Meet a freelancer working for Refuga: Jackiya is building a better life in Kenya with online work

17. February 2017



At Refuga we don’t have a fixed office or fixed team. Instead, everything is done remote and we work a lot with freelancers, some permanently and some more on a project basis.

This works super well for us for several reasons. First of all, our participants are spread out globally, so you can say that we compete globally, so it doesn’t make sense to limit us to only hire locally. Second, a project like Refuga has a high expense level. Executing our trips is expensive, and that’s where the vast majority of our revenue goes to. This means that hiring on more flexible terms and hiring for specific tasks is a super good fit.

Since I personally started working with freelancer and working with people across the globe, I’ve really grown even more positive about remote work. I wrote an earlier post, about how remote work can change the world for the better. I truly believe that. One of the reasons is meeting and working with Jackiya Tiliareng.

Jackiya and I met on, where I was looking for a virtual assistant to help with some admin work. Jackiya worked with this for quite a long time, where we just discussed work and didn’t really talk much more than that. Then I wanted to try to create a trip to Kenya and since Jackiya is from Kenya and living there I asked for a bit of help with research.

She was extremely proactive about the task. Without me even suggesting it, she had traveled quite a bit on a weekend to do research, paid for her own travel there. I was of course positively surprised and thanked her a lot. After a while, we wanted to go to Kenya to do some more research, so my girlfriend and I went there for a week, meeting up Jackiya and that was a great experience. Jackiya showed us around, helped us do research and we got a small idea about her life.

For us, it obviously a perfect match for the tasks we have in Kenya. But it was also a good reminder of how remote online work can create opportunities that we take for granted in the Western part of the World. Jackiya has worked with a range of clients over the last few years, making it her full-time job, supporting her daughter. It’s a great story in a country where there is a lot of poor people (Nairobi has the biggest slum in Eastern Africa for example).

Remote work has been Jackiay’s way to take charge of her own life and create opportunities for herself and thereby a better life. I asked Jackiya a few questions about her life, her advice on creating work online and her tips for what to see in Kenya:


Tell us a bit about yourself Jackiya?

I grew up in Uasin Gishu County and attended boarding school in all my high school years. I live in Eldoret and I am a graduate in Tourism Management from the School of Business and Economics, Moi University Eldoret. I am a mother of one beautiful girl called Talia and I am a full-time freelancer focusing on Customer Service and Travel Planning.  I’m very passionate about Wildlife and Environment and was one of the reasons I majored in Tourism.


How did you get started with doing online work?

Started taking online work seriously in April 2014. I had just received my first payment from a research job I had done for an agency and I immediately bought a laptop. At this time I had no job and I thought it is time, I fully focus on applying for jobs and see what comes out of it. After about three weeks of applying,

After about three weeks of applying, I landed the first job and you can imagine my excitement. I was to deliver the task the third day after I was awarded the job. Being my first job, I really needed to impress the client and deliver accurate work within the timeline that was stipulated. I got 5-star rating from the client and now I was getting more interviews from the jobs I was applying for. When I started, my idea was to work part time as I would look for a really good paying job in Nairobi. I really didn’t know working virtually was actually the job I will be doing full-time 2 years down the line.


What did you do before you started working online?

I worked part time for a company called System Check doing sales and marketing online for computers, laptops, flash disks and hard drives. I was being paid on commission for every customer that I brought in.


How does a normal day look for you?

I wake up at around 6:30 am to prepare my daughter to school, thereafter on my computer I check my emails for 2 hours max at this point they are literally like averagely over 40 unattended emails. After that I do a few exercises in the house, I sit a lot so I find it very relaxing and good for my back to stretch a bit. For the next 5 hrs of so, I am learning a few things on YouTube and running a few errands in town if I need to. I take a short nap in the afternoon and at 6 pm again for the next hours 6 hours I am at work and I start it over again the next day. On weekends, I go out for movies and spend time with my family.


Can you tell us a bit about the work you have done for Refuga?

For Refuga, I started working on admin work. Months later, Refuga was planning to bring the team to its first trip to Kenya and that is when I was asked to help organize the trip. Organizing a safari trip, a talk with local athletes and a trip to a local school and talking to local entrepreneurs.


