The first time they gathered together was in August 2012, with peace as their main goal.
They were over 100 youths from Kajul and Kirembe villages in Otonglo, Kisumu West .
Registered as a Community Based Organization in November 2012, Kirembe Kajul Youth Alliance for Peace (KIKAYA) became the bridge that united the two villages by easing political tensions that loomed during electioneering period.
This unity was to bring the kind of peace hoped for by millions of Kenyans whenever the dark cloud of electioneering period come hanging over their heads.
The main reason for starting the group was to bring unity and cohesion among our youth especially during electioneering periodsNicholas Reru
Nicholas Reru, the chairman of the organization, laid bare the history of the group’s inception.
“The main reason for starting the group was to bring unity and cohesion among our youth especially during electioneering periods,” he explained.
He adds that the tension that usually engulf the air during this period is usually catalyzed by young people holding different political ideologies.
This, he stressed, is highly unnecessary as the individuals who stand to gain are usually the politicians at the expense of the youth who ignorantly and perhaps blindly allow themselves to be the waves on which such divisive political ideologies ride upon.
He added: “We were sick of this kind of politically sired tension and conflict and so we married our ideologies which led to the conception of KIKAYA which in turn has brought peace and unity among our youth.”
Technically speaking, the two villages are divided, or in this case, united by an actual bridge.
During the 2012 general election, as some of the youths in the country were swimming the never ending waters of political tension and conflict, Kirembe and Kajul were basking in the light of peace.
Peace, as it turns out, would just be one of the first offspring of this fruitful union.
With the elections gone, KIKAYA had to refocus.
The further they sailed from the election period the more relevant a new objective seemed.
This, the chairman added, was a necessary evolution.
“We had to divert our objectives from politics to development,” he said, adding that it was not abandonment of the first objective but an inclusion of other more relevant objectives.
Our desire for financial independence is what brought the change which was not taken positively by some who had joined only to get handouts from politicians and those who also found our new regulations incompatible with their own ideologies and interestNicholas Reru
This need for growth came with administrative and functional changes which unfortunately were not whole heartedly welcomed by all the members.
A constitution guiding the group was also structured.
The new changes also meant financial contribution by all members. The contribution started from SH20 per week.
“Our desire for financial independence is what brought the change which was not taken positively by some who had joined only to get handouts from politicians and those who also found our new regulations incompatible with their own ideologies and interest,” the father of two expounded.
The Sh20 contribution later changed to Sh300 per month which catered for both development and welfare purposes.
This development came in terms of loaning money to members and investing in income generating projects for the group.
From 126 members including six founding members, KIKAYA has shrunk down to 22 members with only two of the founding members and with four ladies.
Over a hundred had walked out.
Though their numbers had dwarfed, Reru expressed his delight with the willingness and progress of the remaining members.
They had not only acknowledged the new regulations but also embraced them.
The group’s contribution and lending has over the years increased and this, as the chairman revealed, has led to the progress of members in numerous ways.
The members have the privilege of borrowing money from the group according to their shares and paying back with interest.
The group has curved out four types of loans given to both its members and none members as the chairman explained.
“We have structured our loans to suit different member needs,” Reru said.
“The loan categories include normal, school fees, emergency and super loans with an interest rate of five, two, twenty and eight per cent respectively,” he explicated the details while adding that the loans are also payable in under three, eight, three and eight months respectively.
Having a physical and functional office in Kirembe, KIKAYA has grown to become a well known entity in the region, lending money even to none members and well beyond its borders.
When Lake Region Bulletin paid their office a visit, a number of members were hiving in the small space of about three by six meters.
A small table stood in the middle decorated with the week’s contributions and absent members sent their contributions electronically.
Domnic Owuor, 40, a member who says he is a casual laborer, admitted that the group has been of immense help to him.
“I am grateful to this group because it is through their loaning and low interest rate that I managed to educate my siblings,” Owuor said with a clear expression of gratitude on his face.
He added that the transparency and respect that the group commands among its members go a long way in making it even more desirable.
Michael Omedo who is also a proud member of KIKAYA, shared in the view that the organization has made their lives much better.
The 46 year old was also grateful to the fact that the organization also has an arrangement in which sick members who get hospitalized for a period exceeding a week are usually given financial assistance.
Uwezo Fund loan
In 2015, when the national government rolled out the interest free loan popularly known as UWEZO fund to support the youth and women in business, KIKAYA as an already registered youth group made a successful application.
During their first application, the group managed to receive Sh180, 000 which it managed to pay back earlier than the set period of twenty-four months.
