Phyllis Ombonyo changes fortunes for the less fortunate in society
1 months ago, 20 July 04:00
Phyllis Engefu Ombonyo is the Director of the Yetu Initiative and the 2016 Power/Water woman of the African Utility Week.
She previously worked as director, Business Development at the National Environment Trust Fund; programme manager at Africa Capacity Alliance and ICT specialist at Oxfam GB in Kenya, Uganda, Nigeria, Sierra Leone and South Sudan.
Phyllis’ youthful entrepreneurial ventures included selling second hand clothes and hairdressing. She is passionate about youth empowerment and leadership. To that end, Phyllis sits on the board of her former high school. She is a wife and a mother of two.
What are the three things that stand out for you in your job?
The opportunity to work towards improving the quality of life for the less privileged; we collaborate with civil society organisations to address the most pressing challenges within our communities such as youth unemployment, health and education. My work also comes with the freedom to think creatively; and working with a youthful team makes it delightful.
What would you do differently if you went back to being an undergraduate student?
I would embrace more leadership, speak out and network with my peers more to improve my soft skills. I would volunteer more time on community work.
What would you term as your most rewarding project so far?
The Green Innovations Programme, which gave me an African award in 2016. It made me aware that so much innovation is happening in this country but very little is known. Connecting some of the remotest parts of Africa to the global ICT infrastructure while at Oxfam was also very gratifying.
But I would like to highlight the Yetu Initiative – it has been very heart-warming for me to work with over 40 organisations to conduct local fundraising. More than Sh130 million has been raised to serve marginalised communities.
I also felt fulfilled to have spent my first salary to complete my mother’s rural house; the construction has stalled for many years.
What do you think is important for young people at the start of their careers to know?
Present yourself as teachable, start small and go the extra mile. Get the right skills, not necessarily by investing in more degrees. With the internet, you can teach yourself virtually anything if you are disciplined.
Most importantly, always treat your current job as the interview for your next job. Seek out relevant mentors to guide you as you navigate your career. Often, jobs don’t come through simply applying for them, but through relationships with professionals.
What is the most misunderstood detail about philanthropy?
That philanthropy means a lot of money given by some celebrity; people instantly think Manu Chandaria, Oprah Winfrey or just a big international figure.
Actually, Kenya was ranked as the third most philanthropic country globally and first in Africa in 2017.
A 2016 research we did revealed that 93 per cent of Kenyans are philanthropic. Most of us do not realise that we are all philanthropic – the money we contribute ...
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