Youth Solving Poverty
Even before she entered Educate!’s Youth Business Experience (YBE), Joan was an entrepreneur. At age 16 she founded a small business making jewelry. Working with Educate! gave her the tools to take her business to the next level, as well as the inspiration to start a new business that would give back to her community. The new business, a toilet paper enterprise, came from her frustrations of seeing large amounts of used paper burned in trash piles on street corners as well as her concern for the high volume of school dropouts in her community. Using the management skills she learned through Educate!, Joan organized and trained the young dropouts to collect paper scraps and sell them to the recycled paper company. The company turns the scrap into toilet paper that Joan sells to local shops and businesses for profit. Joan says, “the whole business package that I have is because of Educate!. It is the foundation of all of my business efforts. Educate! has given me the ability to think big and know where to go from here.”
Titus had long been frustrated with the limited practical skills training in secondary schools and universities across Uganda, and when he heard about Educate!, he knew he had to be a part of it. As a lifelong resident of Kapchorwa, Titus found Educate!’s model both promising and inspiring for youth in his community and decided to join Educate! as a Youth Business Experience (YBE) Fellow and Mentor at the start of 2014. Within his first year, Titus helped his mother grow her milk-production business exponentially. He reached out to community members to gain additional skills training to prepare for other business ventures. He learned to manage large groups and developed the tools to engage with different types of people using creativity, respect, and friendship as a foundation for his teaching. Titus exemplifies Educate!’s goal for the mentorship program: guiding a new class of Educate! Scholars, while continuing to build himself as a leader and entrepreneur.
Silaj, an Educate! Scholar, had long noticed that many in his village were dropping out of school because they couldn’t afford school fees and were discouraged by the poorly-run schools. Utilizing the skills he learned as an Educate! Scholar, Silaj surveyed parents and youth and came up with a detailed plan for building an affordable school to reduce dropout rates, all beginning with a 30,000 shilling ($12 USD) loan from his school’s micro-finance club to purchase a high-quality soccer ball. Silaj gained the attention of local youth who would join him for games while he shared ideas on entrepreneurship, encouraging them to form business teams to earn income. Together, the students made clay bricks and sold them for a profit which they used to build the first two rooms of the schoolhouse. Silaj then rallied the community to collect funds and support to complete the school. Once completed, Silaj ensured all students could pay by establishing a tiered-fee system and alternative payment methods, such as working on the school’s vegetable garden. The design of Educate!’s model enabled Silaj to exponentially impact his community. Today there are over 500 students at the Sironko Modern Nursery and Primary School.
Hanifah grew up helping her family run a successful tailoring business, but knew very little about the technical aspects of running a business. When her father suddenly passed away in January 2010, the family business crumbled, and the family went into extreme debt, living hand to mouth. Fortunately, a non-profit affiliated with Hanifah’s school offered her a scholarship to finish the last three years of secondary school. While there, Hanifah became an Educate! scholar and started sewing uniforms for many schools in the area. She learned how to manage finances and create a business development plan to grow her business in a sustainable way. As an Educate! mentor, Hanifah now hopes to motivate young people and show them that they can become influential leaders. Hanifah plans to continue to her tailoring business but also hopes to attend university and pursue medicine.
Ignatius found the Educate! YBE Mentor-Fellow description listed in a local newspaper and applied immediately. Following several rounds of interviews, Ignatius was thrilled when he was offered a spot in the YBE program. Throughout the training, Ignatius learned new aspects of leadership and entrepreneurship that he could incorporate into his own business. He also overcame a fear of public speaking and can now confidently communicate with and engage large audiences. Ignatius is especially fond of the bi-weekly trainings for YBE Mentor-Fellows where he can communicate ideas and troubleshoot with his peers. He is excited to be a part of the Educate! team and enjoys imparting the knowledge he has learned in YBE trainings to the scholars. Now that Ignatius has learned all of Educate!’s leadership and entrepreneurship curriculum, he plans to return home to help his family with all aspects of book-keeping, such as the meticulous recording of all transactions and inventory.
