According to their website, “Ndoto: For Africa’s Future is a holistic, Christ-centered community development organization that works in the Obunga slum in Kisumu, Kenya. We aim to give at-risk youth a chance to dream for themselves, their community, and the kingdom of God. We accomplish this through education, discipleship and development.”
Allison Schlak, the founder, was born in Texas, US. She got her Bachelor’s in Entrepreneurship but decided to go to Africa for mission work. And so in 2003 at the age of 22 years old she went to Kisumu City in Kenya with only a picture of her potential host and the rest is history. Though she has been back and forth between the US and Kenya to complete her graduate degree and work for a while, she has dedicated her life to work with young people incorporating into their education a great love of God.
In an exclusive interview with Inspire Afrika, Allison uncovers her trials and successes throughout this profound journey.
Inspire Afrika: 22 years is a pretty young age to leave home for such a big vocation. What was the response from your friends and family?
Allison Schlak: Though my parents were reluctant sending me out to a foreign land, as any responsible parent would be, they let me go. It was a calling from God. Not to mention I have always been a risk taker and though it took a while to convince them, they are now my biggest supporters. My friends have also been integral in my success and have accepted that this is my passion. Most have visited me in Obunga to see the work I have been doing and help out.
IA: What is your motivation?
A.S: My motivation is definitely my love of Jesus Christ. As I said, NDOTO was my calling. And I’m also quite ambitious so I’d say that has also contributed towards my drive in life.
IA: Where do you see the organization in 10 years?
A.S: We have big dreams for NDOTO! First of all we would like to take the work we’ve managed to achieve in the Obunga slum and replicate it somewhere else, preferably somewhere near so that we can have the core team to be on hand to help. Afterwards we would like to spread farther, especially to the Northern part of Kenya which is currently in need of a lot of help.
IA: Why Kisumu City?
A.S: I had already visited other parts of Africa like the South and so I wanted something new. I decided on Kenya and got to Kisumu city as my contacts in Nairobi were not coming through. I couldn’t be happier though. I feel like I’ve made a greater impact here because around the time I came to Obunga back in 2003 it wasn’t receiving a lot of attention in terms of outside help.
IA: What advice would you give to young Christians who are interested in following the path you have taken in life?
A.S: This is a question I often get. Firstly, you must have a sense of humour because when you are in another culture you are bound to make mistakes that seem obvious to the locals and they will tend to laugh at your folly so it would be better if you can take it all in stride and laugh it off. Secondly, one must have true passion for what they are doing. Without it, you will not be able to have a lasting impact on the people you are trying to help. Thirdly, be a learner. You will make mistakes. Don’t act like you know everything. If you ask, people help you much more. Lastly I’d say that if you choose this path, you will inevitably have problems so DON’T GIVE UP.
IA: Any parting shot?
A.S: Having stayed in Africa for the time I have, I have come to learn a lot about the people here especially in Kenya and one thing I can say is that it isn’t the sort of place the world has painted it to be. I have been able to dispel the misconception about corruption especially with my colleagues in Kenya. We call ourselves “Team Ndoto” because we are dedicated to collectively providing what I call “Jesus and Jobs” for these young people in need. I certainly could not have done it alone and I am forever grateful to my friends both in Kenya and America who have seen me through.
To find out more about the NDOTO initiative visit their website www.ndoto.org and connect with them on Facebook at facebook.com/ndotoforafrica and Twitter @teamndoto.
*NDOTO is a Swahili word meaning “dream”.