Volunteer Story: Mpenda Lumumba Sultan
'Since I was a young child, I've always wanted to be a teacher. This was my dream. I even told my mother but she was really skeptical about it. I told her one day she will witness this. The good thing is, I ended up proving to her that I am living my dream. Right now, she is excited about my achievement,'
Mpenda Sultan grew up in a family of 19 members and is a figure of inspiration to his younger siblings at home. He is an ambitious man, a teacher, and a visionary despite being only 24 years old, the age at which most youngsters have no clear goals or set ambition in life.
'It was tough at first but I had the drive to be different and achieve more than what I already have. It is this that inspired me to believe in myself and take the step to volunteer at RAI campus in Kakuma 2.'
Mr. Sultan started his volunteer journey at Resilience Action International (RAI) located in Kakuma Refugee Settlement, Turkana County in November 2020. Currently, he is a teacher's assistant for the Beginners class at RAI center.
'I came to Kenya with my family in 2012, having completed my primary education in Tanzania. We moved from DRC searching for a peaceful and safe place to call home. Now, we are here trying to make the best out of it.'
According to Sultan, life in the camp hasn't been easy but he has the unrelenting urge to not only learn English but to be also fluent in it. As a result, he signed up for Beginner English class at the RAI campus in 2019 and completed training in January 2020. He became a certified English speaker, having reached the highest level of English learning, C1.
' My senior teacher gave me that idea. The idea that I could do or decide to take up teaching to help him train other refugee youths in the English language at the campus. I also got encouragement from the program coordinators at RAI to take up teaching. This boosted my courage and I made that first choice of choosing what I’ve always wanted to do, that is, teaching. If it weren't for them, I wouldn't be here today.'
When he started volunteering, he was given the task of facilitating the Beginner English and A2 classes to facilitate until more teachers were hired.
' Before I joined RAI as a volunteer, I was already volunteering at a local community center. Today, my mother is proud of me. She knows I’m teaching somewhere here in Kakuma Settlement Camp, despite living in Tanzania and not being able to see me doing what I love.'
This statement takes Sultan thoughts way back into the past of 2012. He had a vision of overcoming his limitations and making something more out of the lemons life gave him. When he arrived in Kenya, he didn't get the opportunity to join high school. Now, that he has experienced the two sides of being a student and a teacher, he is planning to go back to school and pursue what he could have finished years ago.
' In the future, I hope to become someone bigger and better than what I am now. I want to pursue further education and add to what I have at the moment. This is one of the reasons why am volunteering at RAI. In case I get hold of an opportunity to further my education while working here, sure enough, I’ll take it without hesitation. Besides, another reason is I wanted to meet other people with similar interests, make friends, and learn how to improve my life for the better.'
Since, joining RAI as a volunteer staff member, Mpenda Sultan has made countless friends, both local and foreign, offering him the solace and encouragement he needs to stay on his mission.
' There are people in the community who suggest to me other types of jobs because of my age and duty to support my siblings. I find such comments discouraging because they divert me from my passion. Although what they say does make sense it is not in accordance with my mindset. I understand that not everyone can try as I have tried because we are created differently.'
Sultan candidly admits that there are challenges a volunteer should expect to face in their work. One of his biggest challenges was distance. He comes from Kakuma 3, Clinic 6 which is quite a distance away and it takes him about 1 hour on foot to reach the RAI center. Also, not getting paid presents a hardship that is dwarfed by the irreplaceable treasure of gaining knowledge, experience, and a lifetime of connections.
Fortunately, these challenges don’t prevent Mr. Sultan from doing what he loves most.
'I'd advice those who want to volunteer that if you decide to do something, you should pursue it until you achieve what you were looking for.'