Venuste Kubwimana (aka Venu) is a youth activist and social entrepreneur who was born and brought up in a rural and poor family of seven siblings in the Southern province of Rwanda. During the 1994 Rwandese genocide he lost almost everyone in his family making it very difficult for him to meet his daily needs. Things got worse in 1999 when his mum, the only parent he was left with also passed away. He was only a 14 year old high school student at the time.
Venuste was then forced to look for a job to meet his needs including school fees, but nobody would give a stable job to a 14 years old, unknown boy. The frustrations he went through combining boarding secondary school education and working to be able to pay school fees and support his siblings gave him absolute passion to create opportunities for fellow young people not to go through the same situation.
In 2009, Venuste, with the support of fellow youth across East Africa came together to form International Transformation Foundation (ITF) - An international Youth led nonprofit organization that provides youth leadership and entrepreneurship programs to harness creativity for a Youth system that provides jobs; offers security, opportunities to grow, and contributes to the development of our communities.
Personally and through ITF, his work has received various global awards and recognitions some of which include;
Most recently he received the ESD Okayama Award 2016 – Global Prize. The ‘ESD Okayama Award’ was established by the ‘ESD Okayama Award Steering Board’ and Okayama City in 2015 to showcase and promote ESD, and to support the organizations carrying out ESD activities.
Venuste has also been a delegate in several international conferences. In 2014, he was invited as a youth delegate to Annual African youth dialogue in Kigali on Elections & Governance by Mandela Institute for Development Studies. In May 2015 he was invited as Guest Speaker during the 2015 Africa Prosperity Summit held in Dar es Salaam by the Ligatum Institute. In 2016, he was part of the Global Citizen Youth Advocates Symposium held in New York. He also served as a youth delegate at the America’s Express Emerging Innovators Cohort held in Nairobi.
In April 2014, Venuste published his autobiography–The Story Behind The Scene.
In spite of all the challenges he faced, Venuste keeps growing into a sensational youth activist and inspiration to young people across the world.
Venuste Kubwimana (aka Venu) is a youth activist and social entrepreneur who was born and brought up in a rural and poor family of seven siblings in the Southern province of Rwanda. In 2009, Venuste partnered with fellow East African youth to form International Transformation Foundation (ITF) - An international Youth led nonprofit organization that provides youth leadership and entrepreneurship programs to harness creativity for a Youth system that provides jobs; offers security, opportunities to grow, and contributes to the development of our communities.
This was inspired by Venuste’s troubled youth where he lost almost everyone in his family during the 1994 Rwanda genocide. At the tender age of 14, he was forced to look for a job to meet his needs including school fees, but nobody would give a stable job to a 14 year old, unknown boy. The frustrations he went through combining boarding secondary school education and working to be able to pay school fees and support his siblings gave him absolute passion to create opportunities for fellow young people not to go through the same situation.
In spite of all the challenges he faced, Venuste keeps growing into a sensational youth activist and inspiration to young people across the world.
Venuste Kubwimana was born in August 1985 in Kamonyi Village, Southern Rwanda. He was the 4th born in a family of 7 siblings. His father was a carpenter and his mother was a housewife. Growing up, Venuste was a healthy but quiet boy making it hard for people around him to predict his behavior. At the age of 7, as was the custom of the village, his parents registered him to Kamonyi Primary School. They were curious to see how Venuste would perform in shool sine he didn’t seem like an intelligent child to them. However, deep down, Venuste had a self driven spirit that led him to be among the top ten students at the end of his first term at school, a fete that surprised everyone. In 1998, he passed his primary school final exams to join junior high school at Group Scholaire de Shyogwe. His outstanding results at junior high school earned him a spot at the senior high school; Ecole technique saint Kizito de Save where he graduated in 2005.
The dream to create a youth system that would provide jobs, offer opportunities to grow and contribute to individual and sustainable development of our communities was conceived in Venuste’s mind after going through his rough upbringing. It all started in the aftermath of the dreadful Rwanda genocide in December 1999 when Venuste lost almost all members of his family including his mother, the only parent he had at the time. He was raised in a poor family where he was the 4th born in a family of 7 siblings.
At the age of 14, Venuste was forced to search for a job to meet basic needs for him and his siblings. It was difficult since he had to balance high school life, working so as to pay his school fees and taking care of his siblings at the same time. However, all these obstacles didn’t serve to put him down but they inspired him to make a difference in the lives of fellow youth through his current nonprofit organization; International Transformation Foundation (ITF).
