After my graduation from Daraja Academy, I was placed in an internship at Sweetwaters Tented Camp, a private wildlife conservatory and resort that many tourist visit when they are in Kenya. Life there was not a smooth road. Each and every day it had its own challenge.

One day I was working in the restaurant and was the only girl at the counter with two older men. We had a lot of guests and I was forced to join the waiters in serving. I was scared because it wasn’t something I had done before – in fact, I had never stepped foot in a five-star restaurant before showing up at Sweetwaters. I gathered my courage and made my approach to one table. On the way there I could feel a look from a guest that seemed to say, “We don’t need you. You are too small to serve us.” It made me shiver but I had a job to do. I stood as tall as I could in front of the table and asked for their orders. They looked straight at me and told me to call out for the other waiter who was a man. I’m sure they knew I was inexperienced and that I had never even eaten in a five-star restaurant. But everyone else was busy so they had to conduct their business with me if they wanted to eat at all. They gave in and ordered but not without the command: “You girl! Go fast. We don’t have all the time in the world.” I forced a smile and put the order in with the kitchen. The next table was extremely friendly and gave me the order with a smile, which was a great relief to me.

Daraja Academy student Lilian Nyambura

Sometimes I would be serving and one of the guests would take my hand and ask me for “after serves” – sex for a fee – which made me very uncomfortable. One day we had guests from the British army who sat around the counter ordering beer. They were laughing a lot and it reached a point they were all drunk and started describing my body shape. One of them said “Oh my! Look at that body I can’t resist myself.” I felt like the world could open and swallow me alive. I didn’t think twice, but went straight to the deputy manager who came and threw them out of the counter. They had no tolerance for this behavior and I was so relieved. It made me see that I am the “WISH” adult that my school taught me to be – a woman of integrity, strength and hope. I am no longer a shy girl. Maybe some of my peers back home would have thought me stupid for not accepting money – no matter how it was earned – but I know what I want in life and it’s not being used by men.

My internship was hard but I learned a lot. It made me grow wings to be strong and able to tackle any challenges, to stand up for myself, and to believe in myself. Smiling even though there is a rough road ahead and always having character that people can look up to helps me to always leave each day better than I find it. I see myself as unique with a mind that is open and ready to face anything, even to speak out so that I can help to make a change.