James Kimeu – Steering the Strathmore University Foundation
What is your ultimate goal in life?
To find purpose and meaning by doing positive things that impact others in society. It’s always important to do work that is meaningful and beyond the income you make. Do something that makes you feel challenged and want to get up every morning. Bettering others’ lives by your work and what you engage with every day, is what keeps me going.
How was the Strathmore Foundation established?
Before the Strathmore University Foundation was set up, we used to have the advancement office, which most of the higher learning institutions had a platform to fundraise, engage alumni, and do social justice work in society. Even before then, we used to have the likes of the founding fathers of Strathmore, who would raise money to help the poor. About five/six years ago, the University Foundation was set up as a company registered by guarantee fully owned by the University and for the purpose of facilitating resources to the University. This explains how we can be part of finding solutions that do not require students to pay more tuition or direct grant research funds, but rather money that can come from goodwill and can further the SU mission.
What is the impact of the Strathmore Foundation?
We have three strategic pillars with the biggest one being strategic partnerships. This involves collaboration in the University, from talking with Dean’s departments to various people on the campus as we grow initiatives together.
We are not the gurus of fundraising, so we give the opportunity and a platform where people can come, and share ideas. We partner with companies, entities, and trust organizations so that we can identify the common goal or shared value. The second pillar is teaching or encouraging philanthropy and fundraising in society. What does that mean to people? How can people participate? Sometimes, I think when people talk about philanthropy, giving and support, they think of WhatsApp groups, but it’s beyond that. It’s more to the core of your heart. Do you insert it in your monthly budget, so that every month you know, 1% of my income goes to charity? It’s a moment to teach, interact and engage.
The third pillar is the sustainability of the University. This is where we talk about major grand projects like the development of buildings and other infrastructure, and endowments, a gift that is continuous giving by investing a large sum of money and using the profits out of that.
Thirteen percent of Strathmore University students are on scholarships. Therefore, it is important for people to realize these are not strangers, these are people they know, the people they work with, study, live and eat with. This forms our goal and purpose: How do we bring the consciousness of being generous to the rest of the world?
How was the VC Run conceptualized?
Initially, the Vice Chancellor’s run was a Strathmore University Foundation idea. Somebody whispered to me and said, “Do you know, we could be the only University in this country that has a Vice-Chancellor who can run? What can we do with that?” And it became a challenge.
We saw this during the COVID-19 pandemic when a friend of the Vice-Chancellor Designate offered to run 100 kilometres in one day. We did the 100km run with Eliud Chemweno, who participated in the 2022 VC Run. We completed it in almost 14 hours and asked ourselves what we could do with this idea of running. We didn’t want to have just another marathon; it wasn’t about the medals or who wins the race. It was really a moment to bring people together for good cause.
How do you envisage the VC Run in the long run?
Last year, we had our first VC run. We planned it within a short period of time – three months. Afterwards, we had a lot of people saying we can push this to next year, and get it done better.
We had many, many challenges and learning opportunities, but had a successful run with more than 200 people joining us while the COVID-19 pandemic was still a thing.
This year, we started planning probably six months before. So far we’ve had more than 350 people donating and more sponsors than SUF has ever had in any event.
I would like to see Strathmore University Foundation and the University use the Vice-Chancellor’s Run as a moment to bring Kenya together and bring the international supporters to hear and know about Strathmore. This is a high-power event that can place Strathmore on the map as it has high visibility and attracts a crowd.
I look forward to the day that we’ll be raising 100 million and do so much good with our resources so that we can really change the lives of many Kenyans here and in turn impact their communities.
Who is invited to participate in the VC Run?
Anyone and everyone can participate in the VC Run. Strathmore was founded on the principle that all may be one. We continue to carry that with pride. We welcome people of all races, colors and different faiths, anyone with a heart of giving and who wants to do good in society. This is your platform.
We rely heavily on our students, staff, parents, and alumni because this is the closest family we can start with. And when your leader is running, it’s very hard for them to run well when no one is behind them.
What has been the impact of the VC Run?
I think the impact for us has been visibility as it has given us a platform to tell our tale. We have attracted other people who want to join us. It has also been a platform that allows other partners, especially industry players, to come on board.
There’s nothing more powerful in fundraising than the ability to engage stakeholders. It sends a positive message to other people who will be following us on social media and other platforms to learn what Strathmore University is all about.
How has the VC Run assisted needy students?
We have a very powerful program – Macheo that works with students from underprivileged backgrounds such as Kibera. We encourage these young people by telling them to work on getting good grades. We then work with them to figure out how they will get through university. These are students who know very well that their parents or guardians do not have the capacity to pay.
With the goodwill of everyone, we are able to get money allocated to some of these students. At other times, there are students who experience a misfortune, such as the loss of a parent or a business collapsing all of a sudden. We then come in to support the student. This has made a huge difference to families.
Every coin that we collect here goes to help a needy student who is either on campus or one who will be on campus in the coming years.
This article was written by Collins Kiprono.
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