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My journey to Gabon for the Regional Competition: Noel Bonga -JA Kenya

I was a member of the team representing Kenya in the 2014 regional mini-enterprise competition, held in Gabon. The journey to Libreville began on the 31st of January 2014 with the team members being elected to the board of directors, with the mandate of steering the company forward. Over the next five months CKOSA Company came to life with the aim of alleviating the suffering of refugees as well as displaced persons, at a time when our nation was braving terror attacks. We felt the best way we could do this was through a product that could cater for a basic need hence the decision to make a sleeping bag. Along the way, we decided to tend to pollution in our immediate environment thus we partnered with a nearby processing plant dealing in the slaughter and distribution of poultry products. We made use of their raw waste, chicken feathers, by using them as the insulating material required to provide warmth and comfort. From then it was all systems go.  

 

I must admit, being the flag bearers was a dream come true. When we clinched the national title, against all odds, I personally hit cloud nine. What an honour. I think that my excitement largely stemmed from the fact that prior to this, I had never flown before let alone owned a passport! On the eve of departure we were so thrilled, we literally pulled an all-nighter. Our psych levels were at an all time high. Unfortunately, the vehicle carrying most of our luggage broke down on the way to the airport. As a result, only our patron and one of us managed to check in on time. My enthusiasm gradually faded into despair. The dreams I had been entertaining all year seemed to be drifting beyond my reach with every passing minute. We spent close to ten hours at the airport. It was quite boring, not to mention tiresome. It was heartbreaking to watch each other’s excitement waning as the hours dragged by. Our sole consolation lay in the fact that at least one of us was already in Gabon, holding down the fort for the rest of us.  We had begun to lose hope of attending when an opening came up in the evening flight. This reignited our zeal.

 

I was a bit nervous about the journey as I am usually prone to motion sickness when travelling by road. I feared I would get nauseous in the course of the flight, especially during takeoff as well as after the meal offered by the airline. Thankfully, all of the flights I took went perfectly well, with no discomfort whatsoever. We arrived in Libreville in the afternoon, on the second day of the competitions. We were warmly received by J.A. Africa officials at the airport and for this I am grateful.  It was a joyous reunion for our team. We hit the ground running as we had to finish setting up our stand. With no time to spare, we took our luggage to our rooms and immediately went to work.

 

 

Only when we returned to our rooms afterwards did I take time to truly appreciate how excellent they were. The accommodation lived up to and even surpassed my expectations. For me, the highlight of that day was the dinner with His Excellency the President of Gabon. I never thought I would be in a position to say I shared a meal with a President in my youth. These are experiences we only dream of, and even then, we dream of them happening twenty years into the future.

In the course of the competitions, I received cultural education. From the Gabonese traditional music, attire and dance, to the cuisine, to the blend of African languages and accents represented there. I enjoyed interacting with participants from other countries and learned a word or two from each of them. I was a little nervous about the presentations at the time, but looking back, I feel that we gave it our all. The hike through the forest was refreshing, especially after the interviews with the judges.

 

The anxiety returned during the awards dinner. Honestly, I could barely eat. We came in third place, though not the desired position but our result all the same. The J.A. experience has taught me the importance of teamwork, faith and over all the belief in the beauty and attainability of one’s dreams. I am thankful to J.A. Africa for your efforts in making our trip memorable. You really outdid yourselves and I feel I cannot appreciate you enough. Keep up the good work! 

 

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