I was born in a village in Kenya. My father was born in the same village when the country was still a British colony. He was 20 when the struggle for independence started, and the ‘Mau Mau’ freedom fighters often sought refuge at our home during the violence. The legend of the heroic actions of my father and the lives he saved continued well into modern times.
In school, I was nicknamed ‘Shiro’, after a legendary ancestor of the Agikuyu tribe. I grew up with immense pride in being an African, and thanks to the genes inherited from Dad, I aspired to emulate his example by always being protective of my community!
When I moved to boarding school in Nairobi at the age of 11, it felt like a giant shift from Timbuktu to New York. My entire reality changed and I found it very difficult to adjust from my ‘rural’ ways. As my classmates laughed at me because of my accent, because I ate with my hands and didn’t know how to use silver-ware or because I didn’t dress up as well as they did, I became withdrawn and started to lose my self-esteem. My salvation and transformation came several years later when I joined Smart Speak Toastmasters Club. I was suddenly surrounded by a supportive community in which I was in my element, as I kept discovering many new opportunities for contributing, in my own little way, to the betterment of others.
When I joined in 2005, Smart Speak was only one of two un-districted clubs in the country. A year later, I was elected the President of my club and I was so enthusiastic that I saved up to travel to Washington to attend the Toastmasters International Convention. The experience was mind boggling. I met people who were DTMs and they represented Districts, concepts that were alien to me. A seed was planted in my mind. It became my dream and desire to become a DTM, to see members in our community become DTMs and for us to grow into a District.
I sponsored a new club in 2009 and supported similar efforts by other Toastmasters. A few years later, I supported the launch of the first clubs in Rwanda, a country which previously had no Toastmasters clubs. Simultaneously, on a parallel track, I pursued my speaking journey. I won several evaluation, table topics, humorous speech, tall-tales and taped speech contests at the club and ‘inter-club’ levels. In 2011, I won the Toastmasters International Taped Speech Contest, and in 2014 became the first member in East Africa to attain Distinguished Toastmasters recognition. This opened the gates for several members who had hitherto considered a DTM recognition unachievable. Today, we have over 30 DTM’s in East Africa.
By 2017, we had 17 clubs in East Africa and the Board promoted our status to that of a Territorial Council (TC). The approval was conditional to our growing to 20 clubs. I was elected the founding chair, and in my 2 year tenure we successfully trebled the number of clubs and attained Smedley Distinguished Status. It is a great source of pride for me that we have now been approved as a District, in record time after commencing our TC journey. East Africa currently has 65 active clubs. I believe my experience in leading the Toastmasters Territorial Council of East Africa from a handful of clubs to a Provisional District and then to District status can help the organization lead growth in other territories.
On the professional front, I have had a successful corporate career spanning over 25 years. I am currently the Managing Director of Dormans Coffee limited, the most reputable roaster in the region, and my Toastmasters training has definitely helped accelerate my career growth. I joined the Dormans group of companies at a lower administrative position and progressively rose up the ranks. I have held senior positions in Administration, Operations, Finance and Human Resources before I became the Managing Director. We operate in a dynamic environment and have partnerships across the globe with coffee buyers including Nestlé, Starbucks and Tchibo, as well as with development partners like DEG, Hivos, Solidaridad and Bill & Melinda Gates foundation. My corporate experience has made me agile, strategic and innovative in all my undertakings. I have a fantastic team and this gives me assurance that I can aptly commit time and resources to serving as an International Director without any challenge.
On the personal front, I am married and have a son who is in York University in Toronto studying for a Bachelor of Arts Degree (Business Studies option). My husband is retired and is very supportive of my goals and ambitions. I hold a Bachelor of Education Honours Degree from Kenyatta University, an MBA from Strathmore University and a Doctorate in Business Administration from the United States International University of Africa. As I reflect upon my journey from my humble beginnings, I realize even more how much of my current success I owe to Toastmasters. I was recently honoured with the Presidential Citation Award. I have so much more to contribute and have therefore decided to vie for the position of International Director. I am confident that my passion for Toastmasters and my senior corporate experience sets me up for success in this role and will enable me to offer valuable contributions for the future direction of our organization. I know I shall be the best ambassador for Toastmasters as it has had a positive impact on my life and I want more and more people in the global community to reap the unique benefits of our organization. It would be a privilege and honour to be elected to serve as the next International Director for Region 11. As you are all aware, no one beats Kenyans in going the distance.