Immaculate Ajiambo considers books as her favorite companion. She also loves cool music, writing, poetry, and storytelling. She describes herself as an educationist.
‘I’m a 21 year old incoming fourth year undergraduate English and Literature student in Moi University. Born and bred in Mariakani, Kilifi County and partly in Nairobi. My childhood was very adventurous; my siblings and I received everything we asked from our parents. Our television was only switched on for cartoons such as Tom and Jerry, Scooby Doo, Johnny Bravo, Club Kiboko show and the news. We received storybooks as presents. It was easier to carry the books to school and floss about them unlike our friends who got toys and they could not bring them to school. I then went to Alliance Girls High School which molded me into the woman I am today. It taught me the value of time, friendships and books. My spiritual life was also taken care of.
I run a program called ‘Thamani Books’ which is a reading advocacy group. The name Thamani is Swahili word for treasure. We work towards improving quality of education and reducing illiteracy in the society. It started last year and it has a team of 15 people who are self driven, motivated and passionate about books and education. Our activities are book donations to schools, letter writing to students in high schools, mentorship, tutor volunteering, book sharing and organizing reading and writing sessions in schools. We have five schools in our program.
‘Thamani books’ was an inspiration from my mother who sacrificed a lot in order to buy books for me and my siblings. Most academies usually burden parents with purchasing story books, revision books and course books and my mother was not spared either. I thought of those who went to public schools where books were scarce, libraries were non-existent and their reading ability was wanting and started sharing my books with children in my neighborhood. Frankly speaking my mother created space in her house for our small library and that was motivating.
My greatest source of motivation is God. He has been exceedingly good to me. My mother is also an inspiration. She is always there, encouraging me, reading my writings (although some conflict with her beliefs) and even praying for me.
I really enjoy speaking different languages. I studied French from primary school until form four with some additional French classes at Alliance Française. As for German, I tried grasping some basic words back in high school so that I could get close to Eunice Mwabe (she was my high school icon) and I’m glad I interacted with her even without fully mastering the German language. Being multilingual has opened doors for me to meet and interact with people during cultural festivals and forums such as La journeé de lâ francophone. My recent engagement was being a speaker during the 2017 Moi University media week on multilingual journalism. I admire John Sibi-Okumu, the man of many hats. He is famously known for being the host of ‘Zain Africa Challenge.’ When I listen to John-Sibi Okumu’s French I get bamboozled. I consider his English as royal.
My journey with ‘Writers Guild Kenya’ started when I was in my first year at the University back in 2014. Actually it was through my brothers and friends William Dekker and Francis Omondi. Dekker told me about the platform but I felt as if I was not ripe and Francis took me into the house. I was very quiet in the whatsapp group not even posting greetings and afraid of even attending the cocktail events that used to be there. Gabriel Dinda, the C.E.O came to my inbox and engaged me personally. I found myself telling him how I won the 2012 Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s readers contest senior category. He told me that I had already started my mission and what was needed was to shape and sharpen the art if I wanted to be like the female writers I admired. Voila! I am no longer the shy girl but a brave lady.
The Mwangaza magazine which I am part of is run by Moi university catholic students from MOMAGATA (Mombasa-Malindi-Garissa-Tanzania). We publish online magazines for the youth because we believe that they are the light of the world.
My favorite books include;
I will marry when I want by Ngugi wa Thiong’o
Devil on the Cross by Ngugi wa Thiong’o.
A man of the people by Chinua Achebe
The Last Villains of Molo by Kinyanjui Kombani
Purple Hibiscus by Chimamanda Adichie
Coming to Birth by Majorie Oludhe
Weight of whispers by Yvonne Owuor Adhiambo
Africa 39 which is a tome that features top 39 African writers and foreworded by Wole Soyinka.
I have also been working with MUHACU (Moi University HIV/AIDS Control Unit) in sensitizing people about the new HIV infections and reducing stigma among students living with HIV/AIDS. As an abstinence ambassador I preach about purity of love and safe sex because the truth is that our generation is sexually active.
I work with Campus SHE as a ladies mentor. Campus SHE is a foundation that brings girls together for empowerment purposes. It creates an environment they can freely share their challenges, encourage one another, collectively generate income to support them, learn morals and build personalities, find warmth in each other and extend a helping hand to the society. The organization runs in Moi University. The whatsapp group keeps our connectivity close during the long holidays.
Currently, I’m working with Mwangaza magazine to come up with our issue four magazine and Horizon Publication for our issue two magazine.
I love challenges because they help me grow. My email inbox is a testimony of this. I have applied for many opportunities and I can conclude that the ratio of acceptance to that of rejection is 1:7. I have failed a lot. I have been down there where I felt as if I was losing it. The grace of God has kept me. Family and friends have stood by me too. My mentors have also been around to hold my hand, let their experiences teach me and given me opportunities.
African youth are irreplaceable. We are energetic. We are creative. We have mentors and opportunities existing left, right and centre. All we have to do is to open our eyes and identify where we fit in, then move there and work to transform our society. We fail because we want instant results. Our patience is low and we have to work on that as the youth.
There are so many writing platforms depending on a person’s passion and writing niche. I believe that all the platforms carry the same mission of growth. Therefore, the writer will be able to network and share his/her writings. In order to achieve this, the writer should be willing to take criticism positively. I would recommend active participation in;
- Literary journals and magazines by submitting articles when the call is on e.g. Kikwetu journal, Enkare review, Jalada, etc
- Literary prizes and essay contests such as Caine prize, Pushcart prize, etc
- Writers meet ups and workshops such as AMKA, Writers Ekklesaia by Writers Guild Kenya, RIP (Reading in Unusual places) organized by Tony Mochama, StoryMoja festival, Writivism festival etc
I hope for a brighter future. I envision myself impacting more lives to greater heights as a teacher and a mentor.
The women who inspire me in writing include Chimamanda Adichie Ngozi, Gloria Mwaniga, Boyi Evelyne Ongogo, Dr. Rose Opondo, Muthoni Likimani , Yvonne Awuor, Zukiswa Wanner, Panashe Chigumadzi, Mariama Ba’ and Majorie Oludhe.
My secret is prayer, humility and being real,’ she concludes.