Willis Spreads His Wings!

Willis has a lot to celebrate these days. As a recent Kenyatta University graduate, he has worked hard to achieve success.

When you meet Willis today, you see a poised, confident young man pursuing a teaching career. He is a facilitator in the new Boys Empowerment Team of Umoja Project and spends much of his time and energy sharing what he has learned with younger students and helping prepare them for life beyond their humble childhoods.

Willis shows students how to greet and interact with professionals.

When his father died in 1999, Willis was only six years old. His widowed mother struggled to provide for Willis and two older brothers. Willis joined the Umoja Project and began receiving a nutritious daily lunch at school. He also received support and encouragement from the Umoja staff, link teachers and other volunteers. He went on to become one of the top students at Kuoyo Mixed Secondary School and also leader of the Umoja Secondary Student Group. 

Willis wrote this letter when he was in Form 3 (11th grade).

As a secondary student in 2012, Willis shared that he enjoyed “singing and listening to gospel music and reading the Bible.” A year later he wrote a song thanking Umoja for helping so many Kenyan students. The song lyrics tell about how young students faced poverty and desperation until Umoja became like another parent, caring for children and offering encouragement.

After many years’ frustrated faces and many years of starving bodies,
why should we forget this?
Remember 7 years ago and imagine 7 years to come, 
why should we forget this?  Is it by magic or a trick? 
Oh no…it is Umoja.

Her roots in Indianapolis, stem in Indiana, 
Branches in Kenya, twigs in Kisumu,
leaves in schools in Maseno division and fruits, for lucky students.
Thank God for Indianapolis.
Is it by magic or a trick? 
Oh no…it is Umoja.

A religious parent? Yes, she is.
Anti-racial parent? Yes, she is.
Anti-tribal parent? Yes…yes, she is.
Thanks to mum, thanks to Indiana, and thanks to Umoja as a whole 
Yes, we shall utilize… yes utilize,
These Memorable Opportunities and Justify them, ANGELICALLY.

Willis leads his classmates in singing about Umoja.

Willis continued his education at Kenyatta University, graduating in 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Swahili and Religious Education. He is the first in his family to attend university. He credits the Umoja family for his success and enthusiastically gives back to the organization that has given him so much. Now as a volunteer teacher at Kuoyo Secondary School and as a BET UP facilitator, Willis continues the Umoja tradition of encouraging vulnerable students.

A few years ago Willis reflected upon the challenges he has faced. He wrote:

If one day I make it out there and become successful, it’ll be because I had someone who believed in me and I didn’t have the guts to let them down.

Willis has returned to his home village to help younger students envision a bright future. He encourages them to dream and to work hard toward achieving those dreams. 

There are many ambitious students like Willis, who just need a little help to get to the next step. Your participation makes a direct, positive impact on a young person’s life. Show a student you believe in him or her by making a donation today.

Willis Otieno at Kenyatta University graduation in 2018