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Service Spotlight: Kickstart Kilifi

I’ve long been involved with a nonprofit called The Pollination Project that every day gifts a $1,000 seed grant to a group or individual who is making the world a better place.

That’s how I got connected with Henry Mkare of Kilifi, Kenya. Henry is the Founder and Director of Kickstart Kilifi. I am honored to share his story.

Liz: Let’s start in traditional Smile Project fashion. Give me a “Happiness is.”

Henry: Happiness is when someone you helped says, ‘were it not for this man or woman, I couldn’t have discovered my potential.’

Liz: Tell me about Kickstart Kilifi?

Henry: My organization is called Kickstart Kilifi. Kickstart Kilifi is a community-based organization that uses experiential learning to transform school dropouts into education enthusiasts, while equipping school dropouts with skills required to succeed in the 21st century. These skills are Information Technology, Entrepreneurship, and Life Skills.

Kickstart Kilifi is not a school, but a learning space that gives out-of-school youths a chance to rebuild their shattered dreams. We don’t teach our participants rather we offer them an enabling environment (learning space) that promotes creativity and skills development for we believe: “Experiential learning is cool!” and “When the atmosphere encourages learning, the learning becomes irresistible."

Liz: What is the driving force behind what you do?

Henry: The motivation to initiate Kickstart Kilifi came from the hurdles I underwent in my quest to get an education. I was a child laborer who turned into a University-graduate. I lost my father one month after joining secondary school, and 7 months later witnessed the murder of my grandfather on allegations of witchcraft. Being the oldest in the family, I became the breadwinner, at the age of 16. I spent most school days on construction sites.

Despite the hurdles, I never gave up. I managed to get a university entry grade in my O-level examination. I joined the University with the help of my community through fundraising. In 2016 I became the first graduate to ever come from our village when I graduated with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in International Relations and Diplomacy with IT. I’m proud to be the first but I don’t want to be the last. Like many others in my community, 60% of Kilifi County children are school dropouts.

In May 2017, I joined kanthari, an institute offering training on leadership for social change in Kerala, India. At kanthari, I further developed my ideas and passion for how I can help underprivileged children to help themselves and kick out the generational poverty from their homes. And also equip them with soft skills such as critical thinking to equip them with the ability to make a rational judgment and in the process stop the killings of elderly witnessed in Kilifi County (State) mostly by uneducated youths who accuse them of bewitching them, thus responsible for their miserable lives.

To achieve this, I founded Kickstart Kilifi. My training in project management and ethical leadership ended in December 2017. And since coming back home in mid-December 2017, I’ve been sharing my skills with my community. And as of 2019 Kickstart Kilifi had trained 85 youths in various soft skills and 46 of them are now in gainful employment courtesy of the skills, we equipped them with, while others have gone back to school.

Liz: What does service mean to you?

Henry: The act of helping others who are not in a position to repay you either in monetary terms or materially, but in the end, your acts leave them with happiness.

Liz: How can people get involved?

Henry: You can follow us on Facebook and Twitter and on our website.

We are also currently in dire need of Kes 192,588 ($2,000) to pay Kenya Power and Lightening Company (KPLC) to connect our newly built learning space with power. Towards the end of the last year 2019, we got a grant that we were able to build our learning center and one toilet on the donated piece of land by the local community. The only challenge we’ve now is getting it connected with power so that many youths can continue benefiting from the skills training we offer. To donate, visit us on Paypal at

Liz: Do you have a favorite quote or piece of advice to leave us with?

Henry: When “I HAVE TO” become “I WANT TO” that’s where the magic to ending school dropout begins. (Tutors’ Food for thought).

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