After completion of her ‘A’ levels examinations, Winter qualified to join university at home but couldn’t afford to go due to the financial constraints and the penury state her family experienced. Therefore within the 2-3 years after high school graduation, it was not easy getting a job as a high school graduate; she therefore resorted to doing more of volunteer work and community service with a girls’ high school based in the rural area and an NGO based in Nairobi. The experiences she received while assisting as a librarian at Bishop Okoth Girl’s high school based in Kisumu Kenya, were some of the greatest inspirations for this initiative as she also helped tutor and mentor the girls for a temporary tenure that she was accorded by the late Principal Madam Keny Were. Winter’s experiences as a volunteer secretary and assistant programmer at NGO that mainly facilitated the survival, protection, care, welfare and development of children in difficult circumstances and conditions in the neighborhoods in Kenya, heightened her passion for the children and the youths’ advocacies in the succumbed areas such as the slums and remote rural areas where she spent most part of her life while growing up. She therefore carried forward all these experiences with her and applied them and the associated skills when pursuing her college education and afterwards. While in college, Winter was engaged in building and inspiring activities within and outside the Thomas More College community and it's development. Engaging in leadership roles since first year of her matriculation until graduation as Tutor, Mentor, Resident Assistant, Orientation assistant director and student ambassador for the Admissions and Biology department besides participating in the Leadership Round-tables sessions that she got invited to by the President of her college and some of her professors, all these were great ways that did not only boost her growth intellectually, spiritually and socially but also were great ways to give back to the Thomas More Community at large. Winter savored the service learning programs such as the Habitat for Humanity, US-Mexico Boarders studies and volunteer judge at the NACKES science symposium that she fully participated on and off campus; great service learning trips and events that embraced great sense of community service.
Therefore after giving this vision quite some time to develop, it also occurred to Winter that for a society to grow, develop and be enlightened then we must all join in the empowerment of both the Girl-Child and the Boy-Child. Leaving the other party out would only jeopardize the progress of a community, nation, continent and the World. Many societies and nations from around the world suffered or are still succumbed to the social injustices such as gender inequality due to the pervaded male chauvinistic attitude that percolated these societies. In order to fight a major issue such as gender inequality, we not only need to empower the young girls and women but also enlighten the young boys and men through educational forums and mentorship and show them how to be responsible people in the society and how they can contribute to the greater development of their communities, embracing unity, respect for both genders, dignity and integrity among other values. Therefore after detailing all the thoughts and connecting the dots together, besides sharing with a couple of friends and family, in the end the program was renamed Pamoja Kenya Mentorship Alliance (P.A.K.E.M.A Initiative) and was launched on Facebook social media on the 7th July 2012. Having this launch via the media was a great way of sharing this vision with the rest of the world and most importantly spreading the awareness about the need for strong and committed mentorship in our societies, most importantly to help enlighten and empower the children and youths of our nations. This was also one of the best ways to build the audience and find those who were passionate about this mentorship movement and were ready to pay it forward to their communities through the powers of mentorship and networking.
Winter says "I put God first in all that I do and I believe that to some this may seem a goal too big to evoke some laughter, but I believe that at the end of the day it’s the every and very single steps that we make will help us move forward to one day realize the P.A.K.E.M.A Vision. I believe that we are headed there every day. May God Bless this journey and all those involved in its progress. Any support accorded to us will go a long way to helping brighten the future of Africa and the World through Girl-child, Children and Youths empowerment via quality education and strong and committed Mentorship. Please join us in this journey. Thank you in advance for the support!
Winter Okoth is currently ORISE research fellow participating in malaria research at the U.S. Food & Drug Administration and a recent Class of 2017 Masters of Science graduate at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health with focus on Malaria Research and also champions in global & public health.. She is also Thomas More College graduate with a Baccalaureate degree honors in Biology Pre-medicine with a concentration in Cellular & Molecular Biology and an associate degree in Chemistry, class of 2012. Upon graduation, Winter participated in Amyloidosis & Protein Misfolding Research at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and achieved her first scientific publication as a co-author in the Journal of Liposome Research in 2013. Ms. Okoth is also Harambe Entrepreneur Alliance Associate Class of 2013, member of the Association for Women in Science (AWIS) and Diaspora African Women Network (DAWN) and a contributing author on Project Eve Blog. Winter was born in the Huruma slums of Nairobi Kenya and spent her childhood and youth in the slums and remote rural areas of Nairobi and Kisumu cities, Kenya.
The Pamoja Kenya Mentorship Alliance (P.A.K.E.M.A) Inc. initiative was established in 2012 as the ultimate extension of the first program also designed and founded by Ms. Winter Okoth in January 7th 2011 as a Mentorship program whose main goal was to reach out to the Girl-child in the slums and remote rural areas through collaboration with the identified schools. Mentorship goals were meant to encourage the girls especially touching on areas such as the academics, social education, leadership, empowerment and girl-child health & care among others. As a testing phase for the project, she started by reaching out to the young girls at her former high school through the help of some of her former teachers who are still teaching at Gagra Secondary School.
This program was inspired by the experiences that she received while pursuing high school education at the above school, which is a mixed day school. There are so many challenges that all the students were succumbed to such as lack of enough educational necessities but the girls were at a greater disadvantage when it came to education pursuance because of the norms that had been imposed by so many cultures, that the place of a girl-child is the kitchen and getting married-off. These practices somehow affected the Girl-child educational progress and prowess and some of them either just came to school for the sake of it and others lost HOPE in most of the subjects such as the mathematics and sciences. Therefore as one of the top performing students, and a female, during her time at Gagra, Winter founded and engaged in a tiny mentorship program for her fellow female students in collaboration with a couple of her female teachers. The main goal was to create a comfortable environment where the girls could feel free to share talks on academics, social and health issues and how to face them. Together with the other top performing male students during her time while at Gagra, they therefore helped form small study group sessions for students who were willing to join them. These sessions were aimed at tutoring the math and sciences courses they took. These sessions, including the science club that she helped lead, were great cocoons for all the students at school. Besides maintaining astounding academic performances, Winter was also actively involved with leadership and empowerment of her fellow students as a school prefect and a mentor; she carried on these experiences with her and always tried applying them wherever life journey took her.