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Tribute to Maureen Musyimi: Till later, Mo!

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Never in a million years have I ever thought I would have to write a tribute to one of the most vital, energetic and full of life people I have ever met, my late friend and colleague Maureen Wambui Musyimi.

I first met Maureen in 2013 when she joined the Ogilvy PR team from the reception desk. Maureen joined Ogilvy as a receptionist and when I asked our former boss Nick Wachira why he recruited her to be part of the team, he said her sense of wonder and appetite for learning is what made him first notice her.

You could not fail to notice Maureen wherever she went. She was loud, feisty, opinionated, very close to God and nothing ever fazed her. Everyone wanted her on their team because she was always raring to go and was never overwhelmed (and when she was she never panicked).

Wangechi (the writer) and Maureen.

That is not why I loved her, however; I loved her because she completely shared herself with us. We met and hang out with her children and we got to know her husband Musyimi. No other colleague has opened her heart and home to us like Mo did.

She shared her love of colour, her love of a good laugh – her sense of humour was wicked and was always delivered with panache and exasperatingly her dislike of food. I was her self-appointed food finisher.

You always knew where you stood with her; she let you know if you offended her. If she thought you were slacking, she would say it to your face – never rudely but she made it known when something was bothering her.

Over many lunches, she regaled us with stories of her troop – her four beloved children Taji, Tia, Tami and Thando who were all born when she was working at Ogilvy. She stressed us to no end by the way she never let pregnancy stop her. She shared hilarious stories of her late grandmother who brought her and her brother up.

From left – Wangechi, Sarah Oleng’, Maureen and Sarah Wambi.

I remember one day we were having a team-building exercise of some kind and we were all dancing behind her in case she fell because of the dancing style she was attempting with her huge belly not being an impediment whatsoever. She gave us several heart attacks that and many other days.

That was how Maureen approached life; nothing was ever too large for her. When she took a break ahead of the arrival of her last born, I still called her without shame with prayer requests. I admired her absolute faith in God.

Whenever I felt like my load was too heavy to carry, I called her with my requests and felt very peaceful after she promised I would be in her roster of prayers (she prayed for many people). The only other person I have ever sent such prayer requests to is my mother – so Maureen was definitely special and chosen.

We discussed religion and spirituality a lot. I am a very confused person when it comes to religion – and she was very clear in her path. The thing that struck me the most is that there was never disrespect in our disagreements – which were many and loud and emotive. We would finish and go to lunch and laugh about silly stuff while I admonished her for her dismal eating habits.

From left Wangechi, Sarah Oleng’, our former colleague Tony Blaire, Ogilvy PR Managing Partner Catherine Karanja and the late Mo.

I don’t know if this will give a clearer picture of her zest for life but Maureen did not know how to walk. Her walk was more of a jog, if you ever had to go somewhere with her on foot you had to tell her to slow down every five minutes.

I will miss discussing TCM movies and the Classics with her. I will miss saying outrageous things and watching her shaking her head at my audacity, I will miss hearing her voice ordering me to take photos of her because in social media speak, “she was feeling herself.”

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Below are a few words from some of our other colleagues – current and former:

Nick Wachira
Maureen was always eager to learn and that is what first made me interested in her as a part of the team. When she joined, I knew I had made the right decision because her diligence and incredible ability to operate under pressure were an important part of the job.

Samantha Wainaina
Maureen was the first person to say “hi” to me when I joined Ogilvy PR in 2014 and told me I was joining the best company in the world. She invited me to lunch and our friendship started from there. We laughed together and made a lot of noise in the office; we enjoyed being silly together. Our feisty and loud personalities were a match made in heaven and I am going to miss her.

Samantha and Mo

Sarah Wambi
I met Maureen when I joined Ogilvy in 2015. I was immediately drawn to her attention to detail and my favourite memory of her is when we made a pact to stop over-apologising – we noticed in a bid to be polite our sentences always started with the words, “I am sorry for disturbing you…” when in actual sense, we were not bothering a person for asking necessary questions. She adored her family and I thought she was a superhuman because even after four babies, she was never swallowed by motherhood, or being a wife or an employee. Her personality was too big to be swallowed by anything. Her respect for everyone’s opinion is a lesson I will take forward with me.

Susan Wanjiku
I met Maureen when she joined Ogilvy as a receptionist. She had a lot of questions about PR and was never shy to ask them. Besides dealing incredibly under pressure, I also admired how she was never afraid to try anything out. She was a mother of four little ones and she made it look like a breeze. Her capacity for love was unbelievable and she got along with everyone.

Cate Karongo
Her warmth is what struck me when I met Maureen in 2013. She had a great relationship with everyone including clients. She took a young boy she met while in the line of duty under her wings and treated him like one of her children. She sent him pocket money for school and shopping, sent him fare when schools closed and mentored him above and beyond the call of duty.

Wangechi, Mo, Patricia Wambua and Samantha Wainaina.

Patricia Wambua
Maureen was a great teacher and mentor to me and she did it with so much patience. I will always remember the time we went to Ethiopia for a project and we went dancing after working non-stop for three days. If I had known what I know now, I would have danced that much harder.

Beryl Magwa
Maureen was never daunted by any task. She did a whole production of a documentary without knowing what it entailed when she first took it up and still she excelled at it. She also took it upon herself to teach me more about humility… and I, in turn, taught her not to be too apologetic.

Abel Muhatia
I first met Mo in May 2019 and two weeks later, we were both assigned roles to prepare a pitch deck for new business alongside other colleagues. Like a lioness teaching her cubs how to hunt, Mo held my hand throughout the day and late-night brainstorm meetings. Hers was a happy demeanour to push us to the limits to win. She was sweet and possessed an enduring wit.

Evelyn Kopar
I first met Mo when I joined Ogilvy in 2016 during our famous lunch hour sessions. Being a newbie, I went to warm my food in the kitchen area after everyone else. As I waited in line for a chance to use the microwave, I was bombarded by very loud engaging conversation from the balcony at CVS between her and my other colleagues at the lunch table. To someone new, it looked like an argument but to everyone else, it was just the PR guys having lunch. Over time I got to participate in many such lunches and moments. We worked together on several accounts over the years, where my love and respect for her grew as she applied her energy and zeal in everything she did be it on work assignments, her family, love for friends and workmates

Mo, we will miss you dearly. May you rest in Eternal Peace.

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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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