Duncan Okoth is a Youthful Faces Pioneer. He was among the very first orphaned children supported by Youthful Faces in Kenya, from elementary school through high school, and ultimately, university. Stories like Duncan’s prove that an investment in children — through a solid, financial commitment to their education and well being — delivers a very special kind of return.
“Joining Youthful Faces was a great turning point in my life and I can never thank the organization enough. I come from a very humble background in Kibera, an informal settlement in Nairobi. Growing up in Nairobi was never easy. Many times we found ourselves going to so many extremes just to survive. From preschool I always loved and enjoyed being in school. However, schooling became a very irregular thing after both my parents died. Most of the time, instead of going to school, I’d be out looking for some odd, unskilled job, to be able to chip in, and help contribute toward the needs in my home. Getting to high school or university seemed like a dream that would never become a reality. I remember many times as a little boy, walking around the streets with my younger brother, Derrick. We would spend all day collecting bits of scrap metal to sell to the local dealers for a few coins. We would then go home and give the money to my eldest sister, Jackline, to buy food for the house. These were very hard times for us.
When Youthful Faces came in to my life, everything changed for the better. No more scavenging for scrap metal! I was enrolled in a good school and provided with all the resources I needed, like food, books, and uniforms. I felt hope and belief in myself, each day that I stepped into the classroom. With support from Youthful Faces, I realized that as a human being, the only limitation I had was myself. I completed my primary school education and performed very well. This secured a spot for me in one of the top high schools in Kenya. Through high school, George Nyeki (Youthful Faces founder), along with the entire Youthful Faces fraternity, continued to support me and my dreams, by providing all the resources I needed to stay in school. It paid off. After high school I was accepted by the University of Nairobi – a dream that as a little boy, I could not imagine coming true. I received my under graduate diploma in Public Relations, and I am currently pursuing an additional degree in project administration at the same institution.
I can never pay back Youthful Faces or all the people who made my dreams possible. What I can do, is support Youthful Faces as a volunteer in every way possible. For instance, together with other pioneers of Youthful Faces program we visit young boys and girls, current beneficiaries who were once just like me. I always try to motivate them, and make them realize that they are greater than their vulnerable backgrounds. I tell them that they can achieve anything they set their minds to. I believe that just like me, Youthful Faces is changing the lives of many kids who come from vulnerable backgrounds around Kenya. Looking back, I can honestly say that Youthful Faces has been a blessing to my life and to the lives of so many other kids, who are sheltered under the organization’s umbrella. Many thanks to the Youthful Faces team in Kenya, supporters that I have met – and many more thanks to the people who helped without ever meeting me. May God bless you all.”