Asia Luna (extreme left) with her colleagues and some of the refugee women she works with.
By Asia Luna
This week, Asia Luna, an alumna of the Akili Dada scholarship program at Precious Blood Girls High School Riruta in Nairobi, tells her story of hope and resilience in the midst of despair. From humble beginnings in a war torn country, to working with refugee women in New York, Asia is grateful for the mentorship and life skills learnt at Akili Dada.
There are a few events in my life that have greatly influenced the person that I am. The greatest turning point was my moving to Kenya with my family, fleeing war back in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Life was hard for us in Kenya because it brought the challenges of poverty and general insecurity, among others.
My first interaction with Akili Dada was through an essay that I wrote, describing my yearning for learning, and the obstacles that were making it difficult for me to achieve academic success. It was the beginning of my efforts to push to become better. It has taken me a while to reach the level of confidence I am at, thanks to the many interactions I have had with the great women friends and mentors through this great organization.
I am a product of the values that were instilled and developed in me through working with the team at Akili Dada. I learned resilience and service. There are times when I failed to meet the goals I had set. Sometimes, I fell short of the required grades and was unable to perform exceptionally on my projects outside school, but the bar was never lowered for me. I learned to achieve my best. Thinking about this a few years later, it makes a lot more sense than it did then.
I had great people investing their time, energy, and resources in me, and this has created a stirring in me to give something back to the community around me, and pass more to somebody else.
Asia Luna (left) assists in translating documents for refugee women in Buffalo, New York
The greatest question that propels me is, “What am I doing for others?” Often times, all we need is a little push to start us off, and Akili Dada was my push. The mentoring was, and still is exceptional, because it not only served me when I needed it, but also helped me realize that I too could be of services to others.
For the past year, I have been working with different groups of refugee women who recently moved to the U.S. I offer language support through an interpreting service at a refugee agency in Buffalo, New York, working with day care projects that enable the women to start up their businesses as child-care providers. I facilitate the training sessions as well as the state tests required for completion of the projects, but it involves more than that. There are problems that some of these women face, mostly personal, and in regards to their family lives, but are unable to address them for various reasons. I am humbled each time they reach out to me, to be their link that addresses some of the issues to the people concerned. My goal has always been to give more than I receive, and with the community of refugee women where I live, I do my best.
One thing that remains true is the fact that being a scholar and intern in the programs that Akili Dada offers, opened up opportunities for me to extend the love and support that I receive, by identifying areas in which I can