Ruhi Kamal Manek (Class of 2016): Advocating for Africa | Aga Khan Academies

Ruhi Kamal Manek (Class of 2016): Advocating for Africa

Ruhi Kamal Manek, an alumnus of the Aga Khan Academies in Mombasa and now a sophomore at Yale University in the United States, took away one enduring lesson from the Academy: the importance of engaging in thoughtful and careful consideration of diverse opinions. She explains that it was her time at the Academy that forced her to reexamine her old-world views and believes that her new way of thinking as a citizen of the world was borne of her stay in residence at the school:

“Living with people from so many diverse backgrounds helped me appreciate differences in people. This experience further helped me feel comfortable interacting with people from diverse backgrounds and diverse cultures at Yale.”

Ruhi was born in Nairobi, Kenya and grew up in the small town of Eldoret. It was her desire to learn and challenge herself more that made her apply to the Academy.

“I could not think of a better place to do that than at the Academy,” Ruhi states. “Being admitted to the school was the beginning of a transformative journey for me - a defining moment in my academic and personal life.”

The Academy places immense importance on meaningful public service. Ruhi participated in numerous voluntary undertakings but it was involvement in the annual school-based deworming program in the impoverished Bombolulu area of Mombasa that had a lasting impact on her. Under this program, school children receive an oral dose of deworming medicine designed to lower their risk of infection by worms and thus enhance their health and school productivity.

“The experience opened my eyes,” Ruhi says. “The thought that something so trivial as administering a few drops of medicine in a child’s mouth can transform that child’s future was inspiring to me.”

Involvement in this program inspired Ruhi in many ways. Watching the children joyfully engage with life forced her to reflect on values of humility, modesty and gratification:

“As I stood among the children, I felt as though my heart had grown twice as large, making space for these beautiful souls. I was filled with an inexplicable amount of joy as I marveled at the contentment and optimism around me. Despite the conditions in which the children lived and learned, they were radiating with happiness. I was in awe. The whole experience reminded me of a quote by the Buddha: ‘The cessation of desire is the cessation of suffering.’”

After this experience at the Academy, Ruhi continued her volunteer work at Yale. She is part of the TEDxYale team and helps to organize seminars and conferences. She is a member of Yale UNICEF and is involved in fund-raising efforts to make a difference in children’s lives globally. Committed to women’s rights regarding education and leadership roles, Ruhi also joined the Yale chapter of the Circle of Women, a non-profit organization “that educates, inspires and empowers women to become leaders and peacemakers.”

Additionally, Ruhi is involved in developing a wellness curriculum for a girls’ secondary school in Orkeeswa, Tanzania, which promotes the ideas that healthy students are better learners and that focusing on wellness now can produce huge intergenerational benefits.

“My first year at Yale has undoubtedly been enhanced through my participation in activities that I have long been passionate about,” states Ruhi. She unequivocally credits the Academy’s International Baccalaureate (IB) curriculum and the residential program for her growth and personal development. “My journey at the Academy was one of the most intense yet fulfilling growth periods of my life. I think it is safe to say that it played a key role in helping me develop the person I am today.”

When asked what her aspirations are for the country of her birth, Ruhi radiates determination. “I want to help redefine the way in which the rest of the world views my country, and more particularly the African continent. I want to be an active agent in ensuring that our stories are no longer told for us but by us.”

She is also determined to promote education in her country. “I want to tackle the issue of the lack of education. I value nothing more than the education I have been so privileged to receive and the many opportunities that have come my way because of it. I wish to help provide the same for as many people as I possibly can in my country of origin and beyond.”

By Perviz Walji

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