Raising a young achiever is no mean feat
It took a week for Karen Wanjiru Kimani to design and put together an outfit made out of re-usable carrier bags.
For days, the then five-year-old would forgo playing with other children and instead stay in the house cutting and meticulously joining fabric during the August holidays last year.
Two months later, she would strut on a runway, showcasing her ecofriendly outfit as part of Little Miss Kenya modelling contest. Her efforts paid off as she emerged winner in the environment category.
At six years, Wanjiru has exhibited great interest in environmental conservation and prowess in modelling.
The young girl, who has been running an innovative eco-project on reducing, reusing and recycling (3Rs) waste is set to represent the country at Little Miss World Festival in Spain this October.
“I would like people to know that when they do not properly dispose of waste, it will eventually end up in our rivers. This will hurt aquatic life, such as fish,” she says.
Her mother, Ann Njeri, says seeing her daughter’s enthusiasm in pursuing her talents gives her an overwhelming sense of pride.
She has been supportive of her daughter’s interests and encouraged her to pursue them. Njeri says being there for her talented daughter has taken a huge amount of sacrifice and hard-work.
The mother of three noticed that her lastborn child showed great creativity when posing for photographs.
“She effortlessly posed well for photos. Some people who came across her photos on social media thought she had been trained to do the same,” says Njeri.
The young girl was also keen in keeping the environment clean. “Wanjiru was conscious about properly disposing waste.
After eating, she would tidy up. She would get worked up if her elder brother and sister littered the house or carelessly threw waste away,” Njeri adds.
She remembers how excited she was to see her daughter’s interest in modelling. “As a young girl, I had dreamt of either becoming an air hostess or a model.
Unfortunately, I ended up giving up on these dreams since my parents could not afford to enroll me for further education to pursue these courses,” she recalls.
Wanjiru’s interest in conserving the environment may have been influenced by her mother, who works as a cleaner in the environment department of the Nairobi City County.
The girl would occasionally accompany her to work and got to see her doing clean-ups that entailed unblocking sewers and collecting waste.
For her passion in modelling, Njeri enrolled her for classes in August last year. She accompanies her mother every Saturday from their home in Embakasi to UpperHill.
The mother realised supporting her child’s talent came with immense financial demands.
“We paid Sh5,000 to enroll her for modelling classes. Commuting every weekend and buying her outfits were other additional costs,” she says.
Now that Wanjiru is one of the Kenyan contestants in the international pageant that will have participants from over 30 countries, the financial demands have become more.
To take part in the competition, Wanjiru requires about Sh600,000, costs including, air travel, visa processing and accommodation. The amount is to be footed by her parents and not the conveners of the event.
Meanwhile, Njeri recognises she has to be deliberate about helping her daughter balance between her talents and her studies.
Fortunately for Wanjiru, most of modelling practice is done during weekends and holidays, thus it does not interfere with her studies.
As for her eco- friendly project, she does it as part of class activities in school.
Njeri’s priority is to raise a healthy and all rounded child by encouraging her to pursue her interests and reminding her to enjoy her childhood.
She works together with Wanjiru to set goals. This includes setting time for her modelling practice or deciding what to do for her eco-friendly project.
Once the goals are set, the parents’ role shift to helping her achieve these goals by providing what she needs and holding her to account.
As days draw close to the Spain contest, Njeri is worried that her and Wanjiru’s father, a counsellor, maynot raise the hefty amount on their own and that their daughter’s dream of representing the country in the international pageant may be short-lived.
She appeals for financial support from the public adding that, when Wanjiru goes and flies the Kenyan flag, it will be a moment of pride for not only her, but for the entire country.