Initially, Venuste was convinced that studying public works for his higher education would help him amass enough money to start a youth organization after employment. However, two years after completing his course, he started working as a full time volunteer for an international youth organization in Rwanda where his brilliant performance and passion earned him a promotion to a senior management position. His experience at this youth organization equipped him with sufficient knowledge in running a youth organization.
In 2007, Venuste met Bonnie, a Kenyan who had also come to volunteer with the organization. As the only African volunteers, Bonnie and Venuste shared one of the staff houses and living together made them discover just how much they had in common especially when it came to their values and dreams.
In mid 2009, Venuste resigned from his full time volunteer position, determined to start the registration of a youth organization in Rwanda. However, when he was handed the requirements for starting an organization, he realized that he did not have enough money to cover the whole cost. He then came up with a plan to travel and find a job abroad so as to make more money.
On 14th December 2009, Venuste left Rwanda for Kenya hoping to get a bargain on a flight to America. However, things did not go quite as he had planned as he got decent accommodation in Nairobi but his finances were not adequate to cover his daily expenses. He thought about contacting his Kenyan friend Bonnie for help but he dismissed the idea for he didn’t want to look desperate. After some time, he didn’t have much of a choice but to call Bonnie, the only person he knew in Kenya.
Fortunately, Bonnie had just gotten a new job and with his first month’s salary, he rented a room and bought his first mattress and a plastic carpet. It was in that room that the idea to start ITF as an international nonprofit organization was shaped.
While having a conversation, Bonnie advised Venuste on starting a youth nonprofit organization since the laws in Kenya allows individuals to start a nonprofit without necessarily having a lot of capital. This news was like a dream come true for Venuste and he immediately started making plans on setting up an international youth nonprofit organization in Kenya with Bonnie’s help.
Venuste and Bonnie spent the following months planning and designing various aspects of the organization such as the constitution, logo, organization name and other details. However, one of the requirements of setting up an organization was to have at least 3 people. They then pitched the idea to Pauline and Javan, who were friends with Bonnie. They agreed to the partnership and that’s when International Transformation Foundation set off as they submitted all required documents in March 2010. On 25th August 2010, the Registrar of Societies in Kenya approved their registration and handed them a certificate to allow them operate as an international organization.
The first few months that Venuste spent in Nairobi were anything but easy. He had to deal with the challenge of adapting to a strange land, the language barrier since he could not speak Swahili and to top it all up, he didn’t have enough money thus he had to find a job. After an extensive and exhausting search, he stumbled onto a sales opportunity through a sales advert;
“Men and women are needed right away as executive sellers; if interested call this number…”
He immediately got his phone and called the number even though the sales advert had no information on what product or service the salespeople were to sell. A lady responded to his call and asked him to report on Monday morning.
On Monday morning, Venuste arrived at the sales offices as instructed. The initial training posed a great challenge for him since he didn’t understand the local language but this didn’t deter him. He convinced the trainer that he will try and make sales despite the language barrier but the trainer was reluctant to offer him the job. After a series of back and forth, the trainer agreed to give Venuste a chance in selling due to Venuste’s persistence and determination.
Venuste then joined a promotional team selling mobile phone accessories and he was placed in the sim card department. The first town they had to visit was Machakos. It was at a hair salon in Machakos where Venuste made his first sale and that provided him with enough motivation. He ended up selling much more than expected to the utter shock of fellow employees. Strangely, even without knowing local languages, Venuste shined as the greatest sales man in the company. Throughout the short but strange surprising life he lived as seller, Venuste truly experienced how when you want something, the entire universe conspires in helping you to achieve it.
Four months later, Venuste was given a promotion due to his outstanding sales records but it was at that time that he also got the official registration certificate for ITF. He was thankful for the opportunity but he had to move on in order to fulfill his dream of helping fellow youth overcome their challenges through ITF.
The immediate plan of action was the main subject of ITF’s first board meeting on the evening they were given the registration and the outcome was mainly to brilliantly make the ITF name known to the world and to put forth values that portray youth as protagonists in the fight against youth problems, not mere spectators. Venuste and his fellow board members had deep aspirations that real change comes about when young people are able to identify issues of primary concern to them and are empowered to develop, implement and manage youth-owned strategies. They created and designed ITF on principles of stimulus and inspiration for change and transformation of youth for individual achievement and their aim was to provide youth educational and self development programs encompassing leadership and entrepreneurship built around youth needs.
