Time with the Champions

Beautiful Nairobi. Lots of greenery, lovely weather, friendly people, great beer…what’s not to like!


As in many developing countries, income inequality, high unemployment, rural-urban migration and other issues combine to create a large population living in poverty, dwelling in informal settlements ( read: slums) like Mathare. (view from my office)

Views from my office 1Views from my office 2

Unemployment is pretty common, with a correspondingly high crime rate. The HIV prevalence exceeds the national average. Tuberculosis, malnutrition, hypertension and diabetes are also rampant.

Run by German Doctors Nairobi, BARAKA HEALTH CENTER provides quality, accessible and sustainable health services to the vulnerable population in this community of around half a million people.Picture Baraka health center

Rose has worked in Baraka since 2007, and leads the ‘community team’.  I believe it’s more apt to call them the ‘Community Champions’With the community team

The community team delivers one of the core services of this centre. Their job is to go into the dangerous streets, narrow alleys, unmarked houses and unventilated shacks with ‘flying toilets’. They follow up on patients, identify people too sick to come to the clinic, pick out malnourished children and adults, monitor drug adherence, and refer these people to the feeding centre,the health clinic, the HIV/TB care centre or to other appropriate services.

I spent one day with them on the field to help me understand the center’s work, I couldn’t take pictures to avoid undue attention. Only Rose was bold enough to make phone calls on the street, and she told me: “they see me as their mother, and no matter how ‘bad’ these boys become, they’ll still find it hard to attack their mother; but you make sure you keep your phone well”. (I kept my phone very very well!)

In my time here as an ESMT Responsible Leaders’ Fellow, I hope to contribute to keeping the centre open and running sustainably. If I ever run out of motivation….I’ll just spend another day with Rose and her courageous team-  field trip for me, daily work for her.

With Rose

A journey to the end of a River

Rivers are most majestic when they are about to meet the ocean. And that couldn’t be less true for the mighty Zambezi River, which touches nine African countries before it flows into the Indian Ocean on the east of Mozambique.

Zambezi River in some of its mightiness
Zambezi River in some of its mightiness

However this region is also a highly disaster prone and extremely vulnerable to natural calamities such as floods and cyclone.  Welthungerhilfe, the organization I am volunteering with under RLF, is running a project in some of the districts in Zambezia and Nampula provinces of Mozambique to increase the disaster resilience as part of Disaster preparedness program of European Commission (DIPECHO).

Few day back I got to visit one of the districts called Chinde (pronounced Shin-Day), which lies right at the mouth of the Zambezi river. First of all this district is so remote that it is only reachable by boat. A quick look at the google map might give an idea.

Chinde's location on map
Chinde’s location on map

One has to take a long and tiring three hours boat ride (on a fast motor boat) to this place. Bigger boats or a big vessel can take more than ten hours. BTW the winds were so strong the that I lost my cap twice (the boatman was kind enough to do a turn to pick it up)

District has a remarkable small town, also called Chinde, where the district administration has its office. The population of town is just over 16,000 although the total population of the district is around 150,000 people. The town has only about 5 cars (there was only 1 till few years back). Even electricity is also a fairly new addition to the district, introduced just 2 or 3 years back. There are some colonial buildings in the town housing government officials. Plus a couple of houses were used earlier by sugar trading company called Sena, now dysfunctional. Unsurprisingly, the largest building in the town was a Church.

Some of the administrative buildings in Chinde
Some of the administrative buildings in Chinde
Main avenue in Chinde
Main avenue in Chinde
The Church
The Church

I saw some peculiar looking (though aesthetically pleasing) houses. These houses had wooden frames filled with rubbles from old rundown buildings. On enquiring I got to know that the building material is scares and expensive so people reuse material from the old buildings destroyed at the time of civil war.

A frugal architecture?
A frugal architecture?

Town also had an FM Radio Station of its own. I couldn’t resist visiting it. I was very thrilled (for some strange reason) at the sheer pleasure of listening to the lone channel on my mobile right outside the station with earphone in one ear and other ear tuned into the voice of RJ / music from inside the station.

Chinde FM
100.6 Chinde FM

I also got to be part of one of the rituals in the town. Every morning there is a flag hosting and the guard whistles. I was on my way to beach at 6 in the morning when I happen to cross the place. I saw everyone stop. Out of confusion and respect for local tradition I did too. After the hosting was complete guard whistled again and everyone moved on. Now it feels like time did stop for those 10 seconds or so.

