I first went to Kenya in 2007 with a company called Accenture working on an eLearning program for nurses. Kenya quickly felt like home for me. I spent the next decade visiting Kenya on and off, learning more about its culture and specific challenges as a developing country. In 2017, while completing my coaching certification, I was inspired to do even more in this country that I had come to love. Taking what I was learning as a coach-in-training, I began to consider the challenging situation of many young girls in Kenya – mainly the challenge of early marriage and pregnancy, and thus the struggle of many girls to finish their secondary (high school) education.
As a coach, I recognize and embrace the value of having a clear “why” and vision for the future, and decided to try applying this to the situation these girls find themselves in. Many of these girls are told what they should want, be or do by others (teachers, parents, their community); rarely does someone ask them. They live in a very structured environment, with many things decided for them. The outside organizations that often come to help these girls focus on them as girls collectively, versus unique individuals with unique hopes, dreams and goals.
Using the approach of powerful questioning, I thought, ”What if someone asked these girls what they want? What if we were to take aim at their intrinsic motivation, and help them discover their individual values and unique purpose?” What first started as an experiment with a handful of girls at local high schools in Nairobi, quickly took flight and formally became, “Pads with a Purpose”, with the intent that they would begin to live their purpose.
Pads with a Purpose is a facilitated Vision Board Workshop, where girls use words and pictures from magazines to document and share their vision and aspirations for their lives. Through the responses from the girls who have participated in the program, and the responses of their teachers, principals, social workers, parents and others in the local communities, we see this approach working and having real, meaningful impact on the lives of these young women.
Since that first experiment in 2017, Pads with a Purpose has reached over 3,500 girls in Nairobi and surrounding areas. To date our impact has been through anecdotal feedback hearing from participants teachers and principals, etc.:
- “This event has led me to a clear realization of my dreams and goals in life and has opened a platform for hard work and never giving up hope. Thank you and God bless you.”
- “This event has helped boost my hope of becoming who I wish to be.”
We are now in the process of creating a more formal measurement and evaluation framework, including looking at the sustaining impact after 3 months, 6 months, etc.
I fundamentally believe in the power of coaching, and that the answers to our most challenging questions lie within each of us. I see our value as coaches to create a safe environment for others to explore their inner world, and that this can truly change the world. It is about shifting the typical approach of bringing outside answers to social problems, to one of bringing powerful questions and reinforcing the presence of innate potential in each of us.
Karen Bychowski spent nearly 20 years at Accenture, a global Fortune 100 company, specializing in change management, leadership development, organization effectiveness, learning & development and talent strategy; and has worked in over a dozen countries, across Europe, Asia and Africa. In late 2019 she made a transition to focus full-time on coaching, starting her own organization – C2B Coaching and Consulting LLC. Karen holds a BA from the University of Illinois and an MSIR from Loyola University Chicago. She is an ICF Certified Coach (ACC), and a certified facilitator of Gallup’s CliftonStrengths, the Accenture Personality and Leadership Profile (PLP) and the MBTI®.