Nationality

Kenya

Education

Bachelor’s Degree in International Business Administration, United States International University-Africa, Nairobi, Kenya

Languages

English, Kikuyu, Kiswahili

I’m a field buff, and I mean far out in the field, as opposed even to working in a peacekeeping mission’s headquarters. I call it the “mission bug” - once it bites you, it takes you. Working in a difficult environment requires fortitude, self-reliance, creativity, and a positive attitude. Fieldwork can be stressful, but providing a better quality of life for people traumatized by conflict is what drives me to continue.

Previously, I enjoyed a career in the private sector in my hometown of Nairobi, Kenya. But by my early thirties, I longed to work in the international arena; I hoped to do something that would assist the disadvantaged. I applied to the United Nations Volunteers (UNV) programme, which annually sends more than 7,500 volunteers to projects around the world. I volunteered for the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK), established in 1999 to create a civil administration and provide security in the aftermath of the Kosovo conflict.
 
During my first six months there, I supervised a voter registration center under the joint aegis of UNMIK and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe. I then spent two-and-a-half years in various roles with the Mission’s Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Rural Development, which was later split into the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry, and the Ministry of Environment and Spatial Planning. My duties included implementing forestry policies, and working with the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Food Programme to procure seeds, farming tools and cattle so that farmers could renew agricultural production. I also monitored the disposal of waste and hazardous materials to ensure that landfills and dumps complied with environmental regulations.

After returning to Kenya, the UNV invited me to help in Liberia, and I could not refuse. In 2004, I joined the newly-formed United Nations Mission in Liberia (UNMIL); its mandate was to secure the peace after years of civil war, provide humanitarian aid, and restore state authority.

My first task was to open a field office in Sinoe, one of Liberia’s most challenging counties. We began with no supplies, so a few nights were spent in our vehicle before receiving a tent. For nourishment, I learned 17 ways of preparing canned corn beef. Once we built an office, our next job was to restore the local government and provide basic services. The people were receptive, but the rebels still had weapons; the disarmament, demobilization and reintegration programme was delayed in our region, so we gave ex-combatants work to keep them occupied, such as clearing fields for helicopters.

After 18 months as a volunteer there, I became a professional United Nations staff member, as a Civil Affairs Officer. In 2006, I transferred to another difficult area, Gbarpolu County, a remote, forested region in Western Liberia.

UNMIL’s current mandate is to support poverty reduction and develop county governments. As Head of the United Nations Field Office in Gbarpolu County, I coordinate and monitor all local projects. Other duties include mentoring leaders, supporting the inclusion of women and youth in decision-making, and promoting the use of natural resources.

One of my most memorable moments was Christmas 2009, when the Liberian President, Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf, fulfilled her pledge to celebrate the holiday in Gbarpolu County’s Belle Yalla, a town so deep in a forest that, until that very day, it did not have any roads and was only accessible by helicopter. More than a year earlier, the President vowed to build the first road, and to use it for her visit.

Although staff from the United Nations and Liberia’s Ministry of Public Works worked hard, progress was delayed due to heavy rains. By December 24, the road had not yet reached the town, so the President braved a two-and-a-half-hour walk through the bush, and was greeted by cheering citizens. Many residents stayed up until the wee hours to witness the bulldozer break through the forest, followed by United Nations vehicles carrying a generator, a water tank and other supplies. Seeing the joy on the people’s faces reaffirmed my belief in what I do.

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