The project sites are spread across many islands that are only reachable by boat. Those were some of the most beautiful places I ever visited. At one of these places the scenery around the backwaters was nothing less than breathtaking.

Backwaters at one of the Islands
Backwaters at one of the Islands

On one of these islands I observed that all women on the island had these little marks spanning across their arms and chest. We asked some of the women and no one knew why they had them. Looked like it was a custom. They were etched when women reached puberty. It’s possibly a way to show that they are ready for marriage. I didn’t want to be judgemental about their practices.

In the name of tradition!
A woman with marks around her chest line

Oh yes and on another island the village leaders were slickly dressed. Although they didn’t belong to any military establishment, they wore uniforms.  This was tradition from the time of Portuguese and still prevalent though more than four decades have passed since independence. Quite interesting how power dynamics could change but traditions can stay.

In the name of tradition!
In the name of tradition!

There was also a fort like structure at one such place. Turned out it was a prison at the time of Portuguese. New administration couldn’t find a use for the place thus it has been abandoned now. Looked like they were lucky enough not to need a prison.

The abondoned prison
The abandoned prison

I can’t sign-off without talking about food. Whereas all my colleagues relished fishes, I fall in love with Matapa and peri-peri. Matapa is a local Mozambican speciality made from Cassava leaves and coconut (with few other things added sometimes). I was eating Matapa day and night. So much so that the people who ran the eatery remembered me as “The Matapa Guy”, when someone asked them to call me from the guesthouse once. Our Project director joked about naming a cassava plantation against me at a conservation agriculture farm.  Peri-peri is a hot sauce (pickled sometimes) that is a must have with food in Mozambique (and many other African countries). I generously ate it, sometimes just peri-peri and rice or ncima (local dish made from Maize). My love for peri-peri was so conspicuous that the owner of the hotel we ate at decided to gift me a jar filled with peri-peri.

Matapa on left and Cassava plant on right
Matapa and Cassava plant
The Peri Peri :)
The Peri Peri 🙂

The whole experience was nothing less than astonishing. I was soon back to utilitarian life of cities. But my three days at Zambezi river estuary were a crash course in culture, food, people and a life so different. A journey to the end of a river and a memory till the end of a life.

Lessons in Happiness

As a Responsible Leaders Fellow I am volunteering in some of the poorest countries in the world. For my work, I frequently travel to some of the remotest regions of these countries where people lack basic infrastructure and facilities. But it doesn’t mean people I meet are complaining or carrying a sad face all the time. On the contrary they are some of the happiest and most content people I have ever met. They sing and dance to everything they can and they share whatever little they have. They need help, aid and education but they need no lessons in happiness from west or east.

And happiest of them all are the children. I make a point to talk to them whenever I go for a project visit (they don’t understand me most of the time but sign and smile languages always work). They have no gadgets or fancy sports equipment. But they are happy with their friends around them.

Seven-years-old Henry and his friends love to play soccer and aspire to be local heroes. They can’t afford to buy a football. But they can make one. Yes they can MAKE one. Carefully wrapping plastic bags one over another around a piece of cloth, they have created their own nice football. So what if it doesn’t bounce enough or go as far as it should when you kick it. It’s no less fun.

Henry and his team
Henry and his team
The Handmade football
The Handmade football

Camera has been my best friend wherever I went. And it helped me make friends. During one of my site visits, little Gloria and Ester followed me wherever I moved, asking for one more picture. They are indeed the most photogenic girls I ever came across. I always show kids the pictures I took of them. Looking themselves in the 2 inch LCD screen increases their happiness many folds. They don’t need a camera to be happy. They are just happy being in it. Soon enough Gloria and Ester brought their friends to share their happiness.

Gloria and Ester
Gloria and Ester
And their friends
And their friends
and more Friends
and more Friends

As one of the projects, my organization Welthungerhilfe  is imparting health trainings in villages in Malawi and Zimbabwe. People graduate and receive certificates if they fulfill all 20 criterion on various health precautions during three months of training. There was a small event hosted in one of the districts for graduating community members. After the event I saw some kids collecting discarded soft drink caps. I didn’t want to miss the opportunity of participating. Every cap found was adding more smiles to each face (including my). When I asked what they are going to do with these caps, they said they can play a Strike and Pocket game. Who said only Billiards and Carrom could be fun.

