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An exclusive Interview with a fisher of leaders from the crowd, Okanda Eugine, Founder of Unlock Young Leaders Summit

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Okanda Eugine Stephen is a Transformational Speaker, Executive Consultant, and Leadership.

Trainer and Performance Coach. He is the CEO/Founder of Unlock Young Leaders Summit, a Youth-Based Leadership Organization that seeks to spearhead Leadership Development, Moral and Ethical Transformation and Promote quality holistic growth among the Young Leaders between the ages of 18-35 years. He has hosted life-transforming sessions which include Leadership Trainings, Career and Mentorship Workshops and Young Entrepreneurs Program that mentors and coach young leaders with running organizations and businesses.

His experiences and expertise go beyond leaving people motivated. He speaks to in still values, encourage character development and mind wiring. He has offered staff training and empowerment services to Youth Based Organization, Students Leaders, Teacher, Youth Leaders and Entrepreneurs.

He has a pool of value-driven experience in corporate world having worked with renowned state corporate offices such as IEBC, KNBS, Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital and State Department for Youth Affairs.

Okanda is an affiliate of Kenyatta University where he pursued Bachelors in Biochemistry. He has gone through corporate trainings with renowned institutions such as Kenya School of Government, Judiciary Training Institute and Africa International University.

Okanda is driven by the passion of seeing people become better and leaving the world aserene place by committing to small but consistent changes. He is motivated by the fact that he is transformed to be part of the transformational journey of other people, especially the young leaders. His transformational speaking ability coupled with vast and thrilling real-time life lessons makes him express high level of intelligence, aptitude and integrity when handling topics revolving around Leadership Development, Administration and Governance,and Personal Capacity Building.

His Personal Vision is to enable Professionals and Corporate Leaders discover, activate, and attain high level expertise coupled with excellence. Disrupt Magazine caught up with Okanda Eugine for an interview and is what he had to share with us.

What do you love most about your work?

Investing in the lives of the young people. This is the philosophy that pushes me every day. I believe that the surest and most rewarding investment one can make during their lifetime is investing in the lives of others. This can mean, making life bearable or helping others live purposefully with a sense of vision and drive. This is because, someone at one time held my hand and showed me the direction that I needed to take.

You Train young Leaders, how did you come about that?

This began back in 2017 when I was a Second Year Student in Kenyatta University here in Nairobi, Kenya. I started going to High Schools speaking to students about Life, Values, Vision, Career and Spirituality. This was driven by the passion I had to reach out to students driven by my own life story of failure, disappointment having grown up in a broken home that escalated into my broken self-esteem and lack of drive to chase after my vision.

Growing up in a dysfunctional home is not fun. This is one of the most disastrous events that has ever happened in my life. I was born out of wedlock and raised by a stepfather father who was a vicious man. Together with my three young siblings, we experienced home-based violence every single day. We witnessed our mother being beaten up every day.

The blows she received also hit our young hearts with a bang that left us not sure what tomorrow holds. Life mistreated us. One day, the fight went sour when my stepfather hacked my mother with a machete on the head, left hand and on the left foot. I remember vividly supporting my mother who was groaning in pain with my tiny little hands when she was profusely bleeding. I thought she would be dead. Fortunately, our screeching sound made the angry neighbors rush to the scene and organize to immediately take my mum to the hospital.

She was hospitalized for almost 8 months. When she recuperated, she didn’t come home because of the looming danger of our hostile stepfather. Therefore, I had to take care of my young siblings; cook for them, wash them and every morning walk with them to school. Most of the time when asked in Interviews of when first I realized I can be a leader, I point out this period of time. When I knew I could take care of those who desperately needed me as their elder brother. Leadership is a call to taking Responsibility.  Here I was, young but stretched by life to do what I had never thought of. This is the nature of life; it has the proclivity of helping us know what we are made of.

However, I did not have the emotional capacity to do this. Therefore, I grew up with a broken self-esteem. I hated myself. I was a serial failure in school. This added to the pain. I used to perform poorly in school until other poor performing students used to call me poor. I lacked a sense of drive. I saw no sense to live on. I had given up in life. I had buried my dreams and ambitions. I was just breathing and waiting for the day to pass.

I did my Kenya Certificate of Primary Education (K.C.P.E) twice. The first time, I had scored 199 out of 500 marks. This was emotionally debilitating. My mother encouraged me to go back to school and repeat again. I joined school again, and the second time I was able to score 284 out of 500 marks. This enabled me to get a high school admission. However, my stepfather refused adamantly to pay for my school fees and strongly advised me to stay at home and continue taking care of my siblings who at this point were grownups. This was discouraging. It was the first time I contemplated suicide. I didn’t see the reason for living. The blows I had received were too weighty for me. I was at the end of the rope, and I wanted to die and go where people are sent to rest in peace.

