An Educators' Exchange in Nairobi, Kenya

Vision and Values

Ustahimilivu Dadas brings together North American and Kenyan women educators who are committed to healing and transforming our world through education for marginalized communities. We seek to foster international and cross-cultural learning between women educators and to support the development of Kenyan leaders. 

We also intend to shift dominant narratives about Africans, leadership, and women in leadership–intending for this shift to occur in all participants, both the Kenyan and the American. Finally, we hope to bring people together for learning, inspiration, celebration, and to cultivate resilience. We know that learning together, cross-cultural connection, and community make us stronger.

If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together

                                                                          -Lilla Watson, Aboriginal activist, educator and artist

We are committed to honoring the knowledge, experiences, and humanity of the Kenyan people and to ensuring that we do not replicate colonial or neocolonial mindsets or power relationships. We–on the North American side of this project–do not see ourselves as the beholders of the knowledge and resources that will save poor African children. We recognize that the history of East Africa, including the violence and exploitation of colonialism, as well as climate change, bares great responsibility for the suffering in Kenya. We, North Americans, as beneficiaries of a living in a developed nation, whose development has come as a result of exploiting other people, will go to Kenya with:

  • a spirit of deep humility
  • a commitment to look past the dehumanizing stereotypes of African people 
  • a willingness to listen 
  • and an intention to recognize and share the full humanity of the people we meet. 

At the same time, we also acknowledge that we must share what we know–about teaching, learning and leadership–and offer our insights and experiences in the hopes that our Kenyan colleagues can adapt this information to their contexts. We must be willing to listen and learn, and to offer what we know. 

The Organizers

Ustahimilivu is a project organized by Carol Owala of Kenya Big Picture Learning and Elena Aguilar of Bright Morning Consulting.

Carol Owala is a Kenyan leader. As a teacher, she pioneered groundbreaking methods of working with children with special needs; as a coach of coaches, she worked to share transformative adult learning practices; as a community organizer, Carol has organized a mothers’ sewing cooperative in the communities she serves. Carol is now leading Kenya Big Picture Learning–the first Big Picture Learning school in Africa. Having grown up in Kibera, one of Africa’s largest slums, Carol is dedicated to serving children in Nairobi’s informal settlements, children who have few opportunities to thrive in life if they don’t receive a quality education.


Elena Aguilar is the founder and president of Bright Morning Consulting. She is the author of The Art of Coaching, The Art of Coaching Teams, and Onward: Cultivating Emotional Resilience in Educators. Elena has spent a decade working in the field of adult learning and has worked with schools and educators across the United States and around the world.

Carol and Elena met in 2016 when Elena traveled to Nairobi to work with Dignitas, where Carol then worked. Elena wrote about that transformational experience in this blog, and this one, and this one. A personal and professional connection between the two women was made. In February 2018, Carol presented at the first annual Art of Coaching Conference. Inspired by the conference and their growing friendship, the two hatched a plan to bring American and Kenyan educators together. This plan became Ustahimilivu Dadas.