The caps collection
The caps collection

Little Oscar is scared of Murungus (Shona word for Foreigners). Probably his mother uses stories of Murungus to make him finish his food. But hiding and looking from the back of the wooden door makes him happy that he is out of my sight. After some pursuing I managed to tame him for a picture. He is still camera shy. Too young may be. But looking at his own pictures did make him smile finally. And then he was happy teasing me around for the next one hour I was there (well his t-shirt said “T is for Trouble” 🙂 ).

Little Oscar
Little Oscar

I got my lessons in economics and money last year and it made me informed. Now I get my lessons in happiness every day and it makes me humble. I live a privileged life not because I have lived in cities or had a great job. I have a privileged life because so many people are sharing their happiness and smiles everyday with me. I am happy as I have learned to find happiness in anything around me just like these little kids.

* Pictures have been taken at various Welthungerhilfe’s project sites in Zimbabwe and Malawi. Please visit: http://www.welthungerhilfe.de/  and http://www.welthungerhilfe.de/blog/  to know more about Welthungerhilfe’s projects around the world

Responsibility begins at School

Since I am already in Harare for over a week now and have walked my talk, I feel entitled to say something about the ESMT Responsible Leaders (RL) Fellowship and the opportunity it has given me to explore the social and nonprofit sides of business. I still remember it was May of 2013 and I was browsing through websites of various Business schools to find a program which best matched my requirements. ESMT’s MBA program design and credentials definitely beckoned me but another thing that appealed to me was RLF, hidden in small texts somewhere under the international exposure options. I didn’t have much idea about it then but I did inquire during my interview with Nick Barniville, Director of MBA Program. When I finally decided to join ESMT, I wouldn’t say RLF was the only reason but it definitely played a role subconsciously. It gave me an impression about how committed ESMT is towards its social responsibility and towards imbibing that in its students and community.

Rahul Jain about the Responsible Leadership Fellowship (RLF)

I joined in January 2014 and the first meeting regarding RLF was held in April, if I remember correctly. Wulff Plinke, founding Dean of ESMT and Professor Emeritus, introduced us to what RLF was all about, what assistance was available and what were the expectations of school from its fellows. Those who were interested were told that they need to find a nonprofit organization of choice and look for a suitable role with it. Once this is done school would be sponsoring the student and pay a stipend for up to six months during the assignment. Student status of the fellow would also be extended by another six months in line with this program. Assignment was supposed to be in a developing region of the world where there were most pressing needs for expertise but safety of fellow was also a priority.

Although we were expected to find organization and role ourselves, I must say that the school’s and Wulff’s network came very handy at every stage. We were presented with host of options during our July meeting where various well known organizations came and presented possible opportunities. Wulff and Nick, who were managing the program, encouraged us throughout and helped us in overcoming our predicaments and making the right choice.

I was committed towards the fellowship from the beginning but there was always an anxiety around whether I would be able to get the right assignment and would there be an impact on my career post it. Keeping all my doubts aside I decided I really wanted to do this and I was able to secure a volunteering opportunity in October with WeltHungerHilfe in their Marketing division. There was no looking back afterwards and I was waiting eagerly to start on this assignment since then.

We graduated in December and I flew to Zimbabwe during the second week of January, after packing all my bags in Berlin. And after spending a week here I would say I did make the right choice by choosing ESMT. What I found in May 2013 was indeed what I was looking for.

I don’t know how many business schools in the world have similar programs but RLF is definitely a unique opportunity provided by ESMT to inculcate a sense of social responsibility in its Graduates. The financial commitment towards it and support provided by ESMT is indeed commendable. I would like to congratulate and wish good luck to my other five classmates and Responsible Leaders Fellows, from this year, who embarked on this journey as well and are excitingly looking forward to their volunteering assignments in different parts of the world.

They say charity begins at home but for me responsibility begins at schools with right values, people and commitment.

ESMT Responsible Leaders Fellowship Program: A motivation letter by Javier Guzmán de Baya

My name is Javier Guzmán de Baya, an ESMT MBA graduated in 2013. Through this letter, I would like to explain the reasons and motivations for my decision to be part of the RLF; fellowship program between ESMT and Tsiba. Besides, I would like to describe the different programs and activities in which I am involved.

Firstly, I will explain how I got involved on the ESMT fellowship program; when Professor Dr. Wulff Plinke, ESMT Founding Dean, explained the fellowship program to our MBA class last year, I got immediately excited with the idea on participating on that. The possibility for me to work again in social field, especially on the appealing project at Tsiba, where I could apply the knowledge and experience accumulated in my career, and also where I would like to keep developing my professional career, was an irresistible opportunity that I could not miss.