Enock is a major advocate of the Educate! program. As the eldest of seven children, Enock experienced the challenge of finding funds to pay his school fees each term. Before Educate! came to his school, Enock was overwhelmed by the prospect of starting a business. He would work odd jobs during school breaks to try to pay for his education, but could not find any secure or regular employment opportunities. After joining the Educate! program, Enock started a shoe-selling business in his hometown of Munyonyo. He used the profits he made toward school fees and gave his younger siblings some spending money, something they never had before. As a school mentor and YBE fellow, Enock continued to receive training on business management from Educate!. He is proud to be an ambassador for Educate! and enjoys teaching other young people about leadership and business planning.
Ali and Saphi have always been involved in theater and performance in Jinja, their hometown. Once Educate! partnered with their school, the best friends began to explore a dream they had always shared: to start their own film and theater production company. Using the entrepreneurial skills they learned through the Educate! curriculum and the guidance they received from their Educate! mentor and school coordinator, Saphi and Ali began making films about social issues affecting their community such as alcoholism, domestic abuse, HIV, corruption and child abuse. Now, as Educate! mentors, Ali and Saphi continue to network with peers and learn the business skills required to create a profitable film company while navigating the challenges that come with a start-up business. In order to create enough revenue, they sell DVDs of their movies to local shops and vendors. They supplement their work by performing in stand-up comedy performances and selling home-made bangles.
On Augustine’s very first day of high school, he met Educate! Mentor Otim and was immediately inspired to join the Social Entrepreneurship and Leadership course that Otim facilitated. Soon thereafter, Augustine became the president of the Social Entrepreneurship Club at his school, and realized had found his passion and calling in inspiring young people to reach their full potential: “I envision myself a great leader in Africa.... I will do much more to transform Africa, solving community problems such as poverty.”
Augustine founded a community organization in Mbale called Economic Youth Empowerment, which envisions communities where youth are at the forefront of transforming and developing their communities by creating sustainable enterprises to eradicate poverty. Augustine also joined the Educate! team, working as a Youth Leader in Mbale. His story is a reminder of the power of passion to incite positive change in a community. We are very proud to have him on the Educate! team.
Paul was first introduced to the Educate! Experience as a high schooler in 2009. He was impressed by a charismatic and inspiring man named Solomon Kayiwa who came to his school to talk about a new academic opportunity. Solomon told Paul and his classmates about Educate!’s unique approach to education, one that would empower young people to develop entrepreneurial and business skills, and Paul was intrigued. He had seen many of his peers fall into the trappings of unemployment, an outcome that he feared. Solomon’s words made Paul believe that his future could be different; he realized that “if you join Educate!, you are going to be able to create your own job.”
Paul quickly rose as a strong leader and changemaker within his school. Within two years, Paul had accumulated an impressive list of achievements: Educate! Business Club President, winner of the nation-wide business plan competition, and de facto mediator when the school administration and the student collective clashed. Today, you’ll find Paul at the forefront of an impressive social enterprise called Tugende, which creates opportunity through ownership by kick-starting financial independence for Ugandan motorcycle taxi drivers. It’s a company with empowerment at its core, and Paul recognized this: “when I heard about Tugende giving the opportunity to people to help themselves I said why can’t I be part of this team?” Paul lives his life to invest in future of others, a value he can attribute to the Educate! Experience. He says “Educate! really changed my thinking. Up to today, it’s my driving force.”
One of Educate!‘s most successful graduates is Lillian. She joined Educate! in 2009 and started the Namugongo Good Samaritan Project while she was still in secondary school. Her project provides counseling services and community support to 56 widows and HIV/AIDS affected women. Lillian mobilizes funds for the project by teaching the women how to make recycled paper beads. In a short time, Lillian managed to transform the community. Walking through the community today you will meet women running their own businesses, such as small restaurants, kiosks and tailoring shops, supported by the income from their jewelry project. The fifty six ladies now earn an average income of 300,000 UGX, while Lillian manages to support her daughter and is paying for her own fees to study at Makerere University.