SOPHOMORE, African Leadership University, Kigali.
Mental Health & Wellness Advocate
There are different types of people, and then there is Peris. So far I have listened to very many stories, but none comes as detailed as one does by Peris. I really think she should start a course in storytelling, because damn, she is good at that. In doing that, she reminds that there is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you. This therefore means that in many stories that I have written, this one comes out vivid and full glass.
It is on a Sunday afternoon at the Gate C of Karura Forest and my date for the afternoon is already around. Perry, as I call her is clad in pair of dark grey leggings, a pink playful t-shirt, fashion forward denim jacket and pink with a touch of black cool sneakers. She is armed with a water bottle, and she looks extremely elegant. After a few pleasantries, we hit the trail for our hike cum nature walk cum interview session. We get into the lush and leafy Karura forest. The weather is fine, clear whit sun rays penetrating from the canopies. As usual, being a weekend, Karura is full, families in outdoor games, lovebirds holding hands, dogs on nature trail and so much fun. As we moved through the trail from Gate C onward to the caves and later on the water falls, we enjoyed a rich scenery punctuated with chirping of birds, sturdy aboriginal trees, green and leafy vegetation and the ever decreasing temperatures. All this time we engaged in an intelligible and enjoyable conversation largely about our shared affiliation to African Leadership University and many other things. Perry, being the wholesome girl she is dominated the huge part of the conversation. Even without noticing it, we are already on the other side of the forest, 2 kilometers gone in a deep and candid chit chat. So we decided on an activity to do and she quickly settled on cycling race but I immediately inform her that seemingly when my agemates were learning how to cycle, I was still playing with mud. We then decide on swinging and this climaxes our nature trail, ooh, without forgetting the delicacy we had for the after party but I will spare you the details of that for today. It is during the swinging that the interview takes place. At least for that day I did not carry any notebook so my questions were pretty much some sorts of imaginations. So here we go. Remember that the Questions are in caps and answers are in normal font. Enjoy the interview.
Q: GIVE US AN INTRODUCTION AND A SHORT STORY ABOUT YOURSELF.
My name is Peris Odhiambo, a sophomore (Second Year Student) at African Leadership University in Kigali, Rwanda pursuing Computer Science. I am a Mental Health Advocate extremely passionate about creating wellness spaces and this is something I would die for. I was born in November, 6, 2000 in Nairobi. I am the first born in a family of three girls and a boy. I started school just locally within my hood and did my entire primary school education in Nairobi. I sat my KCPE in 2014 and did extremely well. However, I was disappointed when I got my admission letter for high school. I was admitted at Asumbi Girls High School, a school that I neither selected nor even knew of its existence. I had hoped to attend a school around Nairobi. Nevertheless, I took up the challenge and claimed my admission spot at Asumbi Girls High School in Homa Bay County. I joined Asumbi for my secondary education. Upon getting to Asumbi, I realized that it is what I ever wanted in my life. My entire perspective was completely changed at Asumbi, something that could not have happened had I attended any other school. A lot of my values, beliefs and philosophies were birthed when I was at The Mighty Asumbi. I did my KCSE in 2018 and confirmed what I had done four years ago by doing exemplary well and being celebrated so much. After high school, I was selected to join Kenyatta University to pursue Agricultural and Biosystems Engineering. And this again replicates my dilemma at the end of primary school because I really did not want to pursue this course at all. My passion had been in tech and I had deserved to pursue that. Just as I did it four years before, I proceeded with the course and joined Kenyatta University. However after two semester, I felt that with all sincerity that it was not what I ever wanted to do in college so I decided to drop out. At the time of dropping out, I really did not have an alternative at all. I was getting into very unpredictable grounds ahead. I dropped out anyway. It is around this time that I encountered a friend, Martin Omondi who at that time was studying in a certain university called African Leadership University. I did not know anything about this school but after we talked and he told me about the lucrative scholarships and opportunities offered by this school, I decided to give it a try. So well, I applied and got my admission covered with a full ride Mastercard scholarship. That is how I got myself to Rwanda where currently I am doing my Undergraduate Studies. I would describe ALU as a dream come true and if a school was to be added to the Ivy League, then definitely it would be ALU, mean it’s the best we have in this Continent. I also define myself as a leader, and it is interesting to note that I have been a leader my entire life, I love seeing things done as they should be without prejudice or short cuts.
