09 Jun Overcoming Challenges and Staying Positive – Paul Babu’s Story
Overcoming Challenges and Staying Positive – Paul Babu’s Story
There is so much good in all of us. A lot of potentials to be tapped, the best we can do is to help each other to bring it out. My name is Paul Kelvin Babu, I am an undergraduate student of International Relations and Diplomacy at Mount Kenya University-Main Campus Thika. I grew up for quite some time as the only boychild with three sisters and a single parent. Our mother did the best she could to ensure we had the basic needs and, in my view, the standard essentials. Later on, I would have a baby brother and sister from a step-father.
I attended part of primary school at Olympic Primary School before moving to Western Kenya before post-election violence in 2008. Olympic Primary challenged me to perform well. Most of the time, I would manage to be at 2nd position. At one time, I became top position and this meant everything to me. From this experience, I always wanted to win. My mother tells me if she hadn’t moved to western Kenya from Makina in Kibra, I would have been a chokoraa. In Nambale-Busia I topped from class 4-8, particularly in the mock exams in the county.
I got the opportunity to join Alliance High School, while at the same time, I had a sister at Pangani Girls and another in Moi Girls High School Vokoli. I could see the worry in my mom. Our school fees was a huge burden on her. At the back of my mind, I kept telling myself I have done my part as a child or a student.
I applied for various scholarships and was unsuccessful. I remember that day crying with my mum because I couldn’t be admitted without school fees for the first term which was just Ksh. 21,500/=. Later on, with the help of my uncle, I was admitted. I was fortunate enough to win a four-year scholarship from the Family Group Foundation while admitted in school.
Some of the positive qualities I learnt from Alliance High School included faithful service and self-responsibility. While here, activities were always working with minimal or no supervision from teachers including exams. I served as a Junior Librarian in form one and in form two, I was the Junior Library Coordinator. Within this period up to the end of form three, I was always among the top ten students in my class.
Somewhere along my high school journey, I developed a reversed sleeping pattern. This hit me hardest in form 4. I would sleep abnormally during classes as well as in the exam room. I was at pains to explain to my friend Ronny, who tried unsuccessfully on several occasions to wake me up during a math exam.
I drastically dropped in performance and with no one to understand me or what was going on, I withdrew from people. I tried medications for three terms but all in vain. All my activeness, energy, social-self just departed me slowly by slowly as I moved deep into myself. In that lonely cave I did not find any help but a constant judgment of failure and letting down not just myself but my family, my sponsor, and my primary school.
At this point, I became suicidal and tried it. I never wanted to sit for the KCSE exams. I couldn’t think that I would bear such failure for the rest of my life. I scored a B- in the KCSE (2016), an exam I thoroughly slept in.
One of the things that tried to get me out of myself was Family Group Foundation Mentorship Programs. Having all the students meeting at Sports View Hotel impacted many of us including myself.
The level of care from the Foundation was quality. For many of us, this was the first time we were being taken to a hotel and spend more than 3-4 nights. Meeting the people working behind the desk to ensure that our school fees were paid on time, was everything to me. Even though I was shy to approach them. Today I wish I could go back there and tell them this. Most of the students can attest, the Family Bank Branches don’t own the story of the foundation as much as the foundation does. It’s also simple logic. The foundation and its program felt home to me more than the branch because these are people who work full time for you.
The content the facilitators and speakers prepared was way beyond our reach but simple within our scope. In one session we had CEOs telling their stories and taking questions from us. Even the most resourced child always wants to meet these people and the program gave us access to these senior managers and learn from their wealth of experience for free.
Listening to their stories from humble backgrounds that are relatable reminded me that it is not just possible but it is already happening. The journey was on and it is now that am realizing it. We would have random groups that meant I had to speak with students from schools that I did not know. I particularly remember in one instance Glenda and Beth (students) challenging me to get out there. I joined them in a dance on the stage and I was in synchrony with them. It was all fun. Today they are great friends.
Sheila Agisa from the Foundation seemed approachable. I explained to her my sleeping issue. In the beginning, I did this not because I thought she would understand but because I felt they needed an explanation on my deteriorating performance even if it would look like an excuse. Overtime she kept asking about it and it brought more and more talks into it. The talks which were on self-reflection eventually became therapies. She was digging into me and bringing out the valuable minerals from me. Making me see the gold in me and not the sand. Even when I saw the sand, she would turn it around for me to see that sand can be used to build a house. This introduced perspective in me. Today I see things from different angles.
I eventually joined the university after a tough talk with my mother. I never wanted to join another classroom just to go and sleep. Lucky enough I met a friend, Anita who took me to a pastor and we did prayers and I had this faith that all will be well. So, I joined the university to redeem myself for myself. Winning to me was everything. Well, things never changed I would sleep but kept on motivating myself. At this point, I realized everyone was in their mess and if I don’t fix mine that’s, all that is in me will go to waste. The journey was not easy cause I was still alone and again ended up being suicidal. This time I didn’t try it.
Then I met this friend, Mutiso. He had so little but gave so much out there. I saw the generosity in him that was in me. He is an outgoing and proactive person. He introduced me to his friend, Harry. Harry was a quiet but intelligent character. Mutiso would often organize meals for the three of us. I was not used to such kinds of things but eventually, they helped me slowly get out of myself. Closely we started a club in school, Diplomacy Club and we would excel out there in conferences. We hosted distinguished diplomats at the university including the Deputy Ambassador of Israel and the Africa Climate Change Regional Coordinator for UNEP.
I have done projects with the British Council, the University of West of Scotland from my Professor, Kennedy Mutundu, and the Embassy of Pakistan from Madam Wanjiku Kinyua. These are people who saw something in me. But they wouldn’t have seen all this if I gave up or even if I got an A in the KCSE. Through Mount Kenya University I attended Afro-Asia Fintech Inaugural Festival. There I met an author (Chris Colbert) who gave me his book titled This Is It, a book all who want to live their lives should read. I am grateful for everyone who saw me past the sleeping person. I am proud of myself as well because I have talked to two suicidal persons and I have received their positive feedback. I look back today and realize the moments I chose fear over courage and just laugh. Today am building a foundation where I will choose courage over fear. Thank you.