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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.
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.
How Kakoma Is Creating A Generation Of Book Readers Right From The Grass Roots
Nyana Kakoma is the founder of Sooo Many Stories, a publishing house and online platform which allows Ugandan writers to express their creativity. To date, Sooo Many Stories has published two books: The Headline That Morning and Other Stories by Peter Kagayi and Flame and Song by Philippa Namutebi, along with several other short stories.
The blog she started in 2014 with the support of her husband has now morphed into a publishing house with a dedicated staff of four, and a wealth of Ugandan literal content in short stories, poems and book reviews.
After several years in the journalism and communications industry, Nyana quit her job and dedicated herself to creating this space that would show be home to Ugandan writers and an outlet for so many stories.
Her inspiration to start the blog was rooted in the fact that not many people knew about Ugandan literature. While an editor for the in-house Magazine and other publications at Madhivani group, she horned her writing skills and got to interact with other people in the African literary space.
“it was during this time that I started travelling for workshops outside Uganda and people were talking about publishers… writers and editors in their countries, but there were not so many from Uganda… I started getting a hunger for a platform that would talk about Ugandan writers.” she says.
When she took the plunge into the publishing world, she attended several trainings and an editorial internship with Modjaji books in Cape town where she learnt from the extra ordinary Colleen Higgs, who still remains one of her biggest influences alongside Ella Alfrey, Jennifer Makumbi and Goretti Kyomuhendo (Founder of African Writers Trust). Through this internship, she learnt the ins and outs of publishing and got the necessary tools and motivation to expand her blog into a publishing for Ugandan literature.
“I wanted people to take me seriously, to take the blog seriously… I was doing this for real, not as a part time job. That meant that I put in a lot. I would do interviews, book reviews and attend all these events. No one was paying me but the sheer joy of doing what I love made it worth it.” Nyana explains.
Sooo Many Stories has taken on the responsibility of cultivating a reading culture in Uganda through book clubs for adults, teenagers and children. The Fireplace: Tot tales is where children from the ages of 4 to 12 gather to read books. Divided into groups of 4 – 6, 7 – 9 and 10 – 12 years, these books clubs see up to 45 children at every session.
These sessions are held in Ntinda at the Innovation Village and in Bugolobi. Two more chapters will be opened next year in Muyenga and Entebbe. This initiative has gone a long way in nurturing a keen interest in books both for children and adults.
“People throw around the phrase “reading culture is Uganda so bad” but you don’t know how quite terrible it is that is until you try to sell a book, until you try to convince someone to buy a book. It was terrible, we started thinking… So we decided to start book clubs, which are called fireplaces… To boost the reading culture, it has to be done from the grass roots. If we are to promote Ugandan literature, it has to be through a holistic approach by making books available for children to read.” She says.
This brilliant concept has had visible transformational effect on the children.
“The book clubs have created an explosion of reading. We’ve seen results… We’ve seen parents say “watch out for my kid he doesn’t talk to anyone” but that kid will be the first one to speak when we ask for volunteers to read. We’ve seen parents tell us that my kid is interested in books now. We are approaching reading from a fun side showing these kids that books are fun. They don’t have to be academic.” Nana explains.
Nyana envisions a time in Uganda when reading will become a thing. For people to stay in doors on weekends just to read without having people ask “Do you have a paper?” With the state of the economy, buying a book may not necessarily be a priority like soap and food but just like food, when you do not read you die too. It may not be a physical death, but lack of knowledge kills.
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