A Story of Empowerment – Clifford Collins Omondi

Date: 12 September 2012

“Where I come from there is not much opportunity,” says Clifford Collins Omondi of his home—the east side of Nairobi, Kenya. Clifford grew up witnessing poverty so widespread and severe that it crippled the optimism of some of his fellow youth.

In 2001, Clifford joined the YMCA in Nairobi. He remembers that he was shy then, and felt uncomfortable speaking in front of groups. But he enrolled in a number of their leadership trainings, some of which would take him to different places around the world. Since Clifford joined, he has travelled to almost every continent through the YMCA.

At the YMCA, Clifford also began swimming and playing football with other young people. After several years, he started competing in triathlons, a hobby that he maintains to this day. The YMCA provided him with the space he needed in order to feel able to accomplish such difficult goals.

Clifford also became very interested in politics. He reads about politics frequently, and declares he is driven to “change the kind of leadership we have in Africa.” He is focused on stopping poverty, because he sees it as “man-made,” a product of bad policies. He knows that poverty is still making many talented young people struggle to realise their potential.

Now Clifford is 30 years old, and helps lead Subject to Citizen, a leadership training similar to those that empowered him when he was younger. In the program, young men and women attend camps and informal meetings to discuss visions for attaining goals such as climate justice and poverty eradication.

Clifford wants to “involve young people in policy making in Kenya, so they feel appreciated.” He continues to have an impact on youth in Nairobi, passing on not only the skills that he learned through the YMCA, but also his powerful optimism.