The number of young people in Kenya who are losing lives due to mental issues such as depression, stress and anxiety is increasing as the days go by. An even bigger number is lost to drugs, alcohol and substance abuse.
For Nelly Gatonye, she will not sit back and watch as the youth wallow in drugs and alcoholism. Through her organisation – Pearl of Hope – she walks with as many young people as possible so as transform their lives. Her desire to mentor others especially those behind her was born when she was schooling at the Kenya High School.
“When I got admitted to the school, I was assigned a ‘mother’ from the senior classes. Her role was to walk with me and this really helped me settle down in school,” she explains.
When she transitioned to form two, it was time for Nelly to become a ‘mother’ to someone else. It was only a matter of time before she found herself mentoring many other girls in the school.
“In form three, my cubical was always full of girls who opened up their lives to me in the hope of me walking with them through their issues and as I look back, I now realise that I was mentoring them even though I was not aware of it,” she shares.
After joining university, Nelly got exposed to a different reality. “I could see girls join the university and lose their identity all in the name of fitting in. The ladies would soon start smoking and engaging in drugs and this made my heart cry. It was evident to me then that I had to start a mentorship programme to guide young women,” she shares.
She thus reached out to a few ladies and guided them through campus life. This marked the birth of Pearl of Hope and she continued reaching out to young women in campus even after she completed her studies. In 2013, Nelly, who was then working as an accountant, registered the organisation so that she could have a more structured programme. She juggled her career and the mentorship programme.
Nelly finances the running of the organisation from her own pocket. This isn’t easy but the thought of impacting lives encourages her. She organises bi-monthly meetings with the mentees.
For Nelly, there is absolutely nothing that brings her utter joy than the transformation she sees her mentees go through. “Hearing my mentees make huge progress in their journeys gives me great joy and fulfillment because I can see who they were when we started and who they are now,” she shares.
The organisation, which started as a girls’ only mentorship programme, has immensely grown and now caters for men as well. They tackle a range of issues from reproductive health, to career, to handling hardships, among others. The mentorship programme has a module that the mentees go through together with Nelly. Once they are done, they are attached to a mentor who walks with them for a period of six months.
As recognition for her efforts, Nelly is a recipient of the Business Daily Top 40 Under 40 Women Award and has been listed among the most influential people by Aventure Media.
Beyond mentoring, she is also an author having published her first book I Got It All But Still Single. She reveals that her second book is currently underway and should be out in a couple of months.
While she wears many hats including being a Certified Public Accountant, she admits that mentorship gives her the most fulfillment. “For me all that counts is seeing one life changed out of the process,” she concludes.