Stella Airoldi first met Susan laker in 2009 when she first came to Uganda while doing research about post war victims and witnesses.
“I visited her house, where she was living with her 3 teenage kids. Back then I was 24 years old and Susan 26 years, so just two years older than me. But her kids were already 9,10,13 years old.” Stella says.
Because Susan got pregnant for the first time when she was only 13, her kids didn’t go to school and neither did she. She got pregnant from a soldier while living in a military barracks which by then, was the only safe place for her to go to escape the LRA in Northern Uganda.
“Getting pregnant when I was 13 years old was so traumatising. I lost my childhood life. I wasn’t able to go to school which made me lost my hope for living a good future. I hated my parents for forcing me in to early marriage, my growth was totally destroyed and I segregated myself from people because I felt inferior.”- Susan notes.
When Susan was 15 years old, she conceived again but got a miscarriage when she received a message notifying her that two uncles, 3 nieces, a brother and sister had been killed by the Lord’s Resistance Army rebels.
“I was shocked and lost the pregnancy. After a few months, I conceived again and gave birth to a second child at the age of 16 and when the baby was 6 months, the father died and since I had nowhere to get financial help from, I was forced to remarry another soldier from the barracks to get protection and when I was 19 I gave birth to the third child.” Susan says
In 2007, her husband was deployed to Somalia on a peacekeeping and never returned, a thing that left Susan very frustrated. It was shortly after that, that she found out that she was HIV positive, had cancer and Tuberculosis (TB). It was not until an organization called Reach Out Mbuya came to her rescue that she was able to start cancer chemotherapy and TB drugs for six months and now am on ARVs treatment for life.
She then fled with all her children to Kampala which were (and still remain) her main reason and motivation to keep going in life. Her kids were tested negative and she wanted them to go to school. She started making jewellery, which initially her kids would sell in the streets.
“It was then my pastor introduced me to Stella. I was making paper beads jewellery and Stella decided to buy me jewellery on a yearly basis. At the end of 2012 when she came back to Uganda to see how I was doing, she was surprised to learn that I was going back to school by myself and I had improved.” Susan notes.
Susan has been able to buy land and built a bigger house for her family. She completed high school and did a couple of short courses to improve her skills and knowledge for example a certificate in Clearing, Forwarding and Shipping management, Certificate in Electronics, Certificate in Counseling People Living with HIV/AIDS.
“At first, all my friends and family thought I was completely crazy starting with women who cannot read and write and I cannot even communicate with. So true, things didn’t go that smooth the first 2 years. So end of 2014 I came back to Kampala and since 2015 I am here myself 2 to 3 times a year and things improved a lot.”- Stella says.
Susan is now managing the whole team of the 22STARS jewellery that comprises of over 20 women and supporting 150 children in slums. Thanks to recurring monthly donations, she (Susan) has been cooking in Acholi Quarter every Sunday since October 2016 ( so more than 14 months!) with the help of other 22STARS group members. The group started back then to cook for 50 kids and that is now 150. They get a hot meal with either fish or meat.
22STARS is a team of artisans made up by strong women living in the slums of Kampala and Jinja in Uganda making jewellery for a living. The platform is giving women in slum areas like Susan to sell their jewellery on the international market and earn a living, and in addition war running small social programs on the ground.
“Our choice for environmentally friendly products is a very conscious one. By using 100% recycled paper, the jewellery you wear does not only look good, but it also feels good. Our beads are hand made from paper and varnished with natural products. This makes each peace uniquely different, lightweight and waterproof.” Stella says.
22STARS also uses education and entrepreneurship to empower children and their families to rise above poverty by creating long-term sponsorships for children in Uganda, and also run several community development initiatives including a nutrition program, basic needs program, small business training and micro loans program and our holistic educational program with extra-curricular activities.
“Without the help of Susan this all would not have been possible. As she knows how it feels like to sit in the stone quarry with your kids, crashing stones all day, not being able to send them to school, she is pushing very hard to help all the families over there to send their kids to school. She is so amazing how she is managing everything. Susan is a true superstar and really the strongest woman I ever met.” Stella concludes.
