Raphael Obonyo is a renowned author and a youth advocate who has worked with reputable global organizations, including the United Nations (UN) and the World Bank.
In a profile published by the UN, Obonyo narrated his journey from Korogocho slums in Nairobi, where he was born, to sitting on the World Bank’s board.
Due to the harsh realities of poverty, Obonyo was determined that education would someday unlock great possibilities for him, which is now a dream come true.
”I was the fourth child in a family of nine, and we all lived in a single room with our parents. My dad was a cook at the University of Nairobi. He walked 10 km to and from work daily to support our large family.”
”From an early age, I knew that education would be my only route out of poverty and hence took my studies seriously.’’ He stated.
His hard work paid off when he emerged as one of the top students in KCPE in the year 1995. He proceeded to Dagoretti High School through support from well-wishers as his parents couldn’t afford secondary school fees.
Things were not easy for him at school due to financial differences between him and his peers. Obonyo revealed he was quietly jealous during visiting days as his schoolmates would receive goodies, yet there was none for him.
”Many of my classmates were from wealthy and prominent families, unlike me with meager possessions that included donated secondhand uniforms and small change for pocket money.’’
”Frequently, I was sent home for nonpayment of school fees. During visiting days, I watched with envy as fellow students were visited by relatives clutching big shopping bags filled with food and goodies. ’’ He added.
Despite the struggles, he performed well and was admitted to the University of Nairobi. His life took a different turn when he bagged a Master’s Scholarship to study public policy at Duke University in the United States.
The scholarship enabled him to take advantage of global opportunities. In 2012, he was selected among 16 youth across the world to serve on the United Nations Habitat’s Youth Advisory Board (YAB) and was later nominated as a special adviser.
Through the role, he traveled to different countries around the world, spoke in forums, and shared platforms with presidents and other global leaders.
He also served on the boards of international bodies such as the Global Diplomatic Forum and the World Bank’s Global Coordination Board on Youth and Anti-Corruption.
As a way of giving back to the community, Obonyo engaged in training young people from Korogocho on entrepreneurship, filmmaking, and journalism.
”After training, we help teach the trainees how to access capital to start small businesses. The initiative is helping to improve living conditions and reduce poverty amongst the youth.’’ Said Obonyo.