I had a great love for music during my undergraduate career. It fascinated me how music was so emotive and would bridge so many gaps, connecting people in what they thought or felt. This came from appreciation of the way artists used their skills and talents to empower and impact change in the society. It felt to me like they had found their purpose in life, and that seems like the most fulfilling thing in life – finding one’s purpose in the world. It was at this very time that I found my passion in House music DJ and I entertained students in parties. When you play music and people resonate with it, dancing joyfully, there is a kind of fulfilment that springs within you. I had this feeling when I was mixing on the decks. Naturally, I had found my purpose in life -telling stories through taking individuals into musical journeys that elicit joy, washing away bad moments of the week.
In the course of my deejaying, I started experiencing pain in my hearing, my hearing was distorted out of playing loud music. The same thing that had elicited so much joy and fulfillment was impairing my hearing. With this, I had to let go of my passion in deejaying. It was a very tough time in my life. I had to avoid places that played music. That meant staying indoors while all my peers were in parties and even not receiving phone calls. It also meant always having to queue for vehicles that didn’t play music (as part of Nairobi’s matatu culture, almost all psv vehicles play loud music to better passenger’s travel experience. Unfortunately for me, the loud music would only worsen my already deteriorating hearing.)
DISABILITY IS NOT INABILITY
I was doing my final undergraduate project at the university around that same period when I started losing my hearing. With the fear that one day I might eventually not be able to hear and lead me to being marginalized by society for inability to communicate, I developed Beacon Chat, an application that caters for privacy among deaf and also ensure social inclusion for deaf allowing for collaboration with hearing. I finished my undergraduate studies and just like every other graduate, went out to look for a job. In a period of like 3 months I had sent over 500 email applications to various companies. Unfortunately, not more than 20 of those emails were replied and for the ones replied, the feedback was not negative. I only secured three interviews during this period.
Throughout my job search, I had heard of IHub Co-Working Space being a place for developers and innovators to innovate and bring their projects to life. I decided to visit the offices and see it for myself. The working space was great – people working on roof tops, having great view of the suburbs seemed like heaven to me. Even greater was the faces of teens owning startups. In that same day, I got a position at MyRide Africa as a Mobile Application and Innovation Intern, a position that lasted for the next 7 months.
Before working with IHub, it was clear to me would be I wanted a future where I worked as a data scientist for Airbnb. IHub changed that, seeing fellow peers owning companies was inspiring and raised an entrepreneurial spirit in me. I started sharing the idea around Beacon Chat. The more I shared, the more other people appreciated and got more ideas. I made it a point to attend as many entrepreneurial events as I could. It was at one of these events that I met James da Costa, Co-Founder of Mandala Group. We worked on a project called ‘MREKO’- an android application for financial inclusion. He became a mentor in my entrepreneurial journey. I was during this time that I developed a feature that enabled individuals to collaborate in learning. This feature facilitated peer to peer learning. Its strong sense of community not only increases persistence of students in learning progress, but also enhances information flow, learning support, group commitment and collaboration, learning satisfaction
After my internship ended I resorted to working on the application full time. However, funding was a problem, as it is to many other entrepreneurs starting out their own ventures. At times, one has to look past the excuses and look at things differently. I started doing favors for friends who then in return would then do work related to the app, e.g. graphic design. Still at this time, I didn’t have enough cash to start a company I resorted to hustling it out. Luckily for me, I knew a long-time friend who worked as a tout in Nairobi Transport Sector, and asked if I can join him in his errands while raising cash for registering the company, BEACON INC. Still I had to sacrifice taking breakfast and lunch as well as other luxuries to be able to save enough money for the company. Having little to spare I rented a small room in Eastland, a ground floor bedsitter in a flat. Due to the convergence of tall structures in the estate, network connectivity was an issue, if I wanted to send an SMS or call someone, I had to go out in the freezing night. For communications with neighbors near me, I used Beacon Chat
After many months of struggle, sacrifice and of suffering I came up with BEACON INC, At BEACON INC, we build on the principle of leaving no one behind, where we try to eliminate the communication and collaboration barriers between hearing and deaf individuals. Deaf individuals, who are of low income and rural are disproportionately discriminated against, because of inability to communicate effectively and privately around them. Lack of pervasive internet connectivity and low understanding of sign languages leaves them with limited communication channels. Beacon Chat is the solution, a Shared-Learning and Messaging app designed for the deaf and hearing individuals, where they can all take shared responsibility in creating and shaping narratives on global agenda with dimensions of inclusion, sustainable development and human dignity.
Among one of the issues we help promote in our platform is Women Empowerment and Gender Equity. When I think of women empowerment I think of my mother who has had major impact in my life. My Father was a man of the uniform and he served the country to the best of his ability. Some of these services were peace keeping missions in some other countries, and he was such great role model to us as kids. In this period, we were with my mom back at home as the missions required one to spend almost a year in the zones. She was the one that prepared me for school, covered my books, cooked delicious meals. However, she couldn’t secure I careers since she could not complete her secondary education back in her days, although, this didn’t take away the award for being one of the wisest women I have come to meet in my life. I bet she is in the lineage of King Solomon.
When my father passed on in 2016, I had just completed my third year in university and was left with a year to complete my studies. She resorted to selling Omena, to see me finish school. That’s what mothers do, they hustle to see success of their children. And Yeah! I finished school………..
YOU GIVE A HOUSE TO A WOMAN, AND SHE WILL MAKE YOU A HOME.
Hope through BEACON INC, I can serve as a Beacon of Hope to the new generation.
“When Jesus followers saw what was going to happen, they said” Lord, should we strike with our swords?” And one of them struck the servant of the high priest, cutting off his right ear. But Jesus answered, “no more of this! And he touched the man’s ear and healed him” place museum de Evora, Portugal, c.1500
By being cut off ears, the servant of the high priest risked being marginalized by the society then and that would have forced him to lose his career as a servant, making him vulnerable to stigmatization and exclusion. By Healing his ears Jesus gave him chance for inclusion. However, times have changed, we are in the 21st century, I may not have the power to heal the deaf in the society, but I have a skill, a skill in software engineering, which I use to impact lives of other people. With Beacon Chat I am able to provide social inclusion to deaf. From Jesus teachings, I can help the world in a different way.
“When we are laying in our deathbed, you are not going to worry about how much money you had, how much power you had, how much prestige, you going to see that was all game, that was an illusion. The only thing that’s going to matter is the impact you had on other people’s lives.
We are all on a separate journey, but the most beautiful thing about our life here on earth is that at my funeral, they aren’t going to talk about my success, they are going to talk about who Allan was and how Allan lived and how Allan loved and encouraged.
Success is incredibly important, but what is even more important than success, is having impact, its knowing you didn’t walk the planet in vain, its knowing because you lived here, you have blessed lives, you developed people, you have made the world a better place.
The effect you have on others is the most valuable currency you have. Everything you gained in life will rot and fall apart and all that will be left of you is what was in your heart.
Life is a mirror and life give us not what we want, life gives us who we are
When you were born, you cried while the world rejoiced, live your life in such a way that when you die, the world cries while you