An Interview with Shamira Lukomwa, Former CFK Intern December 3, 2015 by Carolina For Kibera
CFK strives to make connections with students, both in North Carolina and in Nairobi. Luckily for us, Shamira Lukomwa, UNC graduate and former CFK volunteer, got to know CFK both at UNC and abroad.
As an undergraduate at UNC, she studied abroad in Nairobi through the School for International Training (SIT). During one of their program excursions, her class visited Carolina for Kibera and was shown around the community, stopping at some CFK points of interest along the way. Her knowledge of Nairobi, Kibera, and CFK—even for a short time—made her a competitive candidate for an internship in CFK’s U.S. office.
Now, she’s come full circle once more. After graduating from UNC in 2015 with a B.A. in Global Studies and Communication Studies, Shamira moved back to Nairobi and began looking for jobs. From the beginning, she had her sights set on PAWA 254, a Kenyan organization that blends art and social change advocacy, championing what they call “artivism.” Now she works there full time!
We caught up with Shamira recently, asking her to reflect on her time at CFK and her new life in Nairobi. Check out our conversation below!
CFK Staff: How and why did you get involved with Carolina for Kibera?
Shamira Lukomwa: I heard about Carolina for Kibera in passing during my early years at Carolina, but was formally introduced to CFK while studying abroad with SIT in the fall of 2013. I remember being amazed at how much impact the organization has in Kibera, particularly with the Tabitha Medical Clinic and the Lishe Bora Mtaani Nutrition Centre, and feeling extremely proud to be a Tar Heel. Unfortunately, I missed that year’s fellowship deadline (since I was still abroad). But as luck would have it, I stayed in Chapel Hill that summer for an internship and in the process got to meet the Chapel Hill CFK team. I expressed my interest in CFK and they offered me an internship!
CFK: What led you to choose UNC over other universities?
SL: I applied to a lot of universities—14 to be exact—and all but one were out-of-state (I’m originally from Georgia). UNC was one of the few universities I visited that instantly felt like the right fit. Additionally, I was offered the Covenant Scholarship, which, in conjunction with external scholarships, allowed me to graduate debt-free. I am forever grateful to the Covenant Scholarship because it gave me the freedom to pursue an unconventional post graduation path.
CFK: What made your post-graduation path unconventional?
SL: While a lot of my friends ended up relocating nationally for graduate school or work, I decided to relocate internationally without the pull of a job offer or graduate school acceptance. I know it seems wild to some (my parents are partly in that camp) but I wanted the experience of working and living in East Africa. So here I am, navigating and loving life in Nairobi!
CFK: While you were interning at CFK, what projects did you work on? Have those helped you get where you are today?
SL: During the first half of my internship, I mobilized the fellowship campaign and marketed that opportunity around campus. During the second half, I focused on managing the logistics of the annual Soccer Clinic, did a little bit of design work, and learned more about using CRM tools. At CFK, I was encouraged to explore my interests and given the freedom to work in a variety of capacities. I also learned that I thrive best in smaller organizations, where I can have a personal relationship with each of my colleagues. My experience at CFK shaped what company culture and industry I sought out while job hunting.
CFK: Relocating to a different country—on a different continent—can be daunting. What influenced your decision to move to Kenya?
SL: As cliché as it sounds, my study abroad experience was truly one of the best experiences of my life. Less than a month into my program I knew that I had to make my way back to Kenya. My program gave me the opportunity to travel throughout the country, but I enjoyed my time in Nairobi best because of the connections I made and the sheer amount of creativity this city produces. I was offered a summer position to lead experiential learning programs in Uganda and Kenya through Operation Groundswell and instead of returning to the States, I decided to stick around and try my luck at job hunting.
CFK: What has surprised you the most about living and working in Nairobi?
SL: That I haven’t been able to find Sriracha anywhere! I’m (partly) kidding. On a serious note though, I think I’ve been surprised at how small Nairobi starts to feel once you get to know people.
CFK: What has been most meaningful about volunteering with CFK and working for PAWA 254?
The most meaningful part of both is definitely getting to meet the people that have been positively impacted by both organizations. There is something special about being a part of an organization that helps others reach their goals—whether those goals are academic, professional or socioeconomic. Since relocating to Nairobi, I have met so many people who have benefited from CFK in some way. I meet and work with beneficiaries of PAWA every day. Knowing that my time contributes to the success of these efforts, even in some small way, makes it all worth it to me.