Emily Epeti Miki is a positive and purpose driven community developer based in Cameroon.Orphaned at 13 and forced into adulthood at that early age,she learned to transform her stumbling blocks into stepping stones. She founded Denis Miki Foundation to help children who have walked in her shoes and many more doors opened up to her when she secured a Mandela Washington Fellowship in the USA in 2017. She is today one of the top 10 Positive African Women(#10PAW) we celebrate on women’s day.In this interview,she tells us more.
1- Tell us about yourself.
Emily is the Founder/CEO of Denis Miki Foundation, a nonprofit organization working to develop poor and underdeveloped communities through capacity building, education, talent promotion and wealth creation. As an Associate Fellow of The Royal Commonwealth Society, a World Pulse Voices of Our Future Leader and the Female National Peace Ambassador of NewSETA-NED REPAIR, she has a vision to connect women and girls to their capacities, engage them in community and volunteering activities, build vibrant, gender equitable communities where all can realize their full potential. As a social entrepreneur she works to reduce poverty, hunger, unemployment, inequalities, improve health and education through economic empowerment, mentorship and coaching. She currently facilitates capacity building trainings, women and youth empowerment trainings, community and rural development outreach programs. This projects and programs have increased impact substantially and have impacted over 7000 youths, 1500 women and has made it possible for her to receive invitations to facilitate more trainings through partnership with other organisations.
2-You made it to the list of distinguished leaders selected for the Mandela Washington fellowship,2017. What do you think made you stand out above your peers?
I think my realization of the following projects through Denis Miki Foundation made me stand out. Presently, I mentor young Cameroonians and Africans on starting their own ventures, and sharing best experiences and methods on how to grow and scale those ventures to impact those in their communities, countries and the world at large. and I am working on expanding impacts of some of the programs and projects abroad;
- Power Up Cameroon project where we provided Solar Electricity to villages in Cameroon without electricity.
- VacAware project which provides up-to-date information about vaccinations, their importance for a healthy lifestyle and disease prevention.
- CrArts 4 Keeps project to promote Crafts and Arts work of local individuals in International markets through skill acquisition, training, production of Made In Cameroon craft products and marketing to an international market.
- Share The Love project ;a charity program to empower orphans and less privileged children in rural and urban poor communities through education, training, mentoring and charity outreaches to orphanages.
- Women Empowerment programs through Digital Empowerment training on how to use computers in our Rural Android (RuDroid) Women program and Financial Empowerment training.
- Food 4 Health farm projects to grow healthy organic foods, create job opportunities for widows and orphans to provide a livelihood for their educational and nutritional needs.
- Community Engagement programs to fight against HIV/AIDS by involving young people as peer educators.
- Civic engagement by encouraging individuals to register and participate in local and national elections and advocacy campaign for the reduction of voting age from 20 to 18 in Cameroon.
- Skills acquisition training and financial empowerment seminars to create entrepreneurial mindsets and fight poverty.
3- What was your take-home from the fellowship?
The Fellowship was a platform to connect young African leaders like myself to the right people and companies to increase the impact of our work. The value the Fellowship has added to my work is immeasurable. I was able to meet with U.S citizens, Cameroonians in the Diaspora and other fellows from Africa with shared visions and ideas and with whom I am looking forward to working with in the future in implementing innovative solutions to problems. Examples of this include; the recent sponsorship from the National Seed Fund for our Food 4 Health program through a 2017 Cameroonian Fellow Thierry Kammi, partnership with Women in Alternative Action in the fight against Child Marriage in Cameroon and collaboration with the U.S Embassy American Corner at the University of Buea, Cameroon on career orientation. The Fellowship exposed me to new best working methods and solutions to community problems I have been working to address. The impact of the Fellowship to me is going to be long-lived as I am currently closing new partnership with Invictus Institute, USA to provide quality education for orphans and less privileged children in Cameroon. I also recruited new Volunteers in the U.S for my organisation and more in Cameroon after my return home. The Fellowship also made it possible for me to create partnership with my host Institution for winter volunteer programs to Cameroon. I am also currently working with Children’s Hunger Alliance, Ohio to implement a Food Bank project in Cameroon and with Black Swamp Arts Festival, Bowling Green to launch a yearly Arts Festival in Cameroon.
Q4: Tell us a bit more about your journey so far?
On the 30th of December 2013 I took on a journey and started Denis Miki Foundation in memorial to my father Denis Tamufor Miki who had passed on on the 30th of December 2002. Then 13, my world fell apart when he left us with nothing to hold onto but ourselves. Anyone who knew us, knew we were not going to make it. I can’t count how many times people stopped me on the road saying how sorry they were that my mom had died after my dad and they were not available to attend the funeral. With intelligent minds and committed spirits my 8 years old younger sister and I took on ourselves responsibilities some 50 years old cannot handle.
Empowered by our faith in the Lord, my sister and I succeeded to raise money for our education from friends, relatives, holiday jobs and scholarships. Now by His grace, we got out of the rat race and Denis Miki Foundation is a platform to help other children, youth and women who are in situations they can’t find their way out of, so they can get the right support to step out.
DMF runs a development initiative aimed at providing practical life and vocational skills to under privileged young people and women so that they can create their own employment or acquire skills which can enable them secure jobs. I managed to overcome this challenge by empowering myself on how to run and make a successful nonprofit by taking free online courses and training on how to mobilize the community, raise funds for social projects, how to build grant proposals and projects. And today with what started with no background knowledge in the management of NGOs and finances to run projects Emilia through Denis Miki Foundation has been able to impact the lives of over 7500 youths, 1500 women and 10 rural and urban communities
6- What motivates you?
My life story and the poor people I work with in the rural and urban poor communities my work takes me to. A strong desire to help them come out of poverty is what motivates me.
7- Your greatest success story?
Starting up a nonprofit in a family and community who knew little or nothing about NGOs, how they function or the sacrifices you must put in the first few years to run projects and gain grounds was a major professional accomplishment for me. Starting up without a franc CFA and being a student at the time who had to fend for her own school fee; I had to overcome a lot of financial and personal obstacles. And with a family that depended solely on me financially and who placed demands here and there , trying to realize my vision at Denis Miki Foundation (DMF) meant learning how to handle pressures. Multitasking taught me the meaning of responsibility.
8- Any future plans?
Yes. A lot of them. I am presently trying to open offices of DMF in some African countries like Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda. I am also presently working on launching our Vac Aware project in Uganda.I will be working with some 2017 Fellows at my host Institute during the Mandela Washington Fellowship and other partners.
9-What are your hobbies?
My hobbies are singing, dancing, watching movies and being around the people I love and cherish.by