The first time you meet a person or listen to a presentation it may not be clear because thought and greater engagement always helps. This happened to us recently with one of our alumni. When Moses walked into our office he had a presentation about his current project. When he started, I honestly wasn’t listening as keenly as I should have because I was on schedule to leave for another assignment. However, a few minutes in, I stilled my heart and wandering mind to listen. Within minutes, I was so sure he was in the wrong office.
To say we didn’t understand each other was the understatement of the year. I understood the presentation one way and my colleague understood it the other way and we were on totally different ends of the spectrum from each other. It reminded me of Poghisio’s class of INS 111 when he taught that “Meaning is internal and individual.” However, truth be told, the project could actually do well in both directions and so now he has two very different approaches and still achieve his goals. Had he seen both angles? No
Moses Gitonga the founder of the award-winning animation firm BlueSplyne has come a long way. He wasn’t always robust and healthy and lived with rheumatoid arthritis for seventeen years. They were years fraught with challenges but were an important part of his path to victory and success. In 2001 he left home to join Daystar even though he didn’t know how he would finish his education. His English grades were not good so he couldn’t study communications as he intended and ended up enrolling for community development. His choice was influenced by the fact that there were many potential jobs in the community development field and he desperately needed a job so that he could help his family.
When he came to Daystar, he was still living with rheumatoid arthritis but one day in first year he was at a crusade, he was prayed for and received healing. After so many years of being sick, it was wonderful to be whole. The celebration was short lived as the very next semester school fees became a major challenge. He could barely raise fees to do more than two courses some semesters and he ended up taking seven years to finish his education.
The time in Daystar was very challenging. Often he went without food for days and would resort to eating the leftovers the residential students left on the tables. When he couldn’t afford his rent and his room was locked by the landlord, he would figure who he would spend the night with a different friend every night so he wouldn’t wear out his welcome anywhere. When he needed to check if his father had sent him money he would walk through the fields from the Daystar Athi River campus to Athi River town to get to the bank. Many times he would find nothing and walk back. In fourth year, things came to a head when he was living in Kibera and had an exam in Athi. He had not money and so left Kibera at 6am on the eve of his exam and walked to Athi River. He arrived at the Athi River Campus at 4pm with swollen feet.
It struck me that I would have probably given up or been angry with God but not Moses. He learnt to pray. Many times as he walked to Athi or the main road he would pray and this developed into a rich relationship with God. One of his greatest dreams was to go on the fourth year’s trip to Mombasa but God would have it differently. Even with some unanswered prayers, seven years later with all the struggle and hardship Moses graduated from Daystar. This was a monumental day for him because it was the proof that God kept His word no matter what.
The tide had finally turned for Moses…he had an interview the week after graduation and got the job with K-Rep Bank as a micro finance officer. He was posted to K-Rep Bank Mtwapa branch and now his desire to go to Mombasa was fulfilled but not for the weekend but for as long as he worked in the branch. How a community development graduate got a job as a microfinance officer doesn’t make sense but the grace of God upon him allowed him to learn and adapt and do a good job.
Diligence and a lot of creativity saw him excel at work and rise in his department. However, there were things he noticed that made him wonder. The biggest one was the fact that they played other people’s adverts in the banking and not their own. He also noticed they were not telling the stories of their customer’s growth. One day as he was looking through programs on his computer he stumbled on Windows MovieMaker. He tinkered with it till he understood it then asked one of his clients if he could take photos and make a profile for the bank and she agreed. He made the video including a voice over and sent it to everyone but it didn’t get a response.
Close to two years later, when he had moved back to Nairobi, the new COO found the video clip he had made. He was asked to set up an intranet in twenty-six days and he said yes. How would a community development graduate turned microfinance office develop an intranet? There is only answer only…reading and research. He soon realised that it was beyond him so he asked his boss for an extension and was authorised to get help from IT and a web development firm. Forty-one days later they launched the intranet. For a guy who knew little about code to lead this project was no mean feat. The process for him was rather simplistic based around a few key questions he always asked himself:
- What do you want to do?
- What do you need to know?
- How much of it can I read and teach myself?
- Which professionals do I need to connect with and work with?
- What can I learn from those who are around me?
- Who has done it that I can benchmark myself with or learn from?
We can also learn from Moses and ask ourselves similar questions with every situation we find ourselves in. It pays to know what you want in life and diligently pursue it. So often we know what we want in general terms but we need to turn these into specifics. Moses knew a few things:
- He needed a job to help provide for his family.
- He could achieve anything he set his mind to do.
- He wanted to give back full value to everyone he met
- As long as he can read he can learn a new skill and overcome any challenge
- God was his ever present help
These simple things have set him up for success. He has won multiple awards for the work he is doing with BlueSplyne Studios. They are animators but more than that they create opportunities for others. Currently there are seventy upcoming animators under their umbrella who are consistently challenged to become better and do better work. The proposal that brought him to Alumni office is one of the things they are doing to create more opportunities for animators.
Thinking of Moses begs the question to all of us, “What are we doing to change the world around us as we work towards our dreams?” If we only dream about ourselves we are short changing the world around us. May everything we go through lead us to understand that we are here for bigger things than ourselves and trigger us seek these things and bring glory to God in the process.