African Warrior Magazine reached out to the reigning Face of Kenya, USA, Mercy Koech. We talked about her life growing up in Kenya and the experiences attained living in United States and working for the Navy
Mercy, who is fondly “Moha” by friends (she swears this name started in High School), is an embodiment of passion, commitment, and ambition.
- What do you remember most about your childhood?
I was Born in Kericho, Kenya. Oh, and I must admit I am super excited to be turning 30 in September. I love the process of aging.
I grew up in a humble family. I am the eldest of 7 kids (1 boy and 6 girls). Growing up, we experienced a lot of lack in term of resources. My parents however, found a way to overcome this inadequcy by inundating us with parental love. What little money they made, they invested all of it on my education, seeing that I was the first born.
As a young kid, I was very talented in athletics. I worked very hard, trained daily and got a lot of support from my siblings. Realizing my parents did not have enough money to take me to college and also support my siblings, I remember telling myself that athletics would create a breakthrough for me. And this came to be, for I secured an academic scholarship in the USA in 2009 at Norfolk State University.
When you are the first born, all tasks and responsibilities are bestowed on you. Educating my younger siblings has been the key role for the past 7 years. My sister Ashah joined me in the US through a scholarship and this year we are waiting for our other sister Fridah, who will be coming to study.
2. You are now Serving in the US Navy. Talk about the experience
When I joined the Navy, I was at first met with a lot of culture shock. For the first time I was interacting with gays and lesbians. It took me a minute to comprehend that they are just as amazing human beings, except that they have a different outlook in terms of who they choose to love. Growing up in Kenya this was unheard of, heck was considered an abomination
Joining the US navy allowed me to get American citizenship. When you do not have your parents or siblings here, you learn how to fetch for your own self. I learned to appreciate and seize every golden opportunity that came my way! It can get tough and lonely without family here; but there is countless resources America offers and all you have to do is grab them with both hands.
It’s a lifetime experience to be a part of one of the Finest US Military Forces. I have served for 5years with Four Tours to: Whidbey Island, Afghanistan, Coronado Island, and Africom. All the tours have been remarkable and have shaped me to a much better person. I also got free education and completed my degree while serving and now looking to start Dental School through a Naval program that pays for my school.
Having deployed to Combat zones of Afghanistan and DET-Africom, where there is imminent danger every day, you never know what could happen any day. I have seen lives lost and it never gets easy but there is an inspiration to continue standing the watch in respect to those have died while protecting our country.
3. How is it like being a foreign student in America?
Well, American life is fast-paced I’d say! So, there is no time to Slack!! Being a young freshman at Norfolk State University, taking 18 credits per semester and training full time to compete for the University’s Track and Cross-country team wasn’t a joke!! You must put in countless hours of demanding work both in class and in the field.
4. What values did the Navy teach you?
The Navy has taught me an enormous array of core values: Honor, Courage and Commitment. I have learned about purpose, team work, leadership and that building relationships is the art of Networking. I learned how to triumph over adversity and how to be truly grateful. How to forget fear and take pride in my accomplishments, not forgetting how to make friend with discomfort… You might not like everyone that you work with but the Mission has to be completed and it always comes first!
5. You must have received special skills and training. Can anyone mess with you?Haha!! I’d say it depends on Situation and Terrain. After being hand-selected to Naval Special Warfare in 2016, I went through intense training under the finest navy seal instructors and working alongside the beasts on deployments…saving lives in combat zones and being an invaluable asset in other classified ways, I felt like a baby seal..for me that was badass!
6. You are the reigning face of Kenya, USA. Talk about the experience.
Being the reigning Face of Kenya USA has been a very inspiring journey for me and more so to my Charity of Choice- Bethel Children’s Orphanage in Kenya. Face of Kenya is all about Charity initiatives, Cultural Diversity, Community Cohesion, and Youth empowerment. Special Thanks to my friend Ruth Wainaina who serves in the US Army for being such a talented team member in our projects. Thanks to all my supporters who have been a source of my motivation to continue giving back to the less fortunate and the orphans in Kenya.
In 2017, I did a lot of projects in Kenya including makeover at Bethel Children’s home, Hope Alive Kids Campaign in Homa Bay and a visit to rural areas of West Pokot where there is a huge need for basic necessities. This year 2018, my two main projects include raising funds to buy Moses (one of the disabled boys at the orphanage) an electric wheelchair to help him move around more freely; I also want to partner with my mentors in organizing a Free Dental clinic to provide dental treatments in a chosen remote area that has a dire need. Thanks to my mentors Dr. Mckenzie, Dr.Nhi Pham and Dr. Mavin who are all based in Washington State
7. Who is your greatest Inspiration?
My mother is my greatest inspiration. She is the epitome of a Rock Star African woman. I love her and I admire her kind heart, hard work, tenacity and her smartness. She empowers community cohesion and giving back to the less fortunate. She taught us that you can achieve anything you want. She emphasized education for my siblings and I. It’s not about the camera, it’s about the person behind the camera…she gets Work done!
8. Parting Shot?
The world has given me so much things to be grateful for! I am not sure it is ready for me! I want to touch more lives with my optimism and my smile!