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For Community-Driven Global Development

Meet Priscilla Ong’ayo, Kakamega Program Director

Priscilla Ong'ayoWhen Priscilla Ong’ayo joined FSD in April 2017 as Kakamega’s Program Director, we gained not only a development expert with 15 years of experience in project management but a wonderful advocate of the work we do.

A noted project expert, Priscilla previously nurtured community relations for Poverty & Hunger Eradication Development Action (PAHEDA) NGO, while managing both its administrative and field work. She also created a widely implemented youth mentorship program that fosters excellence in academics—and proudly shares that four of her students are now actively involved in development careers.

“I have a special interest in women’s empowerment,” Priscilla shares. “To me, when women move, the world moves with them. Empowering girls and women makes the most impact. Empowering women to participate fully in economic life across all sectors is essential to build stronger economies, achieve internationally agreed-upon goals for development and sustainability, and improve the quality of life for women, men, families and communities."

To complement her Kenyan university education, Priscilla—who is fluent in English, Kiswahili and her mother tongue, Luhya—completed a special certification program in Sweden. “At the time,” she says, “I was running a community-based organization which was almost collapsing due to lack of sustainable programs. I had very limited skills in program management save for a few seminars and workshops I had participated in the past. Although I had not traveled abroad, thanks to the internet I was able to connect to training programs around the world and in Sweden. Through the Swedish embassy in Nairobi, I was among only two women from Kenya selected to participate in an international training program in human rights towards gender equality. This was because of my work that I was doing with rural communities back in Kakamega."

"During the training,” Priscilla tells us, “we partnered with Uppsala University, where I enjoyed a rigorous training in project management and working with projects for change. This was done in three phases in more than one year while working in Sweden, Tanzania, and finally Kenya where we were ultimately awarded our diplomas.”

A native of Kakamega, Priscilla speaks with pride of her hometown. “The people are warm and friendly. Culturally, we are more peaceful than any other tribe of Kenya and even the greetings mean ‘peace.'" (In fact, Kakamega and its environs are fondly known by many Kenyans as “The Peace Nation.”) Very many visitors are afraid to visit Kenya during elections but surprisingly this years’2017 elections were very peaceful—and for Kakamega,” she adds proudly, “it was business as usual. We had an intern who later said he found the peaceful elections reflective of the spirit of Kakamegans themselves. Our city is awesome!” she smiles.

Virtually all of Priscilla’s interns have reported feeling very much the same. “Here, visitors are treated as a special people and we Kenyans feel national pride in having visitors from other countries. Indeed, there are so many reasons to visit us,” she says. “Geographically, Kakamega hosts the only tropical rainforest in East Africa—specifically, Kakamega Forest which is a fantastic site for both domestic and international tourists. I’ve yet to meet an intern who didn’t revel in our natural setting, the scenic hiking, and wildlife of all kinds it affords.

Of course, our food is fantastic too!” Priscilla says. “The most-liked by Kenyans and foreigners alike is chapati, flatbread made from wheat flour (you may know it as roti) is served with nearly every meal. We serve traditional green vegetables, very rich in iron—and very delicious—and all types of fruits. Chicken is also plentiful here, and kuku paka, cooked with spices in coconut milk, is among our most sumptuous and best-known dishes.”

In addition to the area’s kind and generous people,” Priscilla adds, “Kakamega has another benefit: unusually mild weather. This is the only place in our country with moderate temperatures. Our location also allows us to easily visit parts of Kenya or to travel to other parts of Africa and (worldwide) if they have the interest and time.”

For information on how to work in Kenya—and benefit from Priscilla’s unique development and cultural expertise—please contact programs@fsd.org