Keeping Hope Alive in the Face of Uncertainty Posted on 03/02/2024 by Dorcas Odhiambo Keeping Hope Alive in the Face of Uncertainty February 3, 2024 CONTRIBUTORS Caliph Kirui Research Officer VIEW PROFILE For some, the name Caliph Kirui may ring a bell; for others, not so much. But, if you are an X (Twitter) enthusiast, you probably remember seeing this picture online. In this month’s highlight, we bring you the story of Kirui, one of perseverance, hope, and taking bold steps in an uncertain time. Briefly Introduce Yourself: My name is Caliph Kirui, and I am an early career researcher in the Chronic Diseases Management Unit (CDM) at APHRC. My academic background includes a Bachelor’s degree in Microbiology and Biotechnology from the University of Nairobi, a Master’s Degree in Public Health from Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, and certification in Monitoring and Evaluation. What’s Your Story? When I completed my undergraduate degree from the University of Nairobi in 2014, I was optimistic that the milestone would open doors for me to kickstart my career. After months of job hunting, an opportunity opened up at a pharmaceutical company as a medical sales representative. However, three months later, I felt I needed to pursue a new challenge. I applied for a Master’s in Public Health at JKUAT and successfully enrolled in the program in 2015. During this period, I developed a significant interest in health research. However, despite applying for jobs and seeking opportunities in different research organizations, I was not successful. I ended up taking temporary jobs to survive. With time, things became difficult, and as a result, even my studies were affected. Regardless, I pulled through and finally graduated in December 2022. Did Things Get Any Better After You Completed Your Master’s Program? After graduating, I hoped to turn a new page in my career. Within one month, I made 120 relevant job applications and walked into 43 institutions seeking an opportunity to serve. Unfortunately, none bore fruit. On January 30th, 2023, I decided to change my strategy. I did a placard showing my qualifications and my appeal for a job, spent my only remaining fare from Juja to Muthaiga, and walked to UN Avenue in Gigiri in the wee hours of the morning. With hope and faith, I held my Head and placard high on a busy junction for two hours—a complex and mentally demanding task. How Did You Encounter APHRC? My encounter with APHRC began in 2023 and is one of ‘pieces falling in place at the right time.’ My story went viral online, and my phone couldn’t stop ringing. I received job offers, messages of encouragement, and negative feedback, but I knew what I wanted, and nothing could hold me back. One of the calls I received was from the Executive Director of APHRC, Catherine Kyobutungi, and an avid X (Twitter) user. She had encountered my story and empathized with my situation, asking me if I would be interested in an internship opportunity at the Center since there was no open position then. After a day of weighing my options, I reached out to the Executive Director and expressed my interest. She linked me to the Head of the CDM unit, and within three weeks, I was invited for an interview, which I did successfully, and I commenced my three-month internship immediately. At the end of the internship, I worked as a field interviewer in one of the Center’s projects for a month, and after that, I got a new contract as a temporary research officer for three months. A month into the new contract, after an assessment and recommendation from my supervisors, I finally got the chance to serve as a regular employee at the Center. Looking back, I am grateful that I made the right choice to take up the APHRC opportunity. What Does Your Work Entail at APHRC? In my current role, I support research activities in the Food Environment Policy Action project, which aims to create healthier consumer food environments in Kenya by generating evidence geared toward food labeling and marketing policies. I also work at the Center’s laboratory, which provides appropriate support to various projects. What Do You Enjoy Most About Your Work at the Center? The work environment is amazing, full of mentorship, supportive colleagues, and innumerable opportunities for learning and growth. It is impossible for a determined and disciplined person to fail at APHRC. I am grateful for the chance that APHRC gave me to prove myself and contribute to the Center’s goals. What Do You Do In Your Free Time? I enjoy spending time with young children, checking on friends and family, and writing poems during my free time. Parting Shot? Keep hope alive.