Rita Lugogo / CHOICE Kenya Director
Rita was born in the southern part of Italy in a town called Terrlizi near the city of Bar. Being 100% Italian is a large part of who she is, although her family immigrated to the United States in 1952, they were never allowed to forget, by her parents, that they were true Italians. Outside the home was American culture, but inside the home everything was Italian. This blending of the two cultures is what has enabled Rita to be truly international.
After graduating from the University of Connecticut with a B.S. Degree in Biology, Rita joined the Peace Corps and went to Kenya for the first time in 1969. She has been there ever since! With the sole exception of returning to the US in 1993 to successfully get her Ph.D. from Virginia Tech University in Human Nutrition and Foods, she has maintained her residence in Kenya.
During her time while working with the Peace Corps, she met her husband, Juma Lugogo. They chose to make their home in Kenya. Rita has never regretted this decision. Rita and Juma (who has since sadly passed away) are the parents of three lovely children, Njira, Mwana, and Bebago, all of whom are very successful adults today in their chosen fields.
In 1996, Rita joined CHOICE Humanitarian and has been working with the rural communities of Kinango ever since. Her main goals have been to improve education and to reduce the poverty levels in this area. Kinango is considered one of the highest poverty levels in the country. In her position as CHOICE Kenya Director, she is very active on many school boards. She has been influential in the improvement of the infrastructure of many schools. Indeed, her efforts have helped improve the academic performance of many children.
Rita also helped to establish a microfinance organization (Yehu Microfinance), based on the Grameen Model, which has enabled rural women to access credit to start a business, increase their income levels and help to pay school fees for their children. This very successful program continues to this day to help the rural poor. To date, Yehu Microfinance has a membership of over 40,000 women and continues to grow and expand!
Rita has dedicated her life to the development of the underprivileged in Kenya. As CHOICE Kenya Director, her position allows her to do what she loves best—help people help themselves. She thinks of herself as a facilitator of dreams and gets huge satisfaction in knowing that there may be somebody out there whose dream may have come true because of the assistance of a CHOICE program. What keeps her going and why she would never consider working for any other organization is the knowledge that she and her CHOICE team have and continue to make a difference in the lives of those to whom they serve.
Oreu Kasanju / Chief Financial Officer / Expeditions Coordinator
Charitable, poet, author and aspiring documentary filmmaker. That is how I like to think of myself. I was born in Nakuru, the headquarters of Rift Valley province in Kenya. I am blessed with a son and a daughter, who keep me and their mother smiling and aspiring for greater heights, not only for them but also for the society in which they live.
I have been educated in three continents. After graduating from Lenana High School in 1995, I proceeded to the USA, where I attained a BSc in Business Administration and Finance from Virginia Tech in 2000. Later I obtained a degree in International Studies from the Brussels School of International Studies in Belgium. All this education would help me with my work with CHOICE in eradicating poverty one person, one village, and one community at a time.
In 2001, I resigned my position with an investment firm in the USA and boarded a flight home full of confidence that by my hands I would make a difference in the lives of my countrymen to alleviate the underprivileged from the yoke of ignorance. I believed that if people had the knowledge they would make decisions that would bring them a brighter future and more rewarding experiences during their lifetime.
Sudi Mwakilesho / Health and Environment Officer
My name is Sudi Mwakilesho and I am a Mijikenda by tribe. I was born in the rural parts of the south coast of Kenya in Msambweni District, Kikoneni location, Chigombero village. I come from one of the prominent families in our village since my grandfather, and my father were religious leaders in the community.
I went to school at Kikoneni Primary School and I completed my high school education at Shimba Hills Secondary School. After graduation, I went back home to help my parents, who were peasant farmers, on their small farm.
I became famous in my village because I was a good footballer. Also, I am recognized in my community because I work for an international organization in the rural areas. They also know me as “FUNDI” because I build water cisterns in the community and pit latrines. I love working with cement when it comes to community projects.
I met my spouse through the work I was doing for CHOICE. I had been assigned to work in her village and now we have 3 wonderful children. My wife is very happy that I work for CHOICE as it brought us together.
