Pauline | She/Her
Tropical and Subtropical Moist Broadleaf Forests
Session 1: October 12, 2022
I was born and raised by parents who were Maths and Science teachers, and I am from a religious background. So when I say religious, I mean my parents are religious. Me and my sisters, we are like six, then we also stay with our cousins, so that makes nine. And all of us used to go together to church with my mom and dad.
I was quite attracted to the activities within the church, although I didn’t see the meaning of going to church to pray. I was into the music. It’s a catholic church, mixed with the culture around—which is music. So that got me into the dancing, the activities in the church, and the communal actions they had. I was very much attracted to that, and I used to go to the church on Friday spend the night and go back on Sunday evening… Because I know Monday to Friday I had to go to school.
That’s when I actually developed an interest in activities related to climate. Though I didn’t know the climate issue by then, we were managing tree seedlings and environmental education issues—but in my mind, I was just being engaged in activities connected with the church! When I was like 12 years old, I started going to talks, workshops that were also coordinated by the church, but they would talk about environmental issues, youth engagement issues… and then there was this one time…
(I wasn’t that courageous then, apart from the dancing, because no one was really looking at my dancing style, so I didn’t care about that. But my courage just in talking in front of people wasn’t there yet.)
…But at this age of 12, I went to talk to these people about tree seedlings and the nurseries that we were doing in church, and they told me that I was more ambitious… and then they started sponsoring my education. That was in primary school, and they also nurtured me in the environmental space and later, after Form 4, they called me to a workshop in Nairobi and told me they will continue sponsoring my education into a college of my choice, and I went to study Agriculture.
After that, I got out and started an initiative called Shapers… We would make kitchen gardens (using polyethene) in the slums in Nairobi for people that don’t have good housing or those that do not have spaces within their compounds. So, we did that for some months, but then we had a fallout, so everyone went ahead to tackle their own problems.
And then, um, another thing happened. I was going to actually visit my boyfriend. He was staying in a different nearby county called Thika, so I was going from Nairobi to Thika. So, uh, I got the shock of my life then [laughs]. Because when I went into his house, I found a picture of another lady wearing a graduation gown. And so I was very disappointed.
And I was like, “Ah, the initiative Shapers has fallen, my relationship has fallen, now it’s better if I go back home.” [Laughs] But I also had like… thoughts that I might be pregnant. Because we had been doing very silly things, so that made me also not want to go back home. It would be quite a shame—”you’re from the village, you go to Nairobi, you go back home pregnant, and you have not achieved anything!” So it will be quite a shame.
So I stayed in Nairobi for quite some time and came up with other ideas. That’s when I started The Polly Foundation. It started from the initial idea of Shapers, but I integrated it into a big spectrum of ecosystem restorations, where I would teach people basically about organic farming. I would tell them about tree planting in green spaces in town and also raise awareness on climate issues, and also waste management. (Because we were staying in slums—waste management was an issue).
So (laughing) that’s how I started my climate action activities. Yeah.
Pauline is a professional agronomist and a community development agent. She is the founder of The Polly Foundation, a community-based initiative that drives sustainability locally by promoting and implementing ecosystem recovery initiatives. She has a background in ocean conservation and climate education.