The theme for 2019 came to Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin during a sleepless night in December. “It was after the new board orientation. Our board member Liza Jacobson advises Leadership Academy at Blue Ridge Elementary and told us that YWCA Mariposa girls are the core of that group. Leadership Academy students do service projects for their school, but these girls want to take it further, to serve their communities, to change the world,” said the YWCA Executive Director.
“Liza showed a video of the girls holding up cards they made to share their hopes and dreams for the future. I couldn’t stop thinking about these young women and how they are going places. These girls are on their way,” she said. “And that’s when it hit me that this could be our theme for 2019: On Her Way.”
With a theme like that, and knowing the YWCA mission is all about sending girls and women on their way to better lives, the obvious choice for a luncheon speaker would be a young woman on her way. This search didn’t take us far from home and in fact led us just over the Cascades to Faith Nyakundi. Faith is working on a master’s degree in International Studies at the University of Washington where she is focusing on two large areas: foreign direct investment between China and Africa, and transnational feminist activism. She hopes to go into policy and peace negotiations and to continue advocating for women’s rights.
A Whitman College graduate, Faith came to YWCA Walla Walla near the end of our centennial year to serve as Events Coordinator and a part-time DVSA Advocate. Her first event was the release party for our centennial book, INSPIRED. Before coming to Walla Walla, Faith spent the majority of her first 18 years in the Mukuru Kwa Njenga slums of Nairobi with her family of nine. With determination to change her life and her family’s, she worked to find opportunities outside Mukuru because of its lack of education resources and career opportunities. She was top of her class in the national primary school examinations, which gave her a chance to attend one of the best boarding high schools in Kenya, Precious Blood Riruta.
Getting into school was one thing; staying depended on being able to raise tuition. This was right after the 2007/2008 post-election violence in Kenya, and her family had just lost land which made up most of their income. She braved it anyway, and on her second term in high school, she was invited to apply for Akili Dada. The organization covered her tuition and school needs for four years.
By choosing to invest in this bright young Kenyan woman, Akili Dada put Faith on her way to a better life for herself, her family, and potentially the people of her country. Hear about her journey and her plans for the future at the 2019 YWCA Leadership Luncheon.
The luncheon will take place from noon to 1 p.m. on Wednesday, May 1, at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center. Registration begins at 11:30 in the hotel lobby.
If you’ve attended in the past, you can contact your Table Captain about tickets. We do have Table Captain turnover every year, so if you haven’t heard from anyone by April 1, please don’t be shy about calling the YWCA at (509) 525-2570. There are many lovely people we would love to place you with who would welcome you to their table. Tickets and more information is available on the YWCA luncheon website.