Then a Miracle happened. O they still happen in our time! My grandparents, the parents to my stepfather agreed to pay for my school fees but not in the school that I had previously received the admission letter from. That was way too expensive. After two months, I joined school as a Form One. Surprisingly, there were only seven students in class. But I pushed through.

Much of this story is in my book (The Pressure of Being Gifted), therefore I will not type everything here. To cut the long story short, after going through such a tumultuous experience in my high school life, I pushed through; studying hard and smart, enduring the long nights of study, many times no pocket money and so on, I was able to do well and secured a university entry at Kenyatta University where I pursued a bachelor’s degree in Biochemistry four years and graduated with a Second-Class Honors, Upper Division.

Throughout my high school life, I have never had an experience of being No. 2. I have always been the top performing student, at one point scoring 1199/1200 marks. I was loved by teachers. This made them think twice before sending me home for school fees. This became even harder when they appointed me to be the School Captain and Christian Union Chairperson when I was in Form Three. I build study ethics that have gone to the extent of shaping my work ethics to date. I lead the students with ironclad values coupled with a sense of clear, crisp, and cloudless vision. This was foundational to the kind of a youth leader I am today here in Kenya, who is also building other youth leaders.

This made me a very respectable student in my school and the schools around. Though my school was a village one, we gained respect by producing the best performing student in the village. In fact, I was the only student who got a public university entry from my school. What an honor. God exalted my horn like that of a wild ox.

Now this is the source of my drive. This is where my sense of passion began from. When I started speaking to high school students, I went to encourage and inspire those who have lost hope, either caused by the fact that they come from a dysfunctional home, or they have just given up on their dreams because of the vicissitudes of life they are in. Since then, I have visited at least 150 high schools in more than 10 counties in Kenya sharing my story and speaking to students about the importance of vision-driven life. The number of students who have come to disclose to me the battles they have experienced in their families because of home-based violence is overwhelming. Many have contemplated and tried suicide. Majority have completely lost hope. Many are now engaging in drug and substance abuse and other illicit patterns of behaviors and additions because they can’t see the value of life.

By God’s Grace, many have experienced transformation after counseling sessions and others by the virtue of listening to me.

This has given me the drive ever since. It is the reason I do what I do. Most of these youth who have experienced tortuous life experience grow up with broken self-esteem. However, I have seen many take a turn and live transformational lives.

Which leadership gaps have you noticed from your field work and how can they be closed?

We are raising up a generation of young people who have grown up in an emotionally debilitating environment, either home-based violace and exposed to elicit practices such as drug and substance abuse. Majority of them who engage in this elicit practice dont have money to facilitate this lifestyle, therefore, they engage in robbery or inappropriate activities that they hope will bring money on their table. Additionally, the majority of the youth in this generation have not learnt the virtues of self-discipline, hard work and diligence. Therefore, the rat-race has caused the majority to want things they have not worked for. These are the same people, because they have a particular influence, and will run for a political seat. When they are elected, through the means they know how, they get into office without a vision for the society or a nation. In fact, they squander public resources because they need to satisfy instant gratification of their personal interests. The result is poor leadership and governance.

These are the gaps in leadership today. No vision, values, and people-oriented type of leaders.

Therefore, if we are to raise a generation of change agents, then it has to be men and women who have a sense of vision grounded on the foundation of values inspired by people-oriented interests. Without this, we will recycle leaders who lack integrity and moral compass to lead effectively. In swahili we say, “Samaki mkunjeanagalimbichi,” (Bend the fish when it is still wet) which means, you can only ingrained values to a child (in this case youth) at a young age, when their minds can still accommodate that way of life. When they grow old, they will never depart from it. Therefore, in the work I do with my organization, we are obsessed in building a community of values-based, vision-oriented and passion-driven young leaders committed to causing transformation in leadership and governance, business and entrepreneurship, professional and family spheres.

Thank you for this insightful interview. To know more about Mr. Okanda Eugine Stephen you can use the links below

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/okanda-s-eugine-bsc-a67294142 (Personal)

https://www.linkedin.com/company/unlock-young-leaders-summit (Organization)

https://www.facebook.com/YLS.UNLOCK.2020/ (Organization)

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/okandaeugine/  (Personal)

Website: unlockyoungleaders.org

Email: Okandastephen21@gmail.com

Estonian-born, Tallinn-based entrepreneur, CEO, manager, marketing strategist and professional athlete. My work have been featured by Tech.com Engadget, Medium and other publication. In my free time, I love to get engage with people, and travel to explore the world.

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