Updated: Oct 3, 2022
There’s a swahili proverb that goes
‘’mtoto umleavyo ndivyo akuavyo’’
which directly translates to
‘’The way you bring up a child is how he/she ends up being’’
From winning her first pageant at 19 and getting published as she transitioned into early adulthood, Grace Wanene is an excellent example of youth leadership! We had a chat about the inspiration story behind the Drawing Dreams Initiative and the amazing work she’s been doing in Laikipia county.
LET'S GO WILD is an interactive wildlife colour book that emphasizes the need to protect the environment and nurture wildlife.
Drawing Dreams Initiative, there's a lot in a name and your's sparks curiosity. Is there a story behind it?...
In another life I’m a poet, I've co-written a children’s book on conservation called Let’s Go Wild.
From an early age I learnt to use writing as a tool to inspire through poetry and by virtue of being a first born, I’ve always found myself in opportunities of leadership.
My mum taught us to give back to society whether that be in time or in resources. We visited several children's homes where we got the chance to interact with and create art with the children, hence our ‘’drawing dreams’ approach.
We set out to motivate young ones or even people older than us to add a splash of color to their monochrome dreams. Colour brings life to things and we wanted them to beleive that their dreams could manifest in their lives.
Through the quality time we spent as a family helping out in our community, we got inspired to ‘’dream bigger’’ and decided to formalize our activities so we could have bigger and better impact.
As a result I’d say DDI grew from wanting to share uplifting poetry and finding platforms to amplify people's desires to have their dreams coming to life.
Why did you start Drawing Dreams Initiative?…
I got published while I was turning twenty, a book I co wrote after winning my first pageant as Miss Tourism Laikipia 2013. There was a lot of human wildlife conflict in my county and I wanted to help change the narrative on Laikipia county being Dangerous to one of harmonious coexistence with nature and wildlife.
Soon after the crowning, we started going out to schools for book shows and talks on wildlife conservation and its importance to us as a country at large but also as our individual communities at home too. It was during these short ‘tours’ that the need for DDI to be established came up.
During the school visits, girls would approach us for assistance with sanitary items and many students including the boys would ask members of our team for advice on their personal adolescent issues at the time.
What hit home was that these children needed more than stories, more than the one or two motivational speakers they got to listen to every term.
They needed a support system.
We were just doing this as a hobby with close to zero structure at that point. By 2016-2017, we finally got round to being a registered initiative and set out on our mission to care for the welfare of the kids in our community.
What would you say was a turning point for DDI?
Our Aha! Moment would definitely be In 2019…. I got to be part of a European Union cohort developing a Menstrual health curriculum called The Period Empowerment Network. This moment felt like a sign from the universe that DDI was on the right track.
We began DDI to tackle the everyday community hurdles that stand between our children and their wildest dreams from SRHR awareness to social welfare and life skills. No wonder we consider these to be our 3 pillars:
- Menstrual Health and Hygiene Management
- Life skills empowerment
Drawing Dreams Initiative, (DDI) has been very active lately. We like your fun approach towards increasing awareness and fundraising. Can you tell us more about your most recent events and which one was your favourite?
It’s hard to pick just one.
The dreams youth expo was by far my most favourite event. It was a chance for the youth to have a showcase platform of their own without the propaganda of political interference. We wanted to once again shift the chaotic, irresponsible narrative seen in the youth and prove that young people and their business initiatives are worth investing in.
Road Trip for a cause is also one of our favourites because it’s activism with a fun twist. We find areas that we’ve worked in that are less documented for the adventurous aspect and have people sign up for the road trip whose proceeds go towards funding the Menstrual and Hygiene products and any other outreach activities that we run. Everyone that signs up also gets to pick what they want to take part in during the camp, from life skills to catering so everyone is engaged and interacting with the communities too.
One’s coming up this October. Check out our twitter here :https://bit.ly/3Bhu6p9 for details on DDI’s International Day of the Girl Child event in Samburu.
What’s one lesson you’ve learnt in your leadership journey?
I’ve learnt that as a leader you’re an individual but at the same time, a representative of many. There is no i in team, so your team has to be as qualified and trained as you are if not more.
Having a well equipped team has come through a lot for DDI.
We capacity build at the same level. Because at the end of the day work has to go on and everyone has to be on the same level for maximum impact.
Having you as part of Metis Cohort 5 fellows has been a delight, you've been a perfect example of Metis practicing what we preach on collaboration and community. How has the experience been for you thus far?
It truly has.
I have met amazing people and learnt so much from them during the community of learning sessions and even during our side chats. DDI is a big fan of collaboration because it’s how we’ve managed to grow so fast through fostering helpful relationships with other networks.
Being a part of Metis Cohort 5 has helped to broaden this network. My biggest collaboration has to be with Winnie, she got to come and participate at the Dreams Youth Expo and we visited two schools together too! We have plans to teach basic music skills to children and their teachers across these 2 schools and so far the reception at the meetings has been great.
This experience with Metis and with Winnie and her school of music has taught me that you don’t need to know people at a personal level to make things happen. As long as your goals are in sync it’ll work out well or as we like to say in the Metis community, you’ll go #furthertogether.