What defines me as a person is the kind of job I am doing in the community. I initially volunteered for CHOICE for two years when they were starting its microfinance program, Yehu Microfinance Trust, and its Village Health Worker (VHW) training program. Later, I was employed as a community development facilitator. Yehu is my favorite program as it proves that development is possible only that it needs determination and direction.
I wanted to work with CHOICE Humanitarian because it took me from nowhere to somewhere. Also, my work with CHOICE was assisting me to help my community develop. CHOICE projects are a means of development and education for the community which empowers the community.
Through the ‘doing’ of the project/program, the community learns to help itself and to take control of its own development. This is because the projects/programs are community identified and not identified by CHOICE. This is why I like working for CHOICE, and what drives me to succeed in my life because of the job that I am doing and the positive impact it is having on my community.
Bevington Lenny Jumaa / Community Development Officer
I was born in the Taita Hills of the coastal region of Kenya. I am the firstborn in a family of 8 children. I am a family man married with 3 lovely girls.
I went to both primary and secondary school on the upper coast. I joined a government agriculture training institution and trained on General Agriculture and Rural Development. Later, I joined the Kenya Institute of Development Studies for a diploma course on Gender, Poverty, and Sustainable Development. I trained at Mashariki Africa Sports and Leadership School as a trainer for Youth and Children on Sports and Leadership.
I have worked for 14 years now as a social worker, and mostly in education programs, with various other organizations including, Action Aid International Kenya as an intern, World Vision Kenya in their education programs, Kenya Gatsby Trust as a field trainer for Livelihood Projects, Aga Khan’s COPDEC(Coalition for the Promotion of Early Childhood and Education) programs and finally with Committee International Support for the People (CISP - NGO) as the field coordinator. I joined CHOICE Kenya in 2013 and started working as an Education Project Officer.
I have a great passion for working with the rural communities and what motivates me most is the willingness of the people in accepting change and the way they are willing to work for the change that they desire. Change is gradual but with patience it will take effect. I like travelling, making new friends, socializing, singing, and dancing.
Eunice Mwahanje / Education and Gender Officer
Having been raised with nine siblings, Eunice faced many financial obstacles on her path toward education. After graduating high school on scholarship, she worked in a hardware shop for three years to pay for one year of education at Mombasa Polytechnic University College. Without money to enroll in the following year’s classes, Eunice borrowed notes from fellow classmates to continue learning.
Eunice’s friend suggested that she contact CHOICE Humanitarian for help. With a scholarship from CHOICE Kenya, Eunice received a certificate in Community Development and Counseling and went on to become a full-time employee for CHOICE. Her salary allowed her to attend Mt. Kenya University, where she received a diploma in Community Development Social Work. She now supports the education of her siblings and gives back to her community by implementing the CHOICE scholarship program in a way that impacts others’ lives as powerfully as it impacted her own.
I like CHOICE because it has nurtured me and given me the opportunity to work in my favorite profession as a community development worker. I like dealing with low economic people as I sometimes recall that I was among them. I have the passion to deal with less privileged people in the community and help them achieve their goals and get out of poverty.
Khamis Juma Kitenje / Human Resources and Administration
I live in Mombasa located on the coastal region of Kenya. I come from a humble background. I am the last born in my family. I have a wife, two boys, and a girl. My children are very important to me. They make me want to live up to my potential. They are the source of my strength that enables me to achieve success in all that I do.
After finishing my course in Community Development and Counseling looked for a job with a Non-Governmental Organization and that is how I joined CHOICE Humanitarian. I have also done a course in Human Resource Management and Industrial Relations which assists me in my day to day job on matters relating to staff welfare and management.
When I heard of CHOICE Humanitarian, I decided that I had to work with them because of the many good things they were doing in the community. I have always had a passion for working with members of our community in matters to do with development, awareness creation, and economic empowerment. People trust CHOICE and its mission and they have big dreams that they believe only CHOICE can turn into reality. I love being part of the change that we propagate in the villages and being a role model to the many young children that are born in these communities.