Q. HOW DO YOU DEFINE YOUR ADVOCACY IN MENTAL HEALTH AND WHAT MOTIVATED YOU TOWARDS THAT LINE?
After dropping out of Kenyatta University, a lot of uncertainty clouded my future. I did not know what would happen next in regards to my education. It was at this time that I became depressed. I call it the dark phase of my life because everything was just so hopeless. I remember I feared talking about it thinking about the judging and stigma associated with opening up. It is from this experience that later on I settled on changing the narrative and creating safe spaces where people can open up and receive professional help. During the Project Summer, an activity at ALU, I engaged in the Wellness Week in collaboration with the school’s Wellness Centre. At the moment, I preach my wellness message on my Instagram through the IG TV. I could not manage a YouTube Account in the moment due to my schedule. I have very optimistic ambitions on my passion in the coming years. It is my desire to connect technology with mental health and get several organizations and foundations. Let us see how that turns out.
Q: YOU LARGELY DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS A LEADER, WHAT MAKES YOU CONCLUDE SO?
I have been a leader all my life, appointed and elected. I would be tempted to describe myself as a natural born leader but a particular occurrence when I was in nursery school. One day a teacher the classroom and out of all the children, she assigned me the duty of writing noisemakers. Since then, I have never turned back. I have been a prefect my entire school life. Every other class (grade) I would go, I was appointed a prefect. Even when I changed schools the same happened. In class eight, I vied for school presidency but lost, immediately I was made in charge of Academics. When I joined Asumbi, the pattern did not change. I was a prefect in all the four years. I remember being the Secretary General of all the students in Form Four. I was also elected into the consortium of student leaders representing Homa Bay County as a member of the Secretariat. I am yet to take a position at the Student Representative Council of ALU, but I will be making my debut soon, looking forward to serve the students of ALU as their Secretary General. My leadership journey has not been devoid of challenges. In high school, I effectively carried out my duties, however this was a thorn in the flesh to some students who for no any deep found reason decided to become lazy and complainers. Every other time, we would be at loggerheads and they christened me Mtiaji (troublemaker) but in my defense, I was only performing my duties efficiently in accordance to my oaths. At ALU, my leadership capabilities have been exemplified by various peer run activities that we have among ourselves and I think that has increased my abilities in capacity building.
Q. HOW HAS YOUR EXPERIENCE BEEN SO FAR AT ALU AND WOULD YOU RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE?
Personally I think learning is intentional, in that it depends so much on an individual rather than institution. Well, a school can have all the opportunities but it is for an individual to work for them. As I said, definitely ALU is an Ivy League in Africa. Everything is superb. The financial aid, the learning model, the opportunities and the diversity are but a few in name. My course in Comp Science is great. I am learning as I solve challenges here and there.
BEST ALU MEMORY (IES)?
Project Summer. This was a project of promoting wellness. I am a champion of promoting wellness.
Hike at Mount Kigali.
BAD MEMORY (IES)
Some times this year, ALU changed its learning model and system. During this time, massive changes took place at ALU and for a moment, I was very scared because it brought some uncertainty. I was a continuing student and a new learning being introduced in the middle of the semester. However, I am happy to note that the new model which is very good actually will be effected on incoming freshmen.
Q. HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE RWANDA ?
A great country. Everything is so orderly and systems run efficiently.
Q. FUTURE AMBITIONS?
Venture into tech and connect it with mental health. In a few years I will be graduating and get myself in organizations working on Mental Health Organizations building their online and soft systems.
Q. BIGGEST FEAR?
Q).SINGLE OR TAKEN?
Single and not searching, at least for now.
Q) FAVORITE DISH?
Anything nice and crispy.
In my laptop, I have a Google extension called Momentum. It has daily quotes and there is this particular one that is living rent free in my head. It says, “Don’t just go through life but instead grow through it” I think a lot of people live just for the sake, but we need to live a life of growth every other day. Live a purposeful life.
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