How Kasule Is Changing The Lives Of Children Of Prisoners One By One
BY SHANINE AHIMBISIBWE
Jimmy Kasule Chan is a 29-year-old man who has dedicated his life to supporting the children of prisoners in Uganda. With over sixteen children from twelve families in his programme today, he is working towards his vision of a prosperous future for the children of Ugandan prisoners.
His desire to change the lives of prisoner’s children was awakened in 2012 when he was wrongfully detained at the Harare remand centre in Zimbabwe for six months.
“My friend had told me to go with him to South Africa for work. When we got there, things were very tight and we decided to come back home after two weeks with some electronics for sale. We thought this could be our business. On our way, we had to go through Harare but we did not have some stamps in our passports. Because Uganda does not have an embassy in Zimbabwe, we had gone through the Tanzanian embassy but the people at the border could not understand this. We were taken to Interpol and on getting there, we were arrested for Border Jump. We were detained in Harare remand centre for 6 months without having any real contact with anyone. There were 12 Ugandans in total” he narrated. “My wife was seven months pregnant at that time and I kept thinking, what if I never go back to Uganda? Who will help my child? I resolved to help children of prisoners if I ever got out of this prison.”
Jimmy described his time as a prisoner in a foreign country as horrific and inhumane, with poor feeding and little to no medical care.
“It was terrible. The food was the worst and sometimes not cooked properly in fact, people used to get sick all the time. One Ugandan died from a stomach infection. We used to eat something called “Chingwa”, that tasted like spoilt bread. Winter was the worst because we were given these thin blankets and no mattress.”
With the tireless help of his wife, jimmy was released from Harare remand centre in 2012 and on getting back to Uganda, the first thing he did was to get a job that would give him the funds to support these children.
“A friend introduced me to a gentleman who gave me his car for business. I used to transport people most especially tourists and pay him UGX 300,000 every week. I got a very nice client called Mona, who I found out was the president of Children of prisoners, Sweden. After she left, I sent her an email asking for a meeting and she agreed to meet me. I told her about my vision and she seemed very excited about it. She was happy to meet someone who shared her vision.”
A few months later, Mona asked Jimmy to visit one of the children her organization sponsored, Chrispus, at his school.
“When I visited him, he was excited that a stranger could come to see him. I kept visiting him on Visiting Days. He told me about his father who had been serving a long sentence in Luzira. I went to visit him and I asked him to introduce me to other people in the prison who I could talk to. I met people who would directed me to their families now my wife and I go to visit them and take for them some things.”
For four years now, Jimmy has conducted monthly visits to families of prisoners and has taken on the guardianship of Chrispus, who he regards as his first born. He also hosts an annual Christmas party for the children where he invites other children from the neighbourhood to make merry and meet father Christmas.
Jimmy believes that children, more so whose parents have been imprisoned, need to be loved and cared for so they do not find the need to commit any crimes and end up in prisons as well.
Would you like to support children of prisoners or volunteer on family visits? Please call/text Jimmy on 0774739500 or send him an email at email@example.com
How Kirabo is Empowering Youth To Turn Passion Into Professions
Meet Noeline Kirabo, a change agent and the founder of Kyusa, a non-profit organization that seeks to empower out of school youth to become employable by developing passion driven careers through starting their own business or leveraging available jobs.
Kyusa targets vulnerable youth in urban slum communities between 15 to 25 years of age to help them discover and harness their passions and make them employable in the fast growing entrepreneurial environment of Uganda. Kyusa seeks to eradicate the issue of youth unemployment by accelerating youth employability.
“Kyusa has been in existence since 2014 and has steadily grown from its pioneer class of 12 youth just like the disciples to a growing movement of over 600 program graduates at the moment whose lives have been greatly impacted and transformed by engagement with Kyusa.We started in kampala and we have grown our reach to as far Kisoro, kabale, Ibanda, Luwero, Mpigi and will soon be heading to the northern region ” Noeline says.
Kyusa offers research-based curriculums that develop key professional skills, leadership skill, computer skills, and financial literacy while also improving their self-awareness, self-confidence and self-management. The Kyusa training is an experiential learning program that seeks to equip youth to become job creators, successful entrepreneurs and peer leaders in their communities as well as career fields.Kyusa program activities include business startup training for potential entrepreneurs, business acceleration for small and micro entrepreneurs, employability/ job readiness training for youth seeking to enter formal employment.
