Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Hardest things and things I love about a start-up non profit

The hardest things about running a start-up non-profit
1. Burn out. I’m tired often. There is so much to do and I spend a lot of time feeling like I’m doing a mediocre job of everything. With a dissertation over my head and a course to teach, I’m stretched thin and not getting enough sleep. I leave the house at 9.30 and don’t get back until 10.30 pm. Repeat five days a week. The routine gets old really quick.

2. Its hard relying on other people. I wish I could do everything that needs to be done by myself and not need to ask for help from others. But I can’t do everything. And I’m not the most patient person in the world. O.k. not even close. So I get frustrated waiting on other people’s timelines. And there is nothing you can do because they are volunteering their time so its not like you have any right to get fussy about it.

3. Its hard to balance friendship with work. Many of the founders of Akili Dada came on board because they were my friends. I knew them from different points in my life and through working with Akili Dada they have become friends with each other too. I have also created friendships out of the professional relationships that have grown of Akili Dada. Akili Dada is a friendly place to be! But that has its challenges I feel like I don’t talk to my friends as my friends very much. We all have busy lives so the little time we have to talk ends up devoted to Akili Dada emergencies. I’m working hard to carve out time for conversations that are about us and our lives outside of Akili Dada.

The most awesome things about running a start-up non-profit
1. I am so attached to our scholars. I feel like I became a mother with the firsts scholarships we gave. I worry about them, I love them, I want them to do well in life so badly. I’m completely invested in nine other lives.
2. I’ve met really cool people that I might have never met before.
3. I have learnt skills that I would have had no reason to learn before. From designing a website to fundraising. It may surprise some who know me but I’m actually not a big fan of mingling and being social. I’d rather spend any day or night at home in front of the T.V. Akili Dada has forced me to get out there and network for my girls.
4. I feel good about myself. I feel like I am making an impact in the world. My life is not just benefiting me. I set off to do something hard and it seems to be working. There’s fulfillment in that.
5. I love connecting people to resources and Akili Dada lets me be at the hub of these connections. Not just connecting our scholars to our donors through school fees and mentors, but connecting mentors to each other, Kenyan organizations to U.S. organizations... There’s something spiritual about human connections. I can’t explain it but its satisfies my spirit to be able to connect people with a need to people with a gift to give.
6. Akili Dada has brought me closer to God. Its humbled me and made me realize I can’t do this by myself. Its been a vehicle that God has used to speak to me about so many character traits (my impatience, for example). It has brought me to a screeching halt and to my knees in important ways that I don’t think anything else could have.


Lioness said...

Hi Wanjiru,

I'd like to congratulate you for the Akili Dada initiative. I've been reading your blog and I'm very interested in what you do. I'm a fellow blogger who writes on different issues affecting women and girls. Early this year, some colleagues and I formed and registered a community based organisation (Malaika Nyumbani) dealing with issues of rape, incest, poverty, and the effects of these in the society. We hold weekly talks that address issues affecting the girls with one school near the farm where we work. One of our objectives was to look for local and other partners with whom we can work in order to further the education of these girls, who most often than not drop out of class 8 for lack of school fees. We also help orphans and others who desire an education but have no guardians willing to pay for their secondary school. I'm hoping our Malaika Nyumbani and Akili Dada can work together to make a better life for rural Kenyan girls. They do need our support.
You can contact me on freelioness@gmail.com, or leave a message on my blog.


Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg said...

Hi Lioness!
Somehow access to your blog is blocked.... I'm dying to read it!

Malaika Nyumbani sounds like just the kind of organization we look to collaborate with!

We should definately work together.
The biggest limit for us is that we have a really high pass mark that we require of potential Akili Dada scholars. We work with students who achieve a minimum of 425 points in KCPE. Beyond that there is a rigorous application process outlined on our website. We figure that the students who succeed through this rigorous process are just the kind of tenacious young women we want to invest in.

I'm actually going to be in Kenya in December/January and would love to connect with you and perhaps even visit your organization to talk about the work of Akili Dada.

feel free to email me especially with the address to your blog.