|Thursday, 7th December, 2023
Simon Waithaka joined CBM UK’s Board of Trustees in 2021 bringing a wealth of microfinance and humanitarian experience. Based in Kenya, Simon usually joins Trustee meetings online. This autumn he made his first trip to the UK and we were able to catch up with him.
Simon, what does a typical day look like for you?
I have breakfast with my family and then I dash out to my office in Embu, our local town. I work as a Certified Public Accountant, and each day I meet with my two assistants to look at tasks for the day, and then we get into business. At the end of the day, I go home to be with my family. I am currently living with my first-born daughter as the other two are in high school and University respectively. My mother, who is 85 years old, lives with us in the same homestead. I always check on her in the evenings. In my free time, I do some work on our farmland where we planted banana trees and some vegetables.
Why are you passionate about disability inclusion?
I have lived and interacted with people who are abled differently for a long time. When I was a child, my primary school was next door to a home for children with physical disabilities. We were in class together and used to play with them. That’s how I started having a passion for disability inclusion. At high school a government initiative integrated children with visual disabilities into our school. They joined us in class, studied with us, and we involved them in our games. It was a very good initiative. People often assume that a physical disability means a mental disability too, which is wrong.
I also believe that we are all candidates for disabilities – within a few moments you can find your life has totally changed and you are the one needing support. My Aunt fell carrying a bucket of water and has had one hand and leg paralysed since then. Her life drastically changed from being a very independent wife and mother to a person requiring a lot of support to accomplish basic tasks. All of this gives me the drive to support and work with organisations which empower and include people with disabilities. I love CBM’s vision of an inclusive world in which all people with disabilities enjoy their human rights and achieve their full potential.
When did you first get involved with CBM?
I heard about CBM in 2018 when I was CEO of Kujenga Maisha East Africa (KUMEA), the development arm of the New Apostolic Church East Africa. We were working with a partner organisation in Germany to run an eyecare project in the slums of Nairobi, where a lot of eye health problems are caused by smoke from paraffin lamps and firewood. Our German partner connected us with CBM Kenya, and together with a local eye hospital we ran eye camps in one of Nairobi’s biggest slums. Later when I saw an advert to join CBM UK’s Board of Trustees, I applied because I knew the good work CBM was doing preventing blindness, improving health and transforming the lives of people with disabilities. I was interviewed online and thereafter the Chair at the time, Robert McCorquodale, called to inform me that I had been successful.
What do you bring to the Board of Trustees?
As a Kenyan I bring a different perspective – a local perspective, understanding the context of the programmes CBM is involved with on the ground. In my previous work engagements, I have been involved in implementing projects in Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania. I am able to use my experience, knowledge, and understanding with my fellow Trustees during meetings.
I am a registered independent auditor for the Humanitarian Quality Assurance Initiative (HQAI). HQAI is an independent auditor for the humanitarian and development sector based on the Core Humanitarian Standards. It seeks to ensure that the delivery of aid is efficient, effective, and is accountable to the people it serves. The role allows me to travel around Kenya and other countries auditing organisations, understanding what they are doing and seeing examples of best practice in the sector. I am able to bring all of this perspective to the Board of Trustees at CBM, helping us to pursue excellence in our work.
How does your Christian faith motivate you in this role?
My Christian faith is a big driver for me. I believe that God gives me an opportunity to live every day so that I can glorify his name. I don’t know any better way to do that than serve those who are in need. It is important to me to follow Christ’s example to serve others without discrimination and I value CBM’s commitment to work with all people regardless of faith or background. I believe that God has given me resources to be able to help others and has put me in places to help others. I would sum it up with the bible’s teaching to, “Treat others just as you want to be treated.” (Luke 6:31)
Image: Simon at the CBM UK officeBack