What have a technology consultant, a hotel cashier, an electrician and an accountant all got in common? The answer is, they are all enjoying successful careers thanks to an education paid through Fairtrade.
“People called me a boy genius when I was at school,” laughs Wreford Momanyi. “I don’t know about that, but I do know that without sponsorship from the Fairtrade Premium, I would probably never have completed my education. It was also a motivation to perform well.”
Wreford is being modest -- he was one of the highest performing students at school, a fact which was not lost on the Fairtrade Premium Committee who agreed to sponsor him. The Fairtrade Premium is the extra amount of money that Fairtrade certified producers and workers get for selling on Fairtrade terms. They decide for themselves how to spend it -- whether on improving their farms, building schools or hospitals for the community, or setting up educational funds.
Wreford now works as as a Technology Consultant with the international accounting firm PwC. Both his parents worked at Oserian Flowers, a Fairtrade certified flower farm in Kenya. “Mum and Dad couldn’t afford my high school fees, and that’s where Fairtrade stepped in,” he says. “I was given a full scholarship which enabled me to pass my exams and go to the University of Nairobi to study Electrical and Electronic Engineering.
“I’m passionate about technology and anything to do with cyber security,” says Wreford. “When I was a kid I always wanted to join the army. But now I’m helping Kenya protect itself in a different way.”
Sandra Ochieng Owino is another child of Oserian, and also holds a degree in Electrical and Electronic Engineering. But her story is very different from Wreford’s. “My mother worked as a causal labourer at Oserian and had a really tough time,” she remembers. “She was a single mother with five children, and when she was laid off she couldn’t afford school fees. Fortunately, my high school teacher asked the Fairtrade Premium Committee to sponsor me -- which they did, right the way through university as well.”
Sandra now works as an electrician at Kenya Breweries. “Engineering has traditionally been a male-dominated world, but that’s starting to change. More and more women are coming into the profession,” she says. “I’m responsible for making sure all the electrical systems are safe to operate and in good condition, and I carry out maintenance on electrical and electronics systems and installations. I love my job, but my ultimate goal is to set up my own consultancy firm. That way I can help my mother and my brothers and sisters move out of the poverty they currently live in.”
As the first girl in her extended family to have received a college education, Lindah Chanyisa says she will be forever grateful to Fairtrade for helping her realize her ambitions. Having qualified with a diploma in Catering and Hotel Management, Lindah now works as a cashier at the Mt. Longonot Transit Hotel north of Nairobi.
Lindah’s father works as a supervisor at the Fairtrade certified Flamingo Horticulture. “My father knows the value of a good education and for his children to be able to have a career and be independent,” says Lindah. “He applied to the Fairtrade Premium Committee and they helped ensure I could finish high school. Now I’m able to return the favour and provide some financial assistance back to my family.”
But Lindah’s ambitions don’t stop there. “I always wanted to pursue a career in medicine,” she says. “Once my siblings have left home and are independent, I plan on going back to school to continue my studies.”
Mary Muringi Wachira has followed in her father’s footsteps -- she now works as an accountant at Flamingo Horticulture, where her father is a pack house manager. “I always wanted to work in Human Resources,” explains Mary. “But I followed my father’s advice and got a job as a clerk, then worked my way up to accountant.”
“I found out that the Fairtrade Premium Committee supports employees who want to further their education and qualifications. They have paid for me to enrol in a two-year degree course in HR, and once I’ve got my degree I’ll be able to pursue my dream of working as an HR practitioner.”
Wreford, Sandra, Lindah and Mary are just four of the many success stories shared by young people benefitting from the Fairtrade Premium to go to school and college, get their qualifications and enjoy professional careers. There are now so many of them that Fairtrade Africa has set up an alumni association -- initially among beneficiaries from Fairtrade certified flower farms in East Africa, but with the aim eventually of including those from other regions and products.