We visited Kenya last year. Can you tell our readers a bit about the days we spent together?

When Nikolaj first told me he will be visiting Kenya briefly with his girlfriend Michelle, I was excited to finally meet them. Having worked online for over a few months without meeting face to face, I was a bit nervous but that changed the second we met in Nairobi for Dinner. We talked a lot about what Refuga does, his vision and about the trip to Iten for Refuga participants. I got to learn that Michelle is also working with clients online and generally talked about my life in Nairobi and challenges working online. We enjoyed an African dinner and we meet again in Eldoret on Tuesday. The next afternoon we met with an athlete, Ben Chebet, and his colleagues and after that, I showed them my old university in Eldoret.


I often tell people about you, because I both love to work with people across borders and our partnership is a good example of that. But also, because you really impressed me, when you were the woman behind planning our whole trip to Kenya and meeting up with professional runners. Can you tell us a bit about how you got in contact with the runners and got that arranged?

Most of the athletes live within the greater home of Uasin Gishu County and some train around the University of Eldoret. I meet two athletes through a relative of mine and got to know them briefly. Months later I helped one of them organize accommodation in Nairobi for some of his friends who were escorting him to the airport when he was leaving for an event trip to Italy.

Most of the athletes train and hang out together so when you know one of them, it is very likely to meet other professional athletes as well.


Do you have any recommendations or tips for other people who want to create their own job online, just as you have done?

There is no magic or shortcuts working online. You need to understand how the system works, how employers run their business and you have to be willing to continue learning every day. One important thing that I think comes with online work is being patient, I didn’t sleep well when I started applying for jobs and I almost gave up. You should not give up, sometimes it is really hard to keep up because there is a lot of competition from other freelancers who have had years of experience but you have to keep going.

Just like any other job, it is demanding, needs a lot of commitment and expectations are very high. Working virtually is not as easy as it sounds. One must be professional at all times, deliver before deadlines, meet the goals set and be honest. There are a few sites like that I high recommend and one can actually make good money doing jobs that best suits their skills. All you need is working laptop, reliable internet and a good attitude behind that laptop.


What are your dreams looking a bit out in the future, both in life and your work?

For the foreseeable future, I plan on starting my own virtual assistant company and take on 3 or 4 really committed people to my team. I hope to bring in more employers especially in Kenya to embrace online working into their structures. It will save a lot of operating cost and create jobs. Looking forward to traveling more in the future and appreciate the many cultures around the world.


We tried to invite you to our trip in Spain, but the visa application was rejected. Something we have – sadly – experienced often. But we will try again 🙂 Which one of the trips would you prefer to go on?

That was sad, but I would love to join the trip to Morocco or Thailand.


I’ve only been in Kenya once, but I really loved it. It such a beautiful country. If some of our readers are considering going to Kenya, what would you recommend them to do and see?

This country is beautiful and so rich in different cultures (we have more than 42 tribes and each has its own cultures and norms) and somehow it is difficult to just mention a few places but here are some of my recommendations.

Ultimately a safari experience should definitely be at Maasai Mara. You will get to see the Big Five and have bush dinners. If you don’t have enough time to visit Maasai Mara then go to Nairobi National Park, the only park near the city, where it’s also possible to see a lot of the animals.

Mombasa City is about 8 hours drive from Nairobi and an hour by flight boasts of amazing culture and history. We people from Nairobi and other parts of the world when we visit this part of coastal Kenya they refer to us at ‘’watu wa bara’’ (people from the city). They make some very delicious food and the people are amazingly cool and friendly. I must say they are the most polite community in this country, it is a part of their culture. In the bigger north and southern coasts, you will find beautiful white sand beaches and visit historic places like Fort Jesus, Vasco Da Gama, Shimo la Tewa caves and Gedi Ruins.

If you want to explore some of the cultural events then you must attend the Morans festivals where young men graduate to manhood. It is a rare culture that you will enjoy the dancing and singing. You can see a video from it here.


I know you’re busy with all your clients, so I won’t take more of your time. I hope we will work much more together in the future and I look forward to seeing you in beautiful Kenya soon!

If you want to get in contact with Jackiya and hire her yourself, please send us an email at and we will set you in contact.