This loyalty and reliability led to the approval of their second loan request of Sh350, 000.
Though given in less of Sh50, 000, the loan came through and the group’s loaning to members increased.
According to Patric Ojwang’ who is the groups treasurer, an application for their third loan of SH600, 000 has been made and is awaiting approval.
“We have finished our application for the third loan and we are hoping it will be approved,” he said.
Being foresighted is no doubt one of the enduring attributes of KIKAYA as an organization.
This is clearly visible in the number of young individuals who have been allowed to join the group.
With the youngest being a 13 year old, the group has demonstrated its willingness of not only being age tolerant but also its readiness to nurture the young generation as Omedo who also heads the welfare department explained.
Felix Otieno who was only 15 years of age when he joined about five years ago said he has learned a lot and benefited so much from KIKAYA.
“When I was sitting for my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (KCPE), the group provided me with all the examination material required,” he acknowledged.
Otieno also managed to get a loan which enabled him to by a motorcycle that has became a dependable source of income for him.
According to Reru, it is imperative that the young generation be taught and nurtured to take the reins of leadership in order to keep the spirit of the organization alive.
“We have to teach them to embrace unity and cultivate an attitude of financial independence not just for their own good but for the good of their entire community,” he said.
As a group, KIKAYA has managed to initiate projects which apart from benefiting the group have also shone a ray of hope on the residents of both Kirembe and Kajul.
The group purchased a ‘tuk-tuk’ which was meant to be an income generating project as the treasure explained.
A mobile money shop is another project KIKAYA started and which the chairman confirmed is running steady.
Though they later sold the ‘tuk-tuk’, the organization invested in piped water for their community.
In a mutually beneficial arrangement made with the Kisumu Water and Sanitation Company (KIWASCO), the group is responsible for connecting piped water to homes as well as collecting the bills paid.
Since water connection is done through a loaning system which is meant to attract a given interest, the group only surrenders to KIWASCO what is due to them and packages whatever remains as its profit.
A main water point set at their office compound is also another income generating project that serves members who are yet to be connected with the piped water.
Another project that is bringing returns to the group is a tent and chairs which they rent out to open air event planners.
As an organization, KIKAYA is well aware of the ever changing climate and as such have endeavored to make contributions to the environment in their region.
In the past years, the group has planted over 200 trees in each of over five schools in the area.
This, the chairman said, is also meant to align with the national efforts of increasing the countries percentage tree cover as well as globally.
The groups environmental consciousness go beyond trees as it looks forward to also start a garbage collection project in the future in order to make their environment clean even as it adds to their growing basket of projects.
“We desire to leave in a clean environment and with the population of this area growing, a garbage collection project will soon be a relevant one,” stressed Omedo.
Going forward, the group is looking to include environmental conservation into their budget.
This, Reru says will be much easier through partnership with mostly environmental conservation organizations.
We desire to leave in a clean environment and with the population of this area growing, a garbage collection project will soon be a relevant oneOmedo
“I believe any partnership with KIKAYA as an established Community Based Organization will most likely be a fruitful one,” says the 34 year old.
As smooth as their sailing might seem, the chairman did not shy away from revealing the holes in the boat.
Like any loaning entity, KIKAYA experience challenges with late loan payments.
“Some people take loans but take longer than is required to pay back and this is a challenge as it in turn translates to less and less loans issued to other members,” Reru said with a sigh.
None members who come seeking KIKAYA loans are usually asked to bring securities which in most cases include land title deeds and car logbooks.
However, this is usually a challenge all the same as it is usually ‘tricky’ trusting none members as Ojwang put it.
A major challenge stressed by the chairman and echoed by majority of the members was corrupt and unfair selection process by government officials responsible for approving government tender applications.
According to the KIKAYA chairman, the group has made countless applications and spent so much of their finances in the process of certification but still get sidelined every time.
Despite all the challenges, the chairman and the members expressed unwavering optimism that KIKAYA will soldier on.
The group looks forward to having self reliant members, zero illiteracy in the community and to be able to sponsor and care for orphans.
We have never managed to get a single government tender. Not even one for just supplying stationeryReru
Investing in a piece of land and venturing into real estate is also another one of the group’s objectives which they believe they can achieve when united.
By November, KIKAYA will be ten years old, a testimony of resilience, hard work, unity, peace, discipline, trust and faith.
“Our motto, ‘together we can’ is an ever ringing anthem in the back of our minds, a constant reminder to us of the power of unity and peace,” Reru noted with conviction.