I was born on August 1st, 1985 in Gacurabwenge, Kamonyi in the Southern Province of Rwanda and brought up in a poor family of seven siblings. My father was the sole provider of our family, he was a carpenter at the time and my mother was a housewife. In 1994, the Rwandan Genocide took place and this made things go from bad to worse for my family. During this time, I lost many people who were close to my heart including my father who was a big pillar for our family. At a young age, I had to step up and try to make ends meet. In 1999, just as I had turned fourteen and joining high school, I lost my mother. This was quite devastating for me.
At this point, I knew that I had to get a job if at all I was to afford an education. Unfortunately for me, at fourteen, I couldn’t get a stable job and this meant that I had to put in twice or thrice the effort to afford school as well as help support my siblings. The frustration, anger and bitterness that I felt at this point begun to build in me, however, instead of leading a bitter life, a passion in me awakened. I vowed to strive towards creating opportunities for young people so that they never have to face the difficulty that I went through growing up.
Even though I did not know it at the moment, the concept of ITF was born in my mind at this point. Luckily for me, I managed to finish my high school education and proceeded to Ecole Technique Saint Kizito de Save in Rwanda where I studied Public Works. I later joined an international youth organization based in Rwanda. During my time here, I was able to nurture my passion for the youth which also translated into exceptional performance which saw to my being promoted to a senior management position.
In mid-2009, I resigned from my full-time volunteer position determined to start the registration of a youth organization in Rwanda. However, when I was handed the requirements for starting an organization, I realized that I did not have enough money. I then came up with a plan to travel abroad and find a job so as to make more money. On December 14th, 2009, I left Rwanda for Kenya hoping to get a bargain on a flight to the United States of America. Things did not go quite as I had planned and I ended up running low on funds as I needed to cater for my daily expenses. At this point I knew that I needed help.
I called a very good friend of mine called Bonnie with whom I had shared genuine friendship (as well as accommodation) during my time as a full-time volunteer in Rwanda. He willingly came to my aide and through his help I was able to secure decent accommodation in Nairobi-Kenya and initialize the registration process of ITF. On August 25th, 2010, the Registrar of Societies in Kenya approved its registration and handed to us a certificate to allow us to operate as an international organization.
The first few months that I spent in Nairobi were anything but easy. I had to deal with the challenge of adapting to a strange land, the language barrier was a major problem since I could not speak Swahili which is one of Kenya’s national languages and to top it all up, I didn’t have enough money to sustain myself. I had to find a job. After an extensive and exhausting search, I stumbled upon a sales opportunity through a shoddily done advert stapled to an electricity pole that said;
“Men and women are needed right away as executive sellers; if interested call this number…”
I immediately contacted the number even though the sales advert had no information on what product or service the salespeople were to sell. A lady responded to my call and asked me to report on the following Monday morning. The initial training posed a great challenge for me since I did not understand the local language, but, this did not deter me. I managed to convince the trainer that I would try and make sales despite the challenges ahead of me. The trainer was quite reluctant to offer me the job. After a series of back and forth, the trainer finally agreed to give me a chance.
I think that one of the things that I can attest to in this world is that when you want something, the entire universe conspires to help you to achieve it. Four months later, I was given a promotion due to my outstanding sales records but it was at that time that I also got the official registration certificate for ITF and as grateful as I was for the opportunity, my desire to build ITF was burning in me. At this point, I had managed to find two other people, Javan and Pauline, to partner with.
First Operational Phase
The immediate plan of action was the main subject of ITF’s first board meeting on the evening we 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. Jointly, my partners and I 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. We created and designed ITF on principles of stimulus and inspiration for change and transformation of youth for individual achievement and our aim was to provide youth educational and self-development programs encompassing leadership and entrepreneurship.
The first project that ITF launched 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. At this point, we had managed to recruit our very first volunteers who overwhelmingly helped in organizing the very first event hosted by ITF-The 2010 ITF Debate held at Green Court Hotel, Nairobi on the 25th and 26th of November, 2010. The Debate was attended by about 260 youth and students from Nairobi’s communities, colleges and universities. 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 our expectations and it encouraged us to keep moving forward and to create an even bigger impact.
By December 2012, ITF had reached over 26000 youth across Kenya and