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Focusing
on a positive impact

Meet the Faces of Africa’s Next Economy: An Interview with SOS Children’s Villages Alumnus Paul Njoroge

By Peter Monk, 2018 J&J Secondee

SOS Children’s Villages International Technical Training Institute in Kenya

When I first learned about the Johnson & Johnson Secondment Program, I knew it was something I had to do. I was enthralled with the idea of using my skills as J&J employee to build the capacity of our partners who are active on the front lines of health. Working with SOS Children’s Villages International has been an incredible opportunity to support an organization with an important mission and a cause close to my heart – empowering young people.

As part of my Secondment, I serve as a Youth Empowerment Coordinator. I share my knowledge and transfer my skills to SOS Program Coordinators across Eastern and Southern Africa, supporting them in strengthening young people’s care, development, employability, and entrepreneurship skills to enhance their entrance into the working world and independent life. Over the course of the last six months, this work has taken me across the entire continent, from South Africa for team meetings, to Zambia for a youth congress, to Kenya to visit the Technical Training and Institute, and back to Ethiopia, where I’m stationed. Better yet, it has exposed me to incredible professionals at SOS Children’s Villages who have taught me the ropes of working in an ever-evolving nonprofit, helped me appreciate a variety of perspectives, and motivated me every day to make a daily difference in the lives of the young people we serve.

It’s hard to believe that in just a few short weeks I’ll be wrapping up my time here and making my way back to the U.K., trading in Ethiopia’s eternal sunshine for rainy days. As I return to being an Executive Account Manager at Janssen EMEA, my J&J colleague Tanja will start her Secondment with SOS Children’s Villages International in Austria as a Communications Advisor to YouthCan!,a global initiative launched in March 2017 with partners including J&J, which supports disadvantaged young people to successfully manage the transition from school to independent adulthood. I wish Tanja the best — embrace the challenge, but also remember to enjoy it!

Before I go, I wanted to share with you a glimpse into the very real, everyday impact that SOS Children’s Villages has on communities and individuals throughout the world. And, in particular, how they provide young people with the skills to recognize their value and power in this world.

Paul Njoroge, an alumnus of The Next Economy, has felt the impact of SOS Children’s Villages firsthand. The Next Economy empowers young people across Nigeria, Mali, Mali, Somaliland, Somalia, and Kenya to unleash their talents, build their confidence, and hone the skills they need for a successful career in a job or as an entrepreneur. 

In honor of International Youth Day on August 12, learn more about Paul and his experience in this interview. I hope you take away from this a new commitment to be that role model and support for the young people in your life, helping them to realize their full potential. As an individual, and on behalf of J&J, I am honored to have a hand in shaping the leaders of tomorrow. 

Meet Paul Njoroge, an alumnus of The Next Economy

Peter: Can you tell us a bit more about The Next Economy and how you became involved with it?

Paul: I came to SOS Children’s Villages when I was three years old. I don’t remember much about my childhood, except that it was magical. And I know that I was lucky to have that experience because I was here. I’m not sure if I would have had a childhood like that, or opportunities like The Next Economy, had it not been for SOS Children’s Villages, so I do not regret a moment of it.

I participated in The Next Economy from August 2017 to April 2018. The program is split into several phases. It begins with an orientation and three months of life skills training, during which you learn about essential skills like saving money. After that, participants get to choose between two tracks: the employability or the entrepreneur track. I chose the employability track, so I spent an additional three months learning more about the job market and preparing myself to be an ideal job candidate.

Peter: How has The Next Economy made a difference in your life?

Paul: I have a part-time opportunity with DHL Global Forwarding. It’s a great working environment, and I’m hoping to turn it into a more permanent role with the support of SOS Children’s Villages.

The Next Economy provided me with a variety of hard skills that I didn’t possess before, but it’s the less tangible things that have been truly most valuable and life-changing. For example, participants on the entrepreneur track get an opportunity to pitch their novel idea, and participants on the employability track get an opportunity to pitch themselves to potential employers. Back then, I couldn’t speak in front of people publicly. But this experience, and the feedback I received, really instilled a sense of confidence in me. It showed me that people are interested in learning more about me, and working with me, and that I do indeed possess the qualities and abilities to make it in this world. 

Before I participated in the program, I was a bit of a hopeless person who wasn’t sure where my path in life would go and what I’m meant to be doing. Now, I’m ready to take charge of my life, and chart my own course forward to a bright future.

Peter: With the skills and experiences you’ve acquired, what aspirations do you have for the future? 

Paul: I love writing books. So, ten years from now, my long-term goal is to set up a non-governmental organization that will help kids like me to share their voice out in the world. I would love to give them a platform and opportunity to bring out the creative ideas they have through writing. I know that there are so many people out there, like me, who have the potential but don’t have access to the opportunity. They can’t express themselves. One day, I will change that.

About the Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact Secondment Program

Johnson & Johnson Global Community Impact invests in people on the front lines of care as they change the trajectory of health for the world’s most vulnerable people, their families, and their communities. We are inspired to help create a world where people, no matter their circumstances, have access to quality health care. The Secondment Program is a long-term collaboration between Johnson & Johnson, our employees, and our NGO partners to invest in and build the skills of people on the front lines of care in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Through full-time field assignments of up to six months, Johnson & Johnson employees transfer their knowledge, expertise, and passion to our partners at the heart of delivering care, uniquely give back to society, and change the trajectory of human health. Learn more here.