As I walk to the start line of Camel Derby amateur competition, I can’t help but notice a petite girl on an equally small camel, this intrigues my curiosity as I approach her.

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On getting closer, I notice a woman whom I came to find out later is the mother of 15-year-old Fanilla Lesooni the youngest rider ever to take part in the Derby.

Her mother Antonia Lessoni cannot keep calm as she encourages her before the race takes off.

As she nudges her camel to move forward, I take the opportunity to talk to a jovial Antonia who takes me through her journey as well as that of her second born daughter.

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Donned in traditional Samburu regalia, Antonia relives this glorious moment as she explains why her daughter decided to take part in this year’s event.

“I am a widow, I have to raise four children as well as pay school fees for them. Fanilla right before the derby approached me and asked if she could participate to try and raise her third term fees, I was all for the idea and immediately started to look for a camel and trainer.”

Antonia who is beaming with pride at this point tells me that Fanilla is also a participant in the professional race, I look at her in amazement as she continues to explain that her daughter had only one day of training.

Fanilla’s determination and her unstoppable attribute sparks my curiosity. Suddenly, the deafening cheers shift my attention to the finish where several riders are struggling to steer their camels to finish the race.

After a short while, I see Fanilla, bouncing on her camel as she crosses the finish line. 

Her mother, accompanied by her uncle jolt out to congratulate her for becoming the first-ever youngest female competitor to win the race.

Professional race 

Day two of the camel derby is when the professional race takes off, I look around the start line as I look for Faniila and alas, she is right there with the professionals looking unshaken and confident.

Fanilla performs equally as well as she did in the amateur race bagging the second position this time. This is when I decide to engage her to understand why she decided to join the male-dominated sport. A teary-eyed Fanilla during our chat gets very emotional as she shares her passion for education and the fear of dropping out of school.

She wanted to raise Ksh 11, 400 for her school fees at Moi Girls Samburu and also help her mother take care of her siblings.

I ask her if she has achieved her goal. Wiping away tears, she tells me that without a doubt she did.

“During the competition, I felt like giving up but the promise I made to myself and mother is what kept me motivated throughout the race,”, she says.

This is when it hit me that if your endeavour is driven and fueled by purpose, then giving up is never an option. You’ll find the courage and persistence to look past the problems and difficulties along with your path and instead focus on finding solutions.

Fanilla pocketed Ksh 17,000 as her prize money and another Ksh, 44,000 from well-wishers.

Samburu Governor Moses Kasaine Lenolkulal promised to sponsor her secondary education. 

Her story can only be proved by Orison Swett Marden quote “Don’t wait for extraordinary opportunities. Seize common occasions and make them great. Weak men wait for opportunities; strong men make them.”


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