Unemployment has been one of the most highlighted challenges for young people in Uganda, a great percentage being uneducated, school drop outs or ‘unemployable’ graduates who lack the skills that many employers capitalize on while hiring.
Support programs are also offered to participants including mentor matching with business icons, exposure filled visits to gather hands on skill, support to attend vocational training, apprenticeship training, apprenticeship placements, business branding and incubation.
“This rich syllabus has seen majority of the Kyusa alumni successfully running small and medium enterprises!” Noeline explains.
Kyusa graduates have started catering businesses, an Events Management Company, social enterprises, a football academy, Poultry farms, commercial farming, beauty shops, hair dressing, tailoring stalls, carpentry workshops, shoe making, craft making, crocheting businesses and electronic repair shops among other ventures. Others have secured formal employment as sales clerks, front desk personnel, teaching assistants, cashiers, administrators, data entrants and others have been informally employed on contract basis. You can follow Kyusa: https://www.facebook.com/Kyusa
‘Many of the impact stories are shared on the Facebook page where you can get to interact with more of the alumni businesses and also to support them so like and follow us.’ says Noeline.
It all started as a dream when Noeline herself was working a full time, well-paying job. She desired to do something that would leave a legacy. Having a background of not being in tertiary education herself, she wanted to offer the same hope to youth who withdrawn themselves from endless possibilities because they considered themselves unemployable because they had dropped out of school.
‘My passion derives from my experience as a former school dropout. I educated myself using online courses. When I got my first job, there was no turning back. At the height of my career, I was challenged to think about the legacy I wanted to build. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that my passion was in people developing more so empowering youth to live purposeful and fruitful lives.’ Noeline said.
Noeline’s desire to learn and grow has landed her many opportunities to sharpen her idea and increase her influence. These include: 2018 Acumen East Africa Fellow | 2018 MIT D Lab Eco system Builders Fellow | 2017 YALI Regional Leadership Center Fellow | 2016 Community Solutions Program fellow | 2015 Cherry Blaire Foundation Mentee | 2014 Hive San Francisco fellow | 2014 Dewey Winburne Community Service Award Honoree | 2013 Kanthari fellow.
The journey has not been all rose and no thorn for Kyusa. Noeline started out with very little funding from friends and family. She had to learn to get the job done with the few available resources which is a valuable lesson up to date. But like they say, ‘Where there is a will, there’s a way!’ Overtime many people have bought into the vision and partnered with Kyusa to get to this point.
Noeline looks up to her mother who made her believe she could be anything she set her heart to. She is inspired by Pastor Moses Mukisa of Worship Harvest ministries who has coached her a lot about vision, people development, leadership and resourcing for the vision.
‘I invite you to be part of this mission to restore hope and dignity to vulnerable youth through livelihood. You can give financially to sponsor a youth to attend the training, offer to mentor a youth, offer job and internship placements as well offer your expertise to facilitate trainings or offer motivational talks. You can reach us at: firstname.lastname@example.org or 0777200109’ says Noeline
Kyusa aspires to empower 100,000 youth to become job creators by starting growing businesses in the next ten years as a means to accelerating youth employability first in Uganda then East Africa and Africa.Youth are the leaders of today and tomorrow hence investing in them is the sure way to sustainable development.
This organization is building Sustainable Infrastructure for schools in Uganda
All We Are has a mission to solarize over 50 schools in Uganda over the next 10 years. According to the organization, this can save money and ensure more young people spend more time in schools. We caught up with Nathan Thomas, the Founder & CEO for a chat.
Let’s start with the name- “All We Are”, Why did you choose that?
I was lucky to, at a very young age, discover that the best version of yourself is the person you truly are. For many of us this journey of fulfilment is one that spans a lifetime. All We Are is the hope that by living a fulfilled life we can take our talents, passions, and all that we are to help others realize their true potential. We believe that “it starts with us.”
What inspired you to start All We Are?
