Me with Samit Gehlot, Intex's Managing Director

Me with Samit Gehlot, Intex's Managing Director

I didn’t know what to expect. In my mind’s eye, I visualized Lagos, bustling with familiar smells, sound and energy; then, South Africa, it’s tall buildings and amenities nearly indistinguishable from North American infrastructure; then, Rwanda, billows of red dirt and lush terrain as far as the eye can see. Upon landing, I was excited to discover that Nairobi was a wonderful amalgamation of all of these things. I craved the familiarity of my home country, Nigeria, but I wanted the challenge of adapting to an unfamiliar environment.

During my first two weeks at Intex, I had the opportunity to observe the culture of the organization and the different functions of the company. I learned that it was a highly successful family business; the father of the now-CEO started this company from the ground during the start of his career. When I asked him to what he attributed his success, he simply said, “You have to be hungry.” You could say that this became a motto of sorts through the difficult days ahead after the scope of my project was unveiled. My CEO presented me with three problems that he felt I was best suited to solve through the duration of my time in Nairobi.

First, create a new strategic plan for the school in Machakos. As the recipient of Intex volunteering and philanthropy, Lanzoni School needed to create a set of strategic priorities. Samit (Intex’s Managing Director) and his team identified that there were a variety of academic and functional concerns, but this plan would allow them to sequentially identify their actions, which was particularly important due to my limited engagement.

Second, I was prompted to find a solution to what was often considered the “sanitation problem” at the same school. Students had access to only two bathroom stalls, which presented a limitation in the number of enrolled students.  

Third, I decided to create a system for logging and analyzing data. Intex’s need to quantify results was a barrier to receiving funds and donations from both domestic and international prospective partners.

After a few days of work, we took a trip to go see the students, where I became even more dedicated to their cause. In their faces, I saw a desire for learning that resonated with my experience as a father to my own children, Kelechi and Adaeze. How fervently would I work on behalf of my own children, who often beg me for “one more” bedtime story or a Saturday-morning trip to the library? I imagined that each of these students, clad in their maroon sweaters were my own children. I was honored this summer to have worked on their behalf.