In January 2016, two extraordinary young men from Uganda plan a trip to change East Africa. They are planning to visit youth organisations in Rwanda, Tanzania, Zambia, Kenya and their native Uganda to find other young people who. like themselves, want to change East Africa. It'll also be a voyage of discovery for them too, as neither has travelled outside Uganda before, excepting when both were invited to the Ashoka Changemaker Conference in Nairobi in 2014.
So, who are these young men?
Francis Ssuuna is now 20 and already has many unique projects behind him. In 2012, he founded the Slum Run, a project which has raised the awareness of child labour in slum areas - children have been forced to smash stones to provide building materials and many have died from injuries sustained in this work or from working in the dangerous environment. Each year children run 10,000km on a specially-designated circuit, sponsored by people around the world for support toards ther living needs and school fees. This means they have no need any more to work in the quarry. Similarly, others travel the streets looking for scrap and this can develop in them a culture of stealing and also be very dangerous as people act to protect their property.
He is a visionary young man and has also developed a training programme to help develop the vision of others. He calls this Vision4Change and he has now delivered it in Lyantonde, Kampala (several times), Mbale and he has also trained others to deliver the training, which has been delivered in Gulu in Northern Uganda. Wherever this training takes place, young people have left inspired to create some change in their communities. It is difficult to understate the desire that young people in Uganda have to see change in their lives and how prepared they are to give their time to help others, but seeing other youth "walking the walk" is so important and this is the power behind the Vision4Change concept. This trip was announced at the Ashoka Youth Changemaker conference in Entebbe this year, where Francis was among the organisers.
Mansoor has a Muslim father and is passionate to demonstrate that young Muslims have just as much to give to the world as youth of any other religion. A few years ago he saw the dangers that a rising economy can have on the prevalence of drugs in his community and vowed to brief every school about the dangers, to prevent a market being developed. He found almost no other organisations working in this area and Ugandan youth completely uneducated about the subject, so he developed a campaign to raise the awareness and discourage young people from becoming hooked on drugs.
He used drama and brought together a large team of youth actors to work with him and they soon had worked in every school in the area. More recently, Mansoor has worked with international organisations teaching children about social enterprise and the importance of selflessness in the improvement of local communities.
Both young men are in the middle of their A levels, but due to the forthcoming election school will start late next term. So, they plan to use this long vacation period to inspire other young people through East and, if we can raise enough money, Central Africa. Both are members of a project to train social entrepreneurs in Uganda, known as the Butterfly Project, and we hope to inspire and encourage an organisation in Zambia to develop their own Butterfly Project in Lusaka, in Zambia. This will be the first time anyone from the Butterfly Project has visited Lusaka.
Both Francis and Mansoor are Ashoka Youth Venture Alumni, essentially young people recognised for their contribution to the development of social action in their country. Francis was also invited recently to the Ashoka Changemaker conference in Entebbe, where young people from all over East Africa came together to network, share stories and inspire each other. The trip has been developed with a vision to follow up on some of the contacts made at the Ashoka conference and thereby starting the process of developing a vision for youth for the whole of East Africa.
Their objectives are:
- To start to connect youth organisations throughout East and Central Africa and help them to develop a shared vision for change
- To develop a foundation for a Vision4Change hub in East Africa, hence developing mutual understanding and proper collaboration to create sustainable change
- To encourage the creation of Vision4Change small teams in each visit location
- To learn to be more accomplished and capable youth by learning from all of the places they visit and have some adventures on the way
- To train youth in every location with Francis Vision4Change methodology
- To demonstrate to the outside world the power of East African youth to create change
The Itinerary of the trip is as follows:
KAMPALA - KIGALI, RWANDA - Kigali Women in Sports (AKWOS), Kigali, Ashoka Youth Venture, Kigali
KIGALI - BUKOBA, TANZANIA - Meeting Jambo Bukoba - to be confirmed
BUKOBA - MWANZA by boat
MWANZA, TANZANIA - Meeting Voices of Africa - to be confirmed
MOSHI, TANZANIA - Meeting Ashoka Youth Venture, Moshi - to be confirmed
MOSHI - NAIROBI
NAIROBI, KENYA - Meeting Kickstart, Nairobi - producers of poverty alleviation equipment, Meeting Ashoka East Africa - to be confirmed
NAIROBI - KITALE, KENYA -
KITALE - MBALE, UGANDA - Meeting Kitale Quaker Church
MBALE - Meeting - Bududa Rural Women Entrepreneurship Institute
MBALE - BUDUDA
BUDUDA, UGANDA - Meeting "Hands of Action" and Bunabumali Orphanage
BUDUDA - KAMPALA, UGANDA - Home
If the stretch goal could be achieved, then from Mwanza, they will head south to Dodoma:
MWANZA - DODOMA - Meeting - to be confirmed
DODOMA - MBEYA - Meeting - to be confirmed
MBEYA - KAPIRI/MPOSHI - travel directly to Lusaka
KAPIRI - MPOSHI - LUSAKA - Hosting Jack CECUP School and Wiseman Banda
From there, they fly to Nairobi and continue the itinerary, which will increase by a further 14 days.