an invitation for you to look back and pinpoint just how much you need to be grateful for as the year comes to an end and what practical steps you need to take to achieve the goals that you look forward to achieving.

Data analyst Yvonne Jakaila.

Data analyst Yvonne Jakaila, 27, during the interview at Nation Centre, Nairobi, on December 18, 2018. PHOTO | DENNIS ONSONGO

OPEN WHEN YOU ARE DISCOURAGED

“I doubt there’s any single person who has never been utterly discouraged, dismayed if you may, like I once was. In my 27 years of existence, I have never been in so much despair like I was a few years back.

I had just graduated from university and had applied for numerous jobs. My qualifications were top notch, so I did not understand why no job was forthcoming. Then immediately I got a wonderful job offer, I lost my sister, then friends deserted me, and my relationship ended, in that order. It made me believe that at any one point in my life, when I have something good, at least one thing will go wrong. I immersed myself into reading novels, dancing, a little bit of modelling and taking road trips.

I loved taking the morning and evening trains to Syokimau and back. During one of these train rides, I started to realise that my discouragement stemmed from comparison. Comparing my success to that of others. They have progressed more than I have. So what? I’m happy for them and their successes, but it’s their time, mine will come too. God blesses each one of us differently. A car might be important to me, but not to you, however, more income could be. It’s never all gloomy if you look closely. Life will come at you fast. That’s a guarantee. No one knows what will happen next and no amount of money or security will protect you from the uncertainties of life. The most practical thing to do is to accept this reality and take it one day at a time.

I still feel discouraged from time to time, but a few practical steps have more often than not helped me get back up. I take calculated breaks off social media (Instagram to be specific, because that place can make you feel so unworthy.) I cannot live without twitter though. I talk to my few trusted friends and I’m learning to speak up about my concerns without fear. I pray, a lot.

I also joined a book club and attend mentorship sessions. I dance too, and finally I have a gratitude jar that I still haven’t got to use. The jar is supposed to be filled with notes of gratitude every day of the year, then at the end of the year, one goes through the notes to see how far they’ve come. The jar is my only resolution in 2019.

A point to note is that mental health is a serious concern in today’s world, and I would encourage one to seek the help of a professional therapist if the feelings of discouragement are unbearable.”

Actress Boera Biaki.

Actress Boera Biaki, 26. PHOTO | COURTESY

“Life is full of fear and overcoming,’ that’s what my grandmother used to mumble to herself. Well, this never meant anything to me until I had lived a few more years after her death. My fear came in my quest to be a great if not perfect actress.

I remember the first day I joined a theatre group at Kenya National theatre. I was just from high school where I had made it to the nationals several times and had tons of certificates to show for it. I had even been selected to join a sponsored acting academy where my performance had been brilliant.

But attending the rehearsals for professional acting was a turning point of my acting. Every time I went on stage, the director would cut!

One day after enough of the director’s scolding and as I sat weighing between dropping a resignation message and going back to the theatre the next morning, a friend from the theatre called. I still believe I owe my acting prowess to this guy. He encouraged me and told me to go through my lines and internalise them before the next rehearsal time. I did. That night I went through every scene the director had blocked that day, trying to recall all the moves and lines by myself. I went through my lines again and again until I had them in my head.

The next day, I still forgot my lines and missed my cues. But I remained positive. I started by being very attentive at rehearsals and taking notes where I felt necessary. When I went home, I would go through my lines and then act them out in front of a mirror, trying to pull the necessary character. Moving forward, every role I am assigned I have to research on.

If I am acting drunk, I would watch different scenes of different people acting drunk differently. I became very observant and aware of my surroundings, so I can build my characters from watching people. They say art is a mirror of the society, observing what goes on in our day-to-day life has played a great role in improving my acting and creative skills.

Every time I get a chance to be the audience rather than the actor, I grab it. Watching other actors do their magic on stage has helped me to see things from different points of view and even to evaluate myself by evaluating the mistakes and creativity other actors make on stage. Doing these over the years has given me the confidence and strengthened my acting prowess.

While acting is a lesson you learn every day, I can judge by different avenues I have acted and still am acting, be it stage plays, films and TV that I overcame my fear of being a half-baked actor and that I am now a fully baked one that shakes the feelings of my audience.”

Publishing editor Newton Ambani.

Publishing editor Newton Ambani, 27. PHOTO | COURTESY

“Life is like a maze, intricately designed. You never quite map out the correct path. If you do, you realise, quicker than you thought, that there are no shortcuts. Every path you take might lead to a snag, a dead end, just like in a maze, there is never a comfort zone. As soon as you navigate one challenge, another awaits.

I have been afraid ever since the pressures of everyday life crept on me. Fear seemed to always lurk in the shadows. It was a nagging fear of the unknown, a fear that I wasn’t good enough, a fear that tomorrow’s promise might never be realised. Fear chewed me up. It spat me out too, what was left of me, just to chew me up again. An endless cycle.

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Life is a tough process. Failure accompanies success. Things can either fall out of place only to later fall in place, or they can fall in place only to later fall out of place. That’s the duality of life. I grew up with knowledge of all this, yet I never fought the fear inside me. Part of it stemmed from comparing myself to my peers. I never measured up. Maybe I was too hard on myself. It took me a while to find the antidote to my fear.

