In the plains of Kakuma town located in Turkana County, Kenya, underneath the blazing sun, we spoke to 25-year-old Clement Wanyonyi Maboko and 22-year-old Bonface Masibo who are past participants of the Skills for Life project implemented by Swisscontact. Both men, now experienced screen printers, tell us about their journey; how the training moulded and changed their lives.
Clement: I relocated from Kitale, which is approximately 305kms from Kakuma town after completing my secondary education. My sister lived and worked as a salonist in the town. I decided to join her in the hope of identifying a moneymaking opportunity. After all, I was idling in my parents' house as they couldn't afford to pay for my university education and support my younger siblings at the same time. During the time before the training, I would get odd jobs as a casual labourer at construction sites. Still, these opportunities were very hard to come by, and I was always anxious about my future. I didn't enjoy the tedious tasks that came with odd jobs. I desired to have a stable income but didn't know how to make this a reality as I did not possess any specialised qualifications.
Bonface: I too completed my secondary education and moved from Kitale to identify something constructive to do. I heard there were a lot of opportunities here. So, I was hustling all the time, doing different odd jobs. I managed to save some money and opened a small business selling chips, but this was short-lived. I could not seem to reduce my skyrocketing operational costs, and I was not making any profit.
Clement: A Swisscontact Project Assistant visited my sister's salon during an awareness drive and announced that there was training going on, pertaining to screen printing. I quickly identified this as an opportunity to learn something new and asked the representative to register me for the three-month course. I have always been interested in art, and the screen printing training, in particular, provided me with a chance to explore that and increase my skillset as we were going to be taught design and how to brand different merchandise like cups and t-shirts.
Bonface: I heard about it from one of my friends who was undergoing a different training for soap making. He knew I was struggling to make ends meet and proposed that I learn a new skill that would increase my chances of earning a decent income. He linked me to the Swisscontact staff responsible for registration who informed me that the only training available at the time was screen printing. I decided to take it up and do not regret my decision.
Clement: After completing the training, we formed a business group and registered a company which soon became difficult to manage. Most members were not fully committed to work and rarely showed up at the printing shop, especially on those slow days. So, we gradually started to reduce in numbers. We decided to formulate a constitution that would govern how we interacted as a group and especially with regard to conflict.
Bonface: As time went by, we realised that not all members were serious and several voluntarily dropped out of the business group for one reason or another. From an initial 32 members, only 20 completed the training. Eventually, it remained just the two of us. So, we came up with a strategy that we hoped would increase our client base. When one of us went to market the business and identify contacts, the other remained in the printing shop. We set targets for ourselves to keep us on our toes as we needed to meet several operational costs like rent and the cost of materials. We also drafted rules for us to work together.
Clement: Our first two months of business were challenging as we barely made anything and would go home empty-handed, but we have slowly been able to increase our client base. We have secured big jobs with international organisations within the camp and just the other day we made CHF 273 in profit for branding bandanas. We save our profit and re-invest it back into our business. So far, we've managed to purchase office supplies, production materials and a new laptop worth CHF 164.
Bonface: We've opened a joint account now and have also managed to get a business certificate changing our business name to 'Clear Face.' With our marketing strategy, we try to sell ourselves to a wide range of people. We show our potential clients our previous work, and it's the quality of our outputs that guarantees us more orders.
Clement: Without undergoing training, life would not have been easy. At first, our goals and dreams seemed hard to achieve, but at least now we have hope. We plan to be well known in this industry and to deliver quality, something our two competitors are not keen on. I save most of my earnings and plan to revive the poultry project I had begun back in Kitale. I hope to be able to balance both so that I can earn more income.
Bonface: I've learnt you can't achieve anything if you don't possess demand-driven skills. I want to empower youths from this place so that they understand that. Occasionally, they come here, and we help them by teaching them the basics. I also want to use my savings to fund my singing. I want to make a video for a song I wrote. Everything has changed for me now. I'm able to eat to my filling and sleep with less anxiety, knowing that I have a hopeful future ahead of me.
Promoting Life Skills and Livelihoods - Skills for Life (S4L)
Skills for Life is currently in its third phase of implementation. It seeks to strengthen the income-generating capabilities of youth from the host and refugee communities in Kakuma by enhancing their technical, financial, life and literacy skills. Skills for Life is financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and implemented by Swisscontact.