Bold, determined, a go-getter are some of the many words that can be used to describe Claris, a 19-year-old Akili Dada, Gap-Year program intern. Claris came across Akili Dada whilst in her first year of school at Precious Blood Riruta. Coming from Mukuru kwa Reuben slums in Nairobi, she knew that her chances of making it through high school were slim and she, therefore, sought scholarships from various organisations through the principal’s office. She was among the lucky few who were selected to become scholars. Apart from paying her school fees and taking care of her basic necessities, Akili Dada introduced Claris to the service learning concept and she chose to start a slum library in her community.

“I started the library to inculcate reading culture in pupils in their young age through making it easier for them to access books,” she adds. Claris chose to start the library informed by her own experiences where she had to go to the community library as early as 6am so as to get sitting space. The environment was also not conducive for learning as the small space was teeming with eager learners. Many times, a good number was turned away as the library was overflowing. Claris gathered all the books in her home that they were not using and solicited for more from her friends. Armed with 300 books, she approached the headteacher of New Light Academy in the slum and floated the idea of starting a library for the pupils who was very receptive and allocated her a room in the school. Today, 150 pupils in the school have access to curriculum-based textbooks as well as storybooks that they borrow to read at home. Through her library, the pupils’ grades have improved significantly. The teachers at the school have also reported teaching being easier. Claris aspires to be a mechatronics engineer and is actively engaging in various STEM platforms.

Everyday, I am inspired by different people and things. I have a couple of mentors who encourage me to just go for what I want without fear and helped me know who I am better. Songs also inspires and one of it is the song “Roar” by Katy Perry. I also draw a lot of energy from my life experience and friends

who keep reminding me every day on my goals. “IF YOU ASK ME WHAT I CAME IN THIS WORLD TO DO, I WILL TELL YOU I CAME TO LIVE OUT LOUD, ” she signs off.

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