Joel Macharia has become something of a mainstay at Compassion Kenya, joining in 2004.
“Some tease that I’m like a piece of furniture that’s always been in this place,” he admits.
Yet unlike furniture, he’s certainly not idle.
Since 2010 Joel has served as Country Director of Compassion International in Kenya. Before that, he held different roles in an audit and finance capacity. One of Joel’s underlying goals in life it to never stop learning, and he’s certainly proved that through his ongoing education.
Joel holds an MBA from Daystar University, a Bachelors of Commerce degree from the University of Nairobi, a post-graduate diploma in human resource management, and is a CPA (K). Currently, he’s in the final stages of completing a master’s degree in organizational leadership at Africa International University (graduating in July 2017).
We spoke with Joel about his time at Compassion and the way he sees his diverse country.
Joel, you’ve held a number of different roles here. How has your background helped you in your leadership?
Being well-versed in finance and accounting, I’m always looking for the most efficient, most empowering ways to utilize resources. As an auditor, I looked to manage risks and keep things on course. Yet now, as a people manager, life isn’t quite as structured and linear.
When you’re interacting and dealing with people, things aren’t as clear-cut as numbers! However, my background has helped me drive toward optimizing resources — not just finances, but the most important resources, our staff members.
Tell us about some of your favorite days at work.
My best days at work are the days I get to interact with the kids and young adults in Compassion’s programs. These young people have so much potential! Through partnership with the local church, Compassion has been able to tap into this potential. Their life trajectory has changed! Their potential is being unleashed!
The best wealth a country can have is their human capital.
We’re investing in the future wealth of Africa by investing in the children – and there are plenty of children across Kenya. In fact, recent figures show that of the 45 million Kenyans, 21 million of those are under 18. That figure alone to me is hopeful!
Wow! Can you tell us more about Kenya?
Well, what I can tell you in part depends on what you already think of Kenya or what you know about Kenya.
I watch how Kenya is portrayed around the world, and I think when most people think of Kenya, they think “safari.” They think of the iconic savannas and big game. Of the Maasai tribe with their traditional clothing and dances. And of course they think of marathon runners!
In fact, once while traveling in the United States, after finding out I was from Kenyan, a woman asked me if I was a marathon runner. I can tell you I do run – but not as fast as the many decorated Olympians we have in Kenya!
However, that’s obviously not the whole story. I try to remind people to not limit Kenya to a single narrative. There’s a narrative perpetuated by the media, but they don’t give the full story. Like any society, there’s both good and bad.
I hope when visitors come to Kenya, they see the richness and diversity of our country. Sadly, yes, we do have slums. But we also have beautiful countryside and savannas. We have those living in abject poverty, and we also have citizens living in wealth. Innovation and technology are booming in Nairobi, our capital city. There’s a lot of inequality – but that’s part of the growing pains of any developing country.
What excites you about what Compassion is doing in Kenya?
Like I mentioned earlier, Compassion, in partnership with the local church, is helping unleash the potential of thousands of youth. We are a vibrant ministry! We focus on the full transformation of lives. We want to see young people ready for life and for work.
Through holistic development, we can speak into their whole beings. We can encourage them to become good world citizens as well as prepare them to pursue educational training aligned with their true gifts and talents.
We empower young people to “think outside the box.” When they’re leaving school and joining the labor market, there may not actually be enough jobs out there. We remind them they don’t have to just pursue jobs. They can create them! Our children are growing up in interesting times with a wealth of opportunity and information.
We have more than Compassion alumni in Kenya who are already making a difference. And with Joel’s leadership and the hard work of the staff at Compassion Kenya, that number of alumni will continue to grow and transform a young, diverse country.
Be sure to follow #compassionbloggers as Jamie Ivey, Sophie Hudson and Shaun Groves take a pilgrimage to learn more about Kenyan diversity and the children that we serve there. Check out their stories at CompassionBloggers.com.