Connecting with Faith Odhiambo, or Fei-zy as she is known to friends, was one of those happy accidents that make me want to believe in destiny. Two and a half years ago, I met a young Kenyan man named Benjamin Odera in Antigua, Guatemala during Semana Santa. At the time, Benjamin was working on the Guatemalan border with Project Seres, developing innovative recycling projects with local youth. Benjamin and I kept in touch and when he returned to Kenya to continue his work on the homefront leading the Fanya Mambo Foundation (check out their Youth Recycling Project on the 1% Club!) I started to dream about paying him a visit and offering my support with arts-based team building and/or web design services.
This summer, after writing down my big, hairy, audacious goal of collaborating with and empowering budding artists and organizers in Kenya, I reached out to Benjamin about a potential partnership. We shared our excitement with the Facebook world and a few clicks later, I had a message from Fei-zy in my inbox. (Turns out Fei-zy’s a fan of the Mexican soap opera Pasión Morena, which frequently films in Chiapas!) Fei-zy lives in Mombasa, Kenya with her fiancé and young son and volunteers her time as a youth leader for Girls Shift Africa, the organization she helped to found as part of YOUth Shift Africa. We instantly connected through our shared passion for working with young women and, over the next few months, Fei-zy and I became regular chat chums. We swapped links, ideas, and strategies and offered each other support and encouragement.
Then, Fei-zy shared her desire to integrate more art and theater into her work with girls in Mombasa. Trumpets sounded. A project was born. (More on that after the interview!)
I am jumping for joy over today’s interview with Fei-zy, who leapt into my life and lit my heartwork on fire–she truly puts the awe in awesomepreneur.
1. Who are you?
Give us a quick heartography of yourself in 50 words or less.
I am the initiator of Girls Shift Africa and as such a shining example of self-empowerment. I am passionate about empowering, uplifting and inspiring girls and young women in the community and support them to live their true life’s purpose. I myself come from a humble background and a deep heart centered love and patience are some of my biggest virtues!
2. What do you do?
Describe your heartwork.
I am a Girl child/woman activist and I love giving my gifts to the global shift by empowering myself and others to realize our true value and potential in life. On a practical level, I work with school girls and young women in Tudor/Mombasa where I live . Most of the girls come from very poor/underprivileged backgrounds, but since I started supporting and regularly interacting with them, this is what their teacher says: ‘’The activities carried out by Girls Shift Africa have really made an impact to the girls as their self-esteem is high after the interactions and this is positively seen in their day to day life.’’
3. How did you get started as an awesomepreneur?
When YOUth Shift Africa was launched in February 2012 by my fiancee Moses Civlizer and his mentor Naraya Urban-Winterfeldt, I felt that we really needed a wing to focus on women /girl empowerment because it is us females who are facing the most severe problems and issues. I myself am an orphan and all such disadvantaged vulnerable girls/women have low status in our communities. Hence the birth of Girls Shift Africa!!!
Also, I lost my parents at young age and I struggled to fend for myself and my siblings. This is because after my dad died our relatives took everything from us including my dad’s savings, so GSA is here to empower girls so that they can make it in life–regardless of the circumstances, they can still shine.
4. Do you have a day job?
How do you fund your heartwork?
No, I don’t have a day job. I volunteer my time and passion doing my heartwork and have deep trust that over time it will pay off somehow. YOUth Shift Africa supports some of the projects we have done and for that am immensely grateful. I also receive personal leadership coaching and mentoring from YSA founder Naraya.
5. What is your biggest work challenge?
When does your heartwork feel like hard work?
When the girls ask me for menstrual pads and panties, which most of them can’t afford to buy, I don’t have the resources at hand to provide them with this essential necessity. Also, when I talk to women about their lives and rights and some have not yet awakened to believe in themselves or they might go through gender violence, rape, prostitution etc., it makes me realize we still have a long way to go. But as we walk in joy and let our hearts sing, I feel the miles on this path fly by quickly and am happy again.
6. What is the best thing about being an awesomepreneur?
Why do you love what you do?
I love empowering myself and my sisters of all ages because to me this is like a calling from a higher self. I am simply living my life’s purpose with passion. And when I touch/change someone’s life, it makes me happy that am on the right track.
7. What is your #1 tip for working with heart?
What do you want to share with other awesomepreneurs?
When you’re doing what you really love and what makes your heart sing with joy and aliveness, you never ever get tired or bored. Keep shining and keep going because you are here for a greater reason! SHINE ON, no matter what, regardless of circumstances, and don’t settle for second best! Believe in yourself, your dream, your unique gifts and talents and let The Universe take care of the rest!
For more on Fei-zy’s work with Girls Shift Africa, visit their website and connect with them on Facebook. Oh–don’t forget to check out the GSA parent organization, YOUth Shift Africa. Here’s a teaser:
Girls Shift Africa is the gender equality wing of YOUth Shift Africa, our young and innovative initiative which serves to break the cycle of poverty and dependency by upLifting, inSpiring and emPowering young people from underprivileged backgrounds to be who they really are, express their unique gifts and full potential for personal, social and environmental innovation, and develop compassionate leadership and peace building capacities which radically transform people, their communities and the world.
Last month, the GSA team created the Girl Child’s Love Letter From the Universe for the UN Day of the Girl Campaign, which the lovely Roberto helped to translate into Spanish. Download the English version of the letter at the Girls Shift Africa group page on Facebook. Download the Spanish version here.
Oh, and in case you’re wondering what happened to Benjamin, we’re currently working together on a website for the Fanya Mambo Foundation and talking about plans for a visit in mid-2013. Yup! Cat’s out of the bag! Roberto and I are hoping to fly to Kenya next summer to work with the youth Benjamin leads in Nairobi and the young women Fei-zy leads in Mombasa! You haven’t heard the last of Fei-zy–keep your eye on Awesomepreneur for more on our 2013 partnership and how you can support Fei-zy’s youth leadership projects.
We love Faith Odhiambo!