Announcing 2013 Echoing Green Fellow, Benson Wereje
Benson Wereje, one of the very first Educate! Scholars, was selected as one of only 28 Echoing Green 2013 Fellows from 2,872 applicants and as the first Fellow from the The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC.) He was chosen for his work as Co-founder and Executive Director of COBURWAS International Youth Organization to Transform Africa (CIYOTA.)
Echoing Green’s world-renowned two-year Fellowship program provides significant seed funding to the world’s most promising social entrepreneurs. Those selected receive funding to help launch and develop new organizations, access to Echoing Green’s network, leadership development opportunities, and mentorship.
Benson started CIYOTA while he was an Educate! Scholar in 2005. CIYOTA is a youth-led movement that unites and transforms communities to create sustainable peace and prosperity in the DRC.
In 1995, Benson’s village was attacked by rebels fighting rival tribes. He and his younger sister were separated from their parents and witnessed unthinkable bloodshed before being one of the few survivors to reach Uganda. Since 1998, the DRC has been torn apart by tribal wars – the bloodiest conflict the world has seen since WWII. Today there are over 450,000 refugees, two million internally displaced and 45,000 deaths monthly. Refugees suffer from lack of education, and death due to poverty and disease.
To help his homeland, Benson started CIYOTA by uniting youth to provide scholarships to refugees. CIYOTA empowers and educates young leaders to use nonviolence to solve tribal conflicts. To-date, CIYOTA has given over 500 youth an education and built a primary and nursery school that serve over 200 students each year.
The organization reaches over 10,000 youth who are committed CIYOTA’s philosophy of peace in the DRC - the graduates of CIYOTA’s schools are the future leaders of a peaceful DRC.
Benson attributed his experience at Educate! as helping him to start CIYOTA. ”[Their] commitment has influenced my own work with youth in Uganda and the DRC to lead a movement for peace.”
Benson’s accomplishments shows the massive impact that Educate! Scholars are truly capable of. His work is an inspiration for current and future Educate! Scholars as they work to create transformational impact in their own communities. In fact, Benson and CIYOTA are an important case study in Educate!’s curriculum!