They then began searching for office space and they were fortunate to get space in the 15th floor of View Park Towers, Nairobi where they were provided with a computer equipped desk –work station and a shared reception and a board room. This decision proved futile a year later on when they discovered the rent was too costly for their budget.
The first project that launched ITF was the Leadership and Entrepreneurship training which would consist of Debates and Training workshops giving youth life didactic principles with rigorous instructions that shove them to expand their boundaries of knowledge molding them into great leaders and entrepreneurs. The annual debate was hosted as a concrete place for change and transformation of youth through the exchange of ideas in a persuasive and argumentative manner. ITF would also conduct training workshops regularly in various institutions and communities to impart youths with principles that would help them become accomplished men and women.
While at View Park towers, they managed to recruit their first volunteers/members who overwhelmingly helped to stage their first and historical activity “the 2010 ITF Debate” at Green Court Hotel on 25th to 26th November 2010. The Debate was attended by about 260 youth and students mostly from Nairobi’s communities, colleges and universities such as University of Nairobi, Kenya Polytechnic and Nairobi Aviation. The debate was sponsored by reputable companies such as Nakumatt, Air Arabia, Manji and Summaria Industries thanks to the efforts made by George Arango, one of the volunteers. The success of the first debate was beyond their expectations and it encouraged them to keep moving forward and create an even bigger impact.
By December 2012 ITF had reached over 26000 youths across Kenya and had helped design ITF flagship projects (1 slum 100 Computers Project, Community Library & resource centre, Water kiosks) and had very successfully completed our organizational first operational phase ahead of time.
After successfully completing the organizational first operational phase, which consisted of getting publicity for ITF, putting forth their values and involving fellow youth in designing and organizing their flagship projects, Venuste and his team embarked on the organization’s second operational phase meant for sustainability quest.
In the second phase, they intended to operate designed community based and owned youth leadership and entrepreneurship programs to ensure ITF’s self sustainability and growth, empowering and facilitating youths to forge partnerships with other groups in the community and instill a sense of ownership in the efforts to improve their well-being and building their capacity to realize their individual aspirations and contribute to their communities development.
They then began the process of transitioning which included setting up the ITF Secretariat and restructuring its management to include full time staffs on volunteer basis to be able to fundraise and implement three designed flagship projects.
In July 2013, ITF partnered with Join the Pipe Foundation, launching Join the Pipe project, a project that involved installing specially designed Dutch taps stations near playgrounds, city centers, parks, schools and bus stations in Kenya in order for people to drink clean water whenever possible. In November, 2014, ITF launched yet another project; 1 Slum 100 Computers Project thanks to a kind donation from the Rabo Bank Foundation. The project aimed to provide computer training and entrepreneurship mentoring to youth groups in Eastern Nairobi slums and informal settlements to be familiar enough with computer applications and design computer based business. At completion of the training and mentorship, loans them computers and other technological devices to set up a computer-based business.
Shortly after, ITF started working on starting up yet another project, the Kahawa West Community Library & Resource Centre, a project designed to operate as a hub and serve as the community’s one stop resource, information and continual learning centre for approximately 39994 people residing in Kahawa west and adjacent areas with a variety of services to fight against poverty and illiteracy. Unfortunately, the project wasn’t able to secure needed funds to sustain it.
By the end of 2015 ITF had built 9 join the pipe water kiosks/stations in Nairobi, Siaya and Bungoma County’s communities providing clean tap water and associated multiple benefits to 4338 students and 70,587 general community residents. Over 26,947 Youth across east Africa had participated in our leadership & entrepreneurship training consisting of debates and workshops.
ITF believes that the lack of employment opportunities for youth is not a short term problem. We need to harness our creativity and relationships so that our Youth system continues to provide jobs that offer security, opportunities to grow, and continue to contribute to the development of our communities. Today, in a time that offers so much hope and potential for Youth transformative change, we are powerfully reminded that the benefits of our programming still fall far short of reaching billions of our fellow young men and women. At the beginning of 2016, Venuste announced that he will continue to strive to strengthen and sustain ITF coordination Secretariat in Kenya in order to expand and deepen Youth dignity and be more ambitious by replicating ITF flagship projects in other nations across East Africa, starting with his home country Rwanda.