The belief that if you get to a certain point of your life and decide that now is the time to start giving back, you took too much. I was a 16 year high school student living in Findlay, Ohio USA who wanted to do something to change the world. I luckily found several people who believed in me. Eight year later, I lead a platform of over twenty young professionals in America who volunteer their time to our mission, and an incredible team of employees on the ground in Uganda who implement our work.
Let’s now talk about your work. What are your focus areas?
By the end of 2017 we equipped 20 schools in Uganda with electricity through the design and installation of solar power. We are scaling a women’s empowerment project to educate and provide female personal hygiene products that allows girls to remain in school. This year we have also launched a pilot water program to provide access to clean water to these partner schools.
As young change makers, All We Are’s focus is on responsibly building infrastructure for schools in Uganda. We focus on sustainability and putting money into the local economy with an emphasis on stewardship. Every member of our USA team is a volunteer and is personally investing in All We Are’s mission, which enables us to put 100% of public donations to use on the ground in Uganda. We believe that development is only successful when it is fueled locally by the communities. We work with the Rotary Club of Nateete-Kampala to conduct needs assessments for our projects. They are the face of our projects on the ground.
And the communities, where do you work in Uganda?
We have worked in KLA and the surrounding area in the past eight years. This year we are pushing into more rural areas where there is no access to Umeme and the existing schools’ infrastructure is much weaker. We will be working in Rakai, Luuka, and Kakumiro to name a few Districts, and hope for further expansion in the near future.
At the end of the day, what are you trying to achieve?
A world in which we all have the right to dream. A world where every child receives an education because it is the young people who are the future of our countries.
What has been All We Are’s impact in Uganda so far?
We have spent the last eight years in Uganda helping build educational program in and around the Kampala area with the hope that we are having a positive impact on the schools we partner with. We have also been able to positively impact the lives of many members of the All We Are family on the ground in Kampala through job creation and by providing them with a means to support their families.
Any particular impact story you can single out?
One of my favorite stories is a spotlight we did on Nambuli Rogers, Headmaster of Mackay Memorial Primary School in Kampala. We electrified this school in 2016 and also partner with them on our women’s empowerment project. The school’s motto is, “Temudda Nnyuma” and we believe that perfectly describes the work we trying to accomplish.
With development work comes a lot of uncertainty and questioning whether the solutions we are providing are impactful. In February 2017 we were in Kampala and visited Mackay Memorial. I will never forget getting out of the bus and walking up to the HM’s office to be greeted by a big hug from HM Rogers. It is in moments like this that we remember why we do what we do. Here is a link to the story: allweare.org/2017/06/spotlight-on-nambuli-rogers
Where do you see All We Are 5-7 years from now?
In 2015 we set an ambitious goal of electrifying 50 schools in Uganda by 2025. At the end of 2017, just two years later, we will already have 20 schools in the All We Are family. In five to seven years it is very possible that we will have realized our planned goal of 50 partner schools. As we scale our work, we will expand our women’s empowerment program and clean water initiative. We are committed to a problem not a solution. The problems we address surround education. As we progress as an organization, and as new technologies and opportunities become a reality, we will continue to innovate and refuse to stop challenging ourselves.
Let’s talk about personal inspiration. Which people inspire you in everything you do?
It is easy to draw inspiration from people who live fearlessly. I draw inspiration from those who fear less. From my parents who moved from the comfort of friends, family, and what was normal in India to America before my brother, sister, and I were born. To members of the All We Are team who are so passionate, and so willing, to go far beyond what society deems “millennial engagement” to be.
If someone wants to get involved in All We Are, how do they get in touch with you?
We are always looking to engage with like-minded individuals who want to be a part of the global conversation on change. Take a look at our website at www.allweare.org and our social media platforms. If what we are doing interests you, send me an email at email@example.com. Remember that the best way to start is by simply getting started.
Any last words or piece of advice to someone doing a similar initiative like you?
Share stories of success with your networks and ensure that you do so with cultural sensitivity. At All We Are we gravitate towards empowerment versus charity. You will not find images that exploit the dignity of the communities we serve, or “voluntourism” opportunities. Instead you will find a group of young people dedicated to positive change that is tangible. The key to achieving this is patience. Take the time to develop a solid foundation for your work.
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