From Small Beginnings to Grand Visions: Discovering Purpose in Our Passions

May 31, 2024


Dorcas Odhiambo Onyango

Senior Communications Officer

Isabel Mwendwa Radoli

Communication Officer


Briefly introduce yourself.

My name is Hillary Ongili, the fourth child in a family of five. My academic background is in business administration and Counselling Psychology. I am also an enthusiast for mental well-being. Currently, I am a Procurement Officer in the Operations Division.

Tell us about your journey at APHRC.

I joined the Center in September 2019 as an intern in the Facilities and Administration Department, which works closely with procurement. During my six-month internship, COVID-19 struck, resulting in the suspension of our temporary contracts. To make ends meet, I had to find alternative tasks. Luckily, I managed to continue my internship for two months during the pandemic, distributing masks, sanitizers, and gloves and assisting the security team with cleaning duties.

After my internship ended, I was home for two months. Fortunately, I was called back to work as a steward with the NESCO cleaning team for six months. I thereafter transitioned to my current role in procurement.  

How has your experience been working at APHRC, and what do you enjoy most about working at the Center?

So far, so good. I have met incredible individuals who have not only propelled my passion for advocacy but also taught me different perspectives on life. I treasure and enjoy the interactions with #IamAPHRC team members. Being surrounded by brilliant and resourceful colleagues and having an environment that supports me has fostered my growth.

Who is Hillary beyond APHRC?

Beyond APHRC, I am the founder and director of the UNSPOKEN, a platform for mental wellness and youth advocacy. I am also a transformative speaker.  

Tell us more about The UNSPOKEN; what inspired you to start it?

Many people struggle to open up about their mental health issues, leading to anxiety, depression, and other mental health problems, which can also affect physical health. Within families, poor mental wellness can impact everyone. Recognizing this, I felt compelled to be part of the solution, leading to the creation of the UNSPOKEN.

Over the years, I have partnered with various organizations, including Kamiti Maximum Prison’s Juvenile Division, where we hold round-table discussions and evangelism sessions on the last Saturday of each month. These interactions have revealed that many convictions stem from family conflicts and the lack of father figures, resulting in delinquent behavior. As a result of our partnership with the prison system, there have been increased acquittals, and these young men have become our mental health champions.

Our work has not been without challenges, one of which has been fundraising and resource mobilization. To meet the resource gap, we are currently exploring partnerships with Kenyan universities to engage with young people through the university health clubs. Family and friends have also beefed up my personal resources to keep the initiative up and running.

What do you enjoy doing during your free time?

I enjoy catching up with my friends and the people I love.

If you were to meet someone famous, who would it be and why?

I prefer the term influential instead of famous, and yes,  I have already met her: our Executive Director, Catherine Kyobutungi. She is smart, outspoken, fearless, humble, and the epitome of servant leadership. Her ability to influence every room she walks into is quite admirable.

Parting shot?

I firmly believe in the transformative power of openly discussing mental health and creating safe spaces for expression. We break down stigma and isolation by sharing our stories and vulnerabilities, fostering belonging and understanding. We offer support, ignite hope, and inspire positive change through these safe spaces. Let’s continue to uplift and empower one another, making a difference in people’s lives.