At first, it was nothing more than a fleeting thought. Then it turned to a niggling voice: Life’s a process. Why not trust it? It has turned out fine so far, after all. Why would the future be different? It dawned on me that I needed to face my fear head on. The only way was to show up, build an incredible work ethic, hone my skills and stay ready.

Buoyed by this, I became liberated. The embers of a dying fire were ignited inside me. I began stocking the flames by beating my craft and constantly building momentum, one day at a time. I fed the fire in me, relentlessly. Slowly the fear was replaced by confidence. Are you a slave to fear? Do you sometimes doubt how your tomorrow will be? No more. Success and failure are slaves of the same master. Both make us thrive, however the dice rolls, there is no reason to fear.”

Actor Makovo Mbatha.

Actor Makovo Mbatha, 28. PHOTO | COURTESY

OPEN WHEN YOU NEED INSPIRATION

“As young man clothed with passion for art from Kangaru High School, I looked forward to a bright future in acting. Sounds easy until the rubber met the road.

A couple of rejections in a number of auditions gave me a thick skin, more so made me learn that drama is quite distant from professional acting. Well, I got a couple of breakthroughs having learnt my craft through interactions with experienced directors and of course my will to go on.

My mentor Lumara Kunaka was of much assistance as he partnered with me to run Do Arts Centre. He would sell the vision to the actors and then leave. His frequent intentional absence put me on spot to forge the unit forward and make them believe in Our Vision. I desired to run one from scratch by myself. Well, nature has a way to attract what you think of mostly.

So Whispers of The Night, a vision born of continuous talk with Omondi Odhiambo and Tony Tot, who I worked with in the production had to see light of day. The pressure in me to give it life saw me produce it. I had to face the fear of selling the vision to a panel of ten. Our first mails to a venue we wished to host the event were futile. The date was set but there was no vision.

Rehearsals had just begun when our director, Tony Tot, was brought down by Chickenpox. The production manager, Omondi Odhiambo, doubled as the media person for our just newly born page and also an actor in Whispers of The Night. He had much in his cup. Creating marketing ideas, story concepts for the show and funding the project was not easy.

The greatest challenge was keeping the team intact and with the same fire as the event peeped a week and no piece was ready. Our director still lay in bed sick; we could not take the chance as this was chickenpox but we had no money to hire another director. A few knocks on God’s door and we did piece up the show two days to the event. I had pestered a couple of organisations to support this. Luckily, some did.

I have learnt that finding the right team matters. On November 30, I produced Whispers of The Night. Thanks to my partners Tony Tot, Omondi Odhiambo, Sally Vurage, Beril Oondo and Angie Makala. Quoting my mentor Lumara Kunaka, “The journey’s challenges are overcome by constant focus of the satisfaction of reaching one’s destination.”

Sally Waweru, an auditor.

Sally Waweru, 25, an auditor, at Nation Centre, Nairobi, on December 19, 2018. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL

GOSPEL SPOKEN WORD ARTIST/ AUDITOR

OPEN WHEN YOU GET A CHILD

As a child, I had fantasies. “When I grow up I want to become a doctor”. See, I wanted so badly to become a doctor so that I could perform operations that saved lives. I wanted to become a pilot too. So I could fly high. Literally. Then I dreamt I was an astronaut. I would be the first to discover another planet.

So I went to school and discovered a subject called Chemistry, only to discover that we had no common bond. The only element I loved was chlorine, because swimming was my favourite hobby. So I said goodbye to being a doctor. To become an astronaut, I had to discover a planet. But the only planet I discovered was Planet Yogurt, which I love to the moon and back. And that is pretty satisfying. The only way I could become a pilot was if I was very good at geography. But I guess that is history, a story for another day. Twenty-five years down the line, I grew up. I found out that sometimes, reality is far from fiction, but, that doesn’t prevent me from dreaming.

When I eventually have a child and she tells what she wants to become, I will smile and encourage her to follow her dreams. I will shift occupation and be her teacher. I will tell her that she can be anything that she wants to be. She can be a tailor. Using the tape to measure the ties that suit society. She can be a baker, farmer, designer and a teacher. Baking with ingredients like integrity, honesty, excellence and a pinch of sophistication as she uses her hands to uproot the weeds in the society and plant seeds of hope.

And when she gets confused about what she wants, I will hold her little hands and encourage her to seek contentment not in titles, but in purpose, to be the best of what she will be.

And on rainy days, when rain falls on her tiny palms, and there seems to be just a ray of sunshine, I will remind her that her beauty symbolises that of a cute little bow. So she will always be my little rainbow. And when thunders in her life storm at her, I will teach her to reign.

To reign over situations that threaten her peace of mind. To reign over people that steal her thunder. I will remind her to always reign. To forget the dark clouds and focus on becoming the definition of greatness.

So when she tells me to help her to choose a career, I will look into her eyes and tell her to become a carrier of light. I will tell her to be a city upon a hill. I will tell her to be the light because sometimes, this world loses its flavour. I have seen curriculums written but never a syllabus on how to hold a pencil while writing for the first time. “Some things, my child, you will have to learn using first-hand experience. But I promise to be there to hold your hand when I notice strong enough to hold your own pencil.”



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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.

KBC Radio_KICD Timetable

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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