Ever since I was a kid, I knew that I enjoyed helping people and wanted to do it for a living. As a University of Pretoria's Mastercard Foundation (MCF) Scholars Program alumnus, I appreciate the give-back values I learned and practised during my studies. To date, I believe that small acts can make significant differences in the world. My professional goals align with the desire to help others. I want to be a well-rounded agricultural economist concerned with applying management, development and economic principles to solve practical socio-economic and environmental problems and improve the quality of life in the community.
My experiences as an MFCF scholar strengthened my desire to help people in my future career. I love my career path developed by the University of Pretoria and the prestigious MCF Scholars Program because it is versatile. Whatever I do, I want to make a difference, as I believe I cannot make it in life until I reach back and pull someone else up with me. For example, my passion for helping others has led me to give-back involvements in my home village during vacations, even as I pursue my PhD at the University of Pretoria. The village hosts children who are vulnerable to poverty and unable to live a life of dignity that encompasses parental care, nourishment, education and guidance. Many are neglected, socially abused or orphaned and cannot achieve good living standards. In July 2022, I led a team of professional youths to my village and shared motivational talks, food, toiletries, and clothes with 50 orphaned children. What I loved most were the amazing children and mothers I met and the friendships I created.
Additionally, through my leadership of Egerton University Seventh-day Adventist (EUSDA) Church alumni, I have had the opportunity to provide "a service to all mankind" and network while I do so. For instance, I have coordinated community engagement activities such as mobilising fundraisers for treating the sick, buying wheelchairs for the disabled, providing food for the poor and constructing houses for the homeless to the tune of KSh 1,605,643 (R229,705). One of my most memorable moments was after delivering a reclining wheelchair to a woman who had not left her house in about two years. The amount of gratitude she expressed toward us when she saw the wheelchair is something I'll never forget. It was an emotional day for everyone. I am so happy to lead a group of dedicated professionals and create a sense of community among my peers. I want every connection in my life to be meaningful in some way, so why not better the lives of others while I'm at it?
What I have found most surprising about my experiences was the gratitude and hospitality of the people I helped. I expected "thank yous" and handshakes, but not prepared for people to burst out in tears of joy and hope. Indeed, seeing how much I've changed someone's life motivates me to do it more. Notably, the most important takeaway was knowing that I helped someone's life to better. I believe that people who are helped in some way turn around and help someone else, so it's like a chain of people helping each other.
I would advise other MCF scholars and fellow alumni to get involved in activities and volunteering that interest them. Volunteering is a great way to explore and develop new interests if they do not know what interests them. Moreover, volunteering provides opportunities to get to know the 'real world' while also having fun! If you can volunteer somewhere you like, you'll enjoy the time you spend helping others and do it more often.
By Valiant Odhiambo from Kenya,
Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program alumnus, University of Pretoria 2019