Last week, the Staying Alive Foundation received some very sad news. One of our very first grantees, Dennis Kimambo, founder of REPACTED passed away.
I remember back in 2007 when I met Dennis for the first time with Georgia, (the Staying Alive Foundation’s Executive Director). We were at REPACTED’s tiny office at the Nakuru Players Theatre, in Kenya. The Staying Alive Foundation had given REPACTED their first grant a month earlier and we were overwhelmed by the enthusiasm of the group. They didn’t have much experience but what they lacked in that, they more than made up for in energy and passion! REPACTED was in fact the first ever SAF grantee that received a visit from SAF staff and that day we believed more than ever that we were right in supporting youth led groups such as REPACTED. It is what the fight against HIV needed (and still needs!) more than ever: passionate young people such as Dennis who believe that working within the heart of the community can make a true difference in stopping the spread of HIV amongst their peers.
REPACTED were awarded a 3 year grant in June 2008 and they expanded their activities to work in prisons. This wasn’t easy to start with but Dennis, together with his co-founder Collins, managed to convince the prison governors to allow theatre performances in the prisons. This resulted in many prisoners not only learning about HIV but also taking the vital step to get tested. Georgia and I visited REPACTED again in April 2011, just before their SAF grant ended. As their Grant Manager, I had always closely followed their progress but to see their development with my own eyes was mind blowing. Their performance in the Nakuru female prison was amazing. I’m so proud that the programme continues today, not with funding from SAF but directly supported by the prison services! REPACTED served as a star model for other SAF grantees – funded for four years, taking part in the training, and finding sustainable funding to continue their work after their grant with SAF came to an end.
Dennis left REPACTED as a staff member in 2009 as he firmly believed the organisation should stay youth-led. But he stayed on as a Board Member to continue to give support and guide the organisations. As he was establishing himself as a consultant to other NGOs, we invited Dennis to a grantee training workshop in Tanzania in February 2010 to help train other grantees in the monitoring and evaluation of their activities. All the grantees there loved Dennis because he understood exactly the kind of situations and challenges they were facing with their own organisations. Again, Dennis inspired us to do something new with our SAF programme: we asked him, a former grantee, to be a mentor to new grantees. And Dennis being Dennis, he immediately agreed and gave up a lot of time and energy in mentoring two organisations in particular: Afyaafrika and HAPEP both based in Narok. Both organisations’ leaders have told me repeatedly how valuable Dennis’s mentorship has been and that they will miss Dennis a great deal. Today, based on Dennis’s leadership, we have many former grantees who mentor new grantees.
Thanks to Dennis’ tireless energy to continue to stay engaged with the Staying Alive Foundation programme, I had the chance to be in regular contact with him and get to know him a bit better. He was a true example to his fellow Kenyans and youth and I know that Dennis’ legacy will continue through REPACTED and the many organisations that have had the chance to work with him over the years. My thoughts and those of all SAF staff will be with Dennis and his family this week, when he will be laid to rest. Rest in peace Dennis, we will miss you.