My name is Irene Odiero. I am a first-year student at Egerton University in Nakuru, Kenya and an intern at Standard Chartered, Kenya. I am from the Manyatta slum in Kisumu, the second largest city in Kenya. I grew up in a house without electricity or running water. Manyatta is my home and I am most happy when I return to visit my family.
I am the first born of four. While still in primary school I became responsible for my three siblings. My parents died when I was 12. Anne, the youngest was four. We have since been in the custody of my paternal uncle. When my uncle was away working, I missed school to do house chores, cook and look after the little kids. It is my little siblings, George and Ann, who inspire me to succeed. Being their role model, guiding them through primary school and teaching them to believe in their abilities are the achievements which I am most proud.
I wanted to make a difference in my village and worked extremely hard to pass my exams and uplift my community. Starehe Girls’ Centre had been my dream school because of the academic excellence it offers disadvantaged adolescent girls. It was my only chance of getting a secondary education and I guarded the dream like a treasure. Starehe is very competitive. Having very little time for my academics while at home, I had to study till very late in the nights. I applied, scored high on the national exams and was selected to join girls from all over the country.
While in Form 4 I was selected to join the Global Give Back Circle. The Global Give Back Circle was founded in 2006 by Linda Lockhart to transition disadvantaged girls into empowered women. All girls in the program have mentors. Margie French is my mentor. She is from the USA. She has helped make me a more confident and informed young woman reinforcing what not to give up on and what is really important. She represents a ‘mother figure ‘in my life for which I’ll forever be grateful.
To utilise the long 20-month gap period between secondary and tertiary schools in Kenya, girls in the Global Give Back Circle attend a 9-month ICT workshop in Microsoft and Cisco Networking solutions. It was at this time that the Global Give Back Circle asked Standard Chartered to invest in girls. In line with private sector value of human capital as ‘good investment’, Standard Chartered decided to sponsor five girls in the Global Give Back Circle through a unique work/study programme. They interviewed 17 girls in the ICT class. I was selected! I interned at the Bank for 16 months before university and return during breaks rotating to new departments.
The Bank is a great place to work with a remarkable brand belief: “To be here for People, for Progress, Here for the long run and Here for Good”. The staff works to high standards and shares best practises. I feel I am a part of a successful team. I have met inspiring individuals and learnt to be creative and assertive. I have been trained to work quickly, thoughtfully and effectively to deliver the best solutions for our customers. I’m privileged to have worked in six departments and have gained valuable experience. I now make informed and effective financial decisions in a bid to respond competently to life events. The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of dreams.
While first interning, I lived with an aunt in Kibera. I personally took this as a challenge and strived to liberate myself. I am delighted that I have managed to move a step towards success. Today I am living in a more secure and comfortable environ.
Through the sponsorship of Standard Chartered Kenya, I have been enabled to complete my tertiary education. I am on an empowerment journey to fully realise my political, economic and social strengths. I look forward to pursuing a career in Corporate and Investment Banking.
The Global Give Back Circle drives long term sustainability by embedding a give- back ethos among the beneficiaries. I have a give-back commitment at St. Martins High in the Kigbare slum where I mentor and tutor Forms 1 and 2 girls. This is aimed at improving their academic performances and creating social awareness of hygiene and diseases.
The Global Give Back Circle has grown to 535 girls. Linda envisions that the girls in the program will complete the circle and run the programme. In February 2012, the first election was held to select a Scholars Governing Council. It was a competitive contest and required a smart campaign strategy. I am delighted to have been elected by the other beneficiaries to serve on the council. It is a blessing and I am humbled to be a member of the Global Give Back Circle. It has been a life-transforming experience.