When Ayuma Michelle was a young girl growing up in Nairobi, she spent her lunch breaks hiding out in the school library, in order to avoid the wrath of bullies. Until one day, she was encouraged by her teacher to read her story of change aloud in class. Afterwards, the bullying stopped. “By telling my story in class I was able to win over the respect of bullies.”
That was the first time Ayuma experienced the power of storytelling. A decade later, after pursuing a career in journalism and getting fed up with the unethical publishing practices and sexual discrimination – she quit in 2012 to explore other ways she could make her mark in the world. It was during this time that Ayuma was reminded of the power of story to drive change.
“In 2015 I learned about the wound-gift concept and watched some TEDtalks by Brené Brown about using vulnerability as an actual tool for great storytelling and leadership,” Ayuma said. The wound-gift concept teaches that for every wound each one of us has we have an equal or greater opportunity to turn it into a gift for the world. “I found that really amazing because one of the greatest wounds I’ve had is when I was bullied as a child,” she said. "I always wanted to make something of that wound because it's something I'm still trying to figure out as I try to innovate as a woman. In our country, women leadership is really frowned upon – it’s not really celebrated.”
Inspired by this concept Ayuma started to think through ways she could use her own story to empower other women and girls around Nairobi and challenging environments globally to find their voices. At the same time, she enrolled in +Acumen’s Storytelling for Change course and upon completing started LetS – a social enterprise that offers leadership storytelling workshops, team consultations, exclusive coaching, and curriculum content in storytelling as an adaptive leadership skill. To date, Ayuma has taught more than 430 women, executive leaders, youth, and social entrepreneurs to awaken and inspire leadership through authentic storytelling for positive change.
Her clients include NGOs with youth in leadership training programs to work in Kenya’s pubic schools, NGOs supporting young girls living in Kibera (the largest slum in Nairobi), high profile leaders invested in exclusive leadership coaching, and fellow social entrepreneurs looking to gain support for causes they care about such as Lupus.
“I think storytelling is so beautiful in a way that you already have what it takes inside you,” Ayuma told us. “That’s what I’m helping women and girls to learn. They can use their own stories to influence the change that they want.”
Ayuma is also an active member of +Acumen Corps where she continues to build her storytelling business with the help of her fellow corps members and uses her story to help others on their social innovation journeys.