Two decades of growth and changing lives
Jasmine Atieno @sparkleMine
They say opportunities come to those who are bold enough to knock, and Eunice Kibathi, programmes manager at Mpesa Foundation, knew this too well when she was first employed as a customer care representative at giant telecommunications company, Safaricom, 19 years ago.
She was just 22 years old, a graduate of Bachelor of Arts in Sociology and Political science at the University of Nairobi and working as a merchandiser at Biofood, Sarit Centre in Westlands when she heard that a new company just a few metres from where she worked was recruiting. This was an opportunity that would not slip through her fingers.
“I went to Safaricom offices and I was directed on how to apply for the positions.
In 10 days, I was called for an interview and in 15 days I got a customer care representative job at the company,” recounts the 41-year-old.
After six months, Eunice was moved to support centre for another six months where her role was to call back customers with solutions.
Her boss then recommended her to undergo a three-month retail training sponsored by the company in Mombasa.
“The training equipped me with knowledge on how to deal with customers face-to-face. In total, I worked at the customer care department for six years,” she beams.
Her six-year experience solving customers problems, she shares, was intense and humbling in the same measure.
“From clients who had genuine issues to others, who would just call in to intimidate us, I learnt the art of patience and the need to understand company products well,” she says.
So, when the Safaricom Foundation was established, Eunice, based on her experience dealing with customers was automatically requested to volunteer as a service provider for a while, and she agreed.
You see, being born and raised in a school set up, her father working with the Ministry of Education and her mother a secretary in her former secondary school, Kibutha Girls High School in Murang’a county, Eunice always shared food and personal effects with less advantaged girls at the school. Little did she know this was to later become her calling in life.
Through her voluntary work, she became a community champion. This caught the attention of her bosses and when the company introduced quarterly awards in 2003, Eunice was recognised as the Passion for the World Around Us award. She bagged this award unrivalled for all the five years she worked in the department.
As if lady luck was smiling at her, again in 2007, Eunice got another chance to further her career, “One day, I found a missed call from my senior manager, Rosemary Mtungei, requesting that I join her for a work trip to Wajir county in North Eastern Kenya.
The foundation had an ongoing project with ActionAid International, a non-governmental organisation in the region.
When we came back from the trip, I never went back to the call centre, I joined the foundation as an admin intern,” she recalls.
In March 2008, Eunice got confirmation as the Safaricom foundation admin assistant, a position she held for six months before being confirmed as the Safaricom Foundation projects officer.
Her star continued to shine as she was again promoted to a senior officer where she served for one and a half years before she was elevated to Safaricom Foundation Principal.
“By then, Mpesa Foundation had been established and I rose to programmes manager, Mpesa foundation,” she gives accounts of her growth at the organisation.
Dealing with customers through the years, Eunice intimates has not been easy, but being a believer that there is a lot of joy in giving, she wanted to be a part of the team.
“At the beginning, when I joined the foundation in 2007, we did a lot of philanthropy work, responding to the Kenyan needs without pillars per se.
With time, we saw a need for a better strategy. Pillars were reviewed based on facts and impacts in the society and we became more about impact and sustainability, more of empowerment to the community,” she says.
Eunice has been involved in countless community projects and created many memories.
One which she remembers most was in 2008, of a 70-year-old woman in Bomet county who offered her land to construct a two-roomed children’s home for orphans.
After the community heard about Safaricom Foundation, they reached out to them through a proposal.
Despite the fact that their support to the home was only Sh100,000, which was used to construct a posho mill to sustain them, the impact has been more fulfilling as Eunice has remained part of the children’s lives through the years, keeping up with their progress through school and life in general.
The greatest joy for the mother of three; two boys and a girl who are 15, 12 and nine years old respectively is the fact that she joined the giant telco when she was young and has grown with it.
“I am happy about the opportunity the company gave me when I was still young and the opportunities that still present themselves every day. I have grown also as a person.
There is still much more to be done and I am happy to be a part of this process,” she says in conclusion.