I am an economist with a second bachelor´s degree in Marketing Business and Market Research with background in Multilateral Financial Institutions, International Trade and Investment, Public Administrations and Regional Cooperation for Development. My work experience at the Trade Promotion Agency of Andalusia (EXTENDA), and also my experience as EU Project Technical Expert in Spain focused on Regional Development and Cooperation Program in Latin America are being especially helpful for me when carrying out my activities at TSiBA in South Africa.

My motivations are exclusively related to my passions. I am especially passionate about working for projects related to Social Entrepreneurship, and Sustainability Projects as well as for projects within the Corporate Social Responsibility or Public Institutions. My special sensitivity when working with local communities; my experience with project approach and assessment when looking for solutions, and passion when achieving goals together with people, make me to be really interested in keeping working on the social field. I would be very enthusiastic on having the possibility to apply all of that on future similar projects.

Following, I would like to introduce TSiBA Education in order to have a better understanding of my activities in this Institution:

TSiBA Education is a non-profit private higher education institution based in South Africa, for disadvantaged students who would not otherwise be able to afford a university education.

Tsiba, apart from its academic vision with more than 500 students, provides different entrepreneurial services to an important number of local enterprises; TSiBA Ignition Centre is a hub dedicated to extending TSiBA’s mission of “Igniting Opportunity” to reach beyond our students into the communities that they come from. Most of the projects are focused on Enterprise Development, Community Training and Leadership Development.

I started working at TSiBA in January, where I was assigned to the Ignition Center (Business Incubator and Social Entrepreneurship) due to my professional background, but the lack of human and financial resources have caused that I am also involved on the academic side of the Institution by lecturing different courses, what it is also being an amazing experience for me.

Description of activities

The TSiBA Ignition Center, with the purpose to offer its services, is permanently searching for enterprises, most of them just survival businesses, in the community. We are permanently tracing new potential beneficiaries. It means that we make interviews, create business profiles, classify, and based on their needs and challenges assign these enterprises to the appropriate program.

As any NGO, TSiBA can implement its programs basically through sponsorship agreements. One example is the program that we are running with Sanlam, one of the biggest Insurance Company in South Africa. In this program, we offer training, individual mentorship and professional network, to the enterprises that we previously selected for participating on the program. Sanlam is not only interested on sponsoring this program because its Corporate Social Responsibility but also because the participant enterprises on the program will be included on the Sanlam´s supply chain program and generate synergies with other companies that already operated with Sanlam and other clients.

We are running similar programs to the one described with Sanlam, in which local institutions and corporates support different programs that offer individual mentorship and training to our enterprises.

What it is very unique at Tsiba, is the extremely close relationship of the students with the community and especially with the businesses that operate in the community. Most of our enterprises know from TSiBA through our students. After this first contact, enterprises come to the Ignition Center where we explain them our activities and different support tools.

In line with that, we are also running a program in collaboration with the Northeastern University’s Social Enterprise Institute. In this program around 50 American students together with TSiBA students will support local enterprises by providing managerial support according to their challenges and needs. For this program, what we do first is contact our enterprises, we interview them and create a business profile in which we highlight their main needs and challenges. After that, we allocate students with skills and profiles that can bw helpful for overcoming the challenges of the businesses participating on the program.

On the academic side, I am lecturing last year students. The course is called innovation and we are implementing a very practical program that encourages the students to create their own businesses. At the end of the program, they have to generate income with their businesses. Here, there is also an important field to come up with new collaborations and ways of implementing the program: Business incubator, social entrepreneurship and allocation of our students to corporates for consulting projects.

I am also mentoring students for the Entrepreneurship Course. Proffesor Dr, Plinke had the opportunity to attend to one of my sessions during his visit to the TSiBA Campus.

The final purpose of this document is to raise awareness of the multiple collaboration possibilities that can be developed in South Africa and especially related to Social Entrepreneurship and CSR. The social impact of the activities carried out by institutions as TSiBA is impressive but can be multiplied with additional support especially from corporate world. There are many different ways to collaborate and develop new potential programs in South Africa.

As I explained in the beginning of this document, I am really interested on continuing working on the social field, especially in Social Entrepreneurship. During my experience at Tsiba, different ideas and possibilities for future collaboration programs are arising. I would love to share them with you if you are interested.

I am totally convinced that Social Entrepreneurship is a powerful way to alleviate poverty in the developing world.