A passionate environmentalist, Michael Khasindu has so far planted over 5,000 tree seedlings and inspired many school-going young people to love and protect nature. He has also been able to reunite some street children with their families while voicing community concerns to local leadership and community engagement forums. Through various community education events, many people have been empowered with knowledge about their rights and responsibilities and how to demand good leadership and accountability from local leaders. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of an awareness campaign, he has been producing reusable facemasks and distributing them for free to those who can’t afford them.
Back in 2011, I had the rare opportunity to travel by road from Nairobi, Kenya to Durban, South Africa and back on a 41-day long journey with a group of over 180 young people from at least 18 countries worldwide on the We Have Faith Climate Justice Caravan to attend the 17th session of the Conference of Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC/COP 17). While we had lots of fun along the way, our caravan’s purpose was to raise the voices of young people in calling upon world leaders to reach a binding agreement that would compel nations to take decisive action to mitigate the effects of climate change and target resources to support mitigation efforts. You can watch the Road to Durban: In Pursuit of Climate Justice documentary.
One of my compatriots on that journey was Michael Khasindu from the Kenyan border town of Busia. Michael fondly referred to as “Vuvuzela” because of his vocal nature, is a passionate young change agent and a member of the Busia branch of the Young Men’s Christian Association and the Kenya Youth Climate Network. Since then I have come to know him as an active citizen who is intentional in participating and promoting the involvement of others in the affairs of his community. This passion and commitment led him to establish the Rudi Foundation in July 2012 as a local organization to advance the work he loves to do. “Rudi” is a Swahili word meaning “Return”. So, in essence, he is encouraging people to restore the basics of community life, environmental care, human rights, peace and social justice.
Khasindu advocates for good governance in the community, especially for the effective delivery of services to the most marginalized in society including street children, prisoners and rural dwellers. He promotes the respect of human rights, climate justice, peacebuilding, health education and campaigns against gender-based violence that is rampant in his native Bulanda Village in Township Division, located in Matayos Constituency of Busia County, where poverty levels are high, and most people live from hand to mouth. This has resulted in the majority of young people being unable to access higher education, girls being forced into sex and marriages at an early age and boys engaging in drug and substance abuse. Access to cheap alcohol and drugs from neighbouring Uganda has contributed to ruining the lives of many young people.
Through advocacy and awareness-raising activities such as social media campaigns, posters, events, festivals, sporting competitions, Rudi Foundation is reaching out to communities with messages of change. “I want to be part of the solution in my community. I want to be the voice of those who are afraid to talk or do not know how and where to address their issues. I am optimistic because we are beginning to see some little changes,” says Michael about his decision to become a social change advocate. These activities mainly target young people, street children, inmates at the Busia GK Prison Korinda and community members.
Rudi Foundation runs several initiatives which he estimates to have directly benefitted at least 2,000 people, so far, and many more indirectly. He feels the community appreciates the works he is doing but reckons that he is unable to meet the ever-increasing community expectations, especially concerning the lack of funds to reach more people.
Inspired by the challenges he went through when growing up in Bulanda Village, Michael chose to empower young people and contribute to addressing some of those personal challenges so that others would not have to go through them. He mobilizes the support of dedicated volunteers and other grassroots community organizations who sacrifice a lot to help with the running of his activities.
A passionate environmentalist, Michael has so far planted over 5,000 tree seedlings and inspired many school-going young people to love and protect nature. He has also been able to reunite some street children with their families while voicing community concerns to local leadership and community engagement forums. Through various community education events, many people have been empowered with knowledge about their rights and responsibilities and how to demand good leadership and accountability from local leaders. During the COVID-19 pandemic, as part of an awareness campaign, he has been producing reusable facemasks and distributing them for free to those who can’t afford them.
One of the challenges he faces is interference from local politicians who feel he is exposing them and putting them at the risk of losing their seats. Coupled with the lack of funds, this creates a stumbling block in his efforts to continue effectively with his work. He relies on limited resources and what the foundation can raise from well-wishers to implement the activities; while trying not to be put down by the politicians. “Many people in our communities are suffering but fear to talk so they need someone who can voice their problems. Most of them lack information but when taught are willing to use the knowledge they acquire to help themselves and their families,” reflects Khasindu.
Through community outreach activities and campaigns, he is empowering more people to stand up for themselves. “It feels good when you see what you advocated for being addressed and people coming back to you happy and appreciative of your efforts,” he adds. Michael hopes that this inspires others to realise that everyone can do something, however small, despite how little the education or resources they may have.
Going into the future, Michael is focused on continuing with his community-level projects hoping to expand their scope and reach, whenever he’s able to attract more resources and support. He acknowledges the magnitude of the challenges that need to be addressed and calls for the intervention of each and everyone in the community.
To connect with Michael Khasindu, reach out to him on P.O. Box 216-50400 Busia, Kenya or on telephone +254 720 249 685. You can also drop an email to email@example.com or like the Rudi Foundation Busia Kenya Facebook page.
This story was written pro bono by Nelson Opany as part of his Communications Volunteering Series during the COVID-19 public health emergency to give a spotlight to grassroots organizations creating positive change in communities across Africa. Nelson is a Public Relations and Communications Management professional and a Scout with a passion for volunteering. (firstname.lastname@example.org). Additional editing by Ray Saunders, an Information and Knowledge Management consultant based in Geneva, Switzerland.