Meet Hassan, a journalist for Aunua Africa based in the boisterous and bustling city of Nairobi, Kenya. Hassan’s journey is a story of drive and determination, highlighting the youth of today’s ability to succeed and follow their ambitions regardless of any obstacles they face along the way.

Growing Up
Hassan was born and raised in Northern Kenya, a region of the world known for its arid terrain and exposure to extreme equatorial heat. For this reason, this area is especially susceptible to the detrimental effects of climate change. Hassan’s father is a pastoral farmer, a form of farming which focuses on producing livestock such as cattle. As a result of the climate emergency, Hassan’s father, a successful farmer who once owned approximately 150 cattle, is now left with just 5 cattle to support and sustain his family.
Due to the uneconomic state of the land, the government does not prioritise this region and basic services like healthcare and education suffer as a result. For example, it is estimated that as little as 27.2% of primary-school aged children are enrolled in education in Northern Kenya (Scott-Villiers et al., 2015). Nevertheless, Hassan was lucky enough to be able to attend Macci Primary, a primary school owned by the Catholic diocese of Isiolo. From a young age, Hassan was dedicated to his schoolwork and remained top of his class when he went on to attend Macci Secondary School. Hassan dreamed of attending university one day, however, he knew this dream would never come to fruition if he remained in Northern Kenya. Hassan’s parents were unable to support him financially due to large university fees and as a result, Hassan set off for the capital, Nairobi, in search of greener pastures and the hope of a better future.

Moving to Nairobi
Upon arriving in Nairobi, Hassan found himself living in the Kibera slums, the largest slum in Africa and the second largest worldwide. Suddenly in a new city without his family, Hassan struggled to cope with his new reality. Hassan described life in the Kibera slums as being built upon“insecurities, on fear for survival and on long forgotten dreams”.

He lived on one meal a day, not knowing from where or when he would eat again. Residents lived in constant fear of being evicted in the middle of the night while also living in conditions which caused a variety of health concerns such as the slum’s lack of a working sewerage system. Despite the struggles and challenges he faced here, Hassan worked hard and kept a strong sense of hope during his time in the Kibera slums.
Hassan was eventually put in contact with Bomas of Kenya, a cultural centre located 6 miles outside the city of Nairobi, where auditions were being held to recruit new artists. Having worked extremely hard for his audition, Hassan became one of the only students from Northern Kenya to succeed in the performance arts industry in Nairobi. Hassan recalls the CEO of Bomas of Kenya, Ahmed Hussein Quresh, telling him “young man, you have tried your best. I have never come across a Northern Kenyan student so eager to take risks. Welcome to the performance arts industry.”

University Life
This experience provided Hassan with the means to finally fulfil his dream of attending university. After completing a diploma in public relations, Hassan went on to graduate from St. Paul’s University with an upper second class honours degree in communications with a specialisation in development communication. Hassan’s determination, hard work, hope and willingness to step outside of his comfort zone allowed him to access opportunities he would not have been exposed to otherwise. One of Hassan’s hopes for the future is to study for a masters degree in communication studies at
University College Dublin.

Life Today
After completing his diploma in public relations, Hassan was promoted to the position of research
officer in the production department of Bomas of Kenya, a position he still holds today. He also works
as a journalist for Aunua Africa and contributes greatly to the organisation’s success with his bright
and innovative ideas.
Hassan is extremely enthusiastic about Aunua Africa’s future and is particularly passionate about youth empowerment, mental health, and contributing to the overall realisation of the United Nation’s 17
Sustainable Development Goals. Hassan has a deep understanding of the different approaches taken by African countries in achieving these goals and hopes Aunua can help to realise these goals in a manner which appropriately
prioritises the needs of local communities.

Words of Wisdom
Having thrived despite his adversities, Hassan encourages today’s youth not to fear taking risks and to communicate their ideas to the world. Hassan’s story is an inspiring example of the popular quote by Walt Disney:
“All your dreams can come true if you have the courage to pursue them”

Scott-Villiers, P., Wilson, S., Kabala, N., Kulu, M., Ndung’u, D. and Scott-Villiers, A., 2015. A Study of
Education and Resilience in Kenya’s Arid and Semi-Arid Lands. [online] UNICEF. Available at:
[Accessed 23 February 2021].

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