Isabella Gaha Namodi
Winner of the EPIC Awards 2020
Finance & Administration Manager of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Founder of Tuendelee Foundation. IMBA 2015.
Being a Kenyan Finance & Strategy Professional who believes that we learn, grow and excel by knowledge exchange, I opted to study abroad for my Masters. I chose the MBA program at IE Business School in Madrid, which right from the application process, demonstrated that it values academic excellence backed with creativity and application of one’s talents. I was thrilled, as part of the submission process, to be able to send a creative poem on Sustainable Development, and a video footage that spoke to the areas I was seeking to develop through the MBA.
My principle in life is to make life better for another, utilising what I have and can give, and giving this to the fullest. This altruism spirit led me to the role of Finance & Administration Manager at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC www.icrc.org). It has also, together with my desire to promote education, led to setting up Tuendelee Foundation. Tuendelee is a charitable institution that supports needy but deserving students through tertiary education (www.tuendelee.org).
How did IE help you get to where you are today?
I can trace the IE support right from the time I joined the Business School. While deciding on my post-MBA career and organisations to target, the Career Leader Summary and Test that we did in the first three months of the MBA were very instrumental in guiding me to the not-for-profit sector, which was a calling I previously heard, but ignored.
Additionally, I am proud of the fact that I got my employment through the IE Career Event where ICRC personnel came to talk to us about the institution and invite us to apply. During career sessions at IE, we were encouraged to always get round to talking to presenters, guest speakers and other participants while at networking events. Speaking to Markus Dolder from ICRC gave me more insights and understanding into the organisation and made it easier to apply as I was clearer about the organisation I was dealing with. The decision to go and listen to the event, has always felt like ‘a whisper from a guardian angel that sent me to the right trap door to escape a winding maze’. I have never regretted it.
Finally I was one of the students that benefited from IE’s start-up lab, named Venture Lab. Tuendelee Foundation, was incubated at Venture Lab whilst I did my social entrepreneurial project as part of my IE MBA studies. Moreover, the logo and motto of the Foundation that all staff and partners of Tuendelee treasure, was created by students of the Master in Visual and Digital Media (MVDM) program at IE during the Venture Lab experience. The synergy amongst the different programs and students is a big asset. I cannot fail to mention the value of the networks and contacts built through IE. The cherry on the cake on IE networks is that one of the board members of Tuendelee Foundation, Lance Contento is an alumni and a former classmate at IE Business School. The contribution by the three-member Board of Emily Kilongi, Lance Contento and Steve Lugalia has been phenomenal to the growth of Tuendelee.
What drove you to work for a cause that believes in the greater good?
It all started with self-searching. I have learnt that doing what resonates with you / your inner self is the best way to offer the best of yourself to tasks and causes, to people and to the world. Having reflected on some little charity activities I did in my free time and enjoyed, I decided to give these more time and effort by doing them on a full-time basis. I enjoy the work I do, the teams with which I interact, and the impact created because of simple acts of humanity spread by people all over the world who care.
In what way is your work impacting the world?
Within the ICRC we emphasise on ‘beneficiary focus’. We are there to support victims impacted directly or indirectly by armed conflict and other situations of violence. My work in finance and administration entails ensuring funds are available to carry out humanitarian activities, and that the best means is used to transfer these funds where needed. I have been involved in bringing food to prisoners in South Sudan; in facilitating construction of water points for Tuaregs and their cattle in the Sahel desert in Mali, and in availing financial capital to sexually violated women in Congo DRC to enable them start small businesses that give them hope for a new life after living traumatic experiences. In my work, ensuring accurate budgets and proper accountability that builds trust with donors in addition to keeping our integrity is an important aspect. A big morale booster during the accounting for the expenditure is confirming that the assistance we channelled actually reached the targeted beneficiaries.
On the side of Tuendelee Foundation, we have sought a three point approach to making a difference to financially disadvantaged students by facilitating their access to quality tertiary education. First and foremost, we support them through school with financial assistance that caters to tuition and living expenses. Tuendelee is proud that through one of its donors, Nice to Meet You (NTMY) Foundation, Faith Nanjala is almost finishing her degree program in Finance at the prestigious Strathmore University in Nairobi. Secondly, we cater to the students’ personality development through the organisation of mentorship and personality/soft skills development sessions. Last year, Leks de Boer, a partner at Three Hills Capital Partners in London spoke to the students about Professionalism and Best Practice in Finance. Last but not least, we seek to link the students with potential employers in a bid to undertake internships, as a gateway to long-term career opportunities. Currently, Tuendelee is talking with one of the Big Four Audit Firms on potential internship opportunities for the students. We believe in modelling an all-rounded youth who will go ahead and change the world. Among our beneficiaries, some are already doing charity work in the communities. It is a clear proof that a good act causes a ripple effect.
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