A speech presented by Catherine Kiama, Akili Dada’s Young Changemakers Program Director, at Kamae Girls’ Borstal Institution for Clean Start Kenya’s Spear Course Training Graduation on Friday 7th July 2017
On behalf of Akili Dada, we are truly delighted to be part of the inaugural graduation ceremony at Kamae Girls, and to share in this momentous celebration with you. We applaud the efforts of the 21 young graduates. We salute you for your hard work, resilience and determination. We pray that these are traits that will stay with you and that will serve you well for a long time to come.
Before we get to crown you for your hard work, allow me to tell you a story: When I was 6 or 7 years old, I pushed my big sister into a pond of brown dirty murky water. This pond was actually a deep garbage hole by any standard and I pushed my sister in deliberately. At the time, I thought it would be funny and I did not think of the possible harm that may have befallen my own big sister!
When I was 8 or 9 years old, I got into a fight with a bully who was one class my senior. When I was in high school, I found out one of my classmates was using drugs which were actually stolen. Instead of reporting her immediately, I kept the drugs in my locker for a whole term.
Looking back at my childhood escapades, today I realize how many laws I potentially broke and how many mistakes I have made. For instance, pushing my sister into that pond could have easily turned into assault causing actual bodily harm or at worst; God forbid – attempted murder! My first and only fight with Christopher the bully could have resulted in me being charged with battery. Storing stolen drugs because I thought I was protecting a classmate would have just had me charged with crimes such as: handling stolen goods, aiding and abetting the furtherance of a crime and being in possession of narcotics, just to name a few.
The punishment for each of those crimes is a custodial sentence. This means that I could have easily been here in this institution just like you. You have made mistakes, but so have I. If everyone would be really honest with themselves, you will realize that they have made many mistakes too. Some may have driven recklessly while on their cell phone – or even worse, after a drink too many. Others have perhaps taken something that is not theirs, while the rest may have said something false about a person. That could have them charged too with reckless and dangerous driving, theft and defamation.
As human beings, we make mistakes. Many of them! Some of them may crush our worlds and others may go unnoticed, but they are mistakes nevertheless! Mistakes teach us, mistakes scare some of us, but mistakes do not define us. When you make a mistake, there are three things you should do:
- Admit it
- Learn from it
- Do not repeat it.
I don’t know what mistake lead you here and quite frankly, it doesn’t really matter. But I do want to know if you have admitted it, if you are learning from it and if you solemnly swear never to repeat it.
The fact that we are gathered here may be a good indication that we are not letting our mistakes prevent us from achieving our goals. I encourage each and every one of you to keep pursuing that which sets your soul on fire. Keep growing and keep going. And when you do leave here, I pray that you will put yourself out there. Aspire to continue with your education and remember that you are not your mistake and you are not your struggles. You are not your shortcomings. You are beautiful, amazing and all sorts of incredible.
We applaud Clean Start Kenya for training you in the Spear Course program. I hope that this will not be the end but a beginning of many more similar trainings. If you do allow us, Akili Dada would like to walk with you in your new beginnings.
Congratulations ladies! We are very proud of you and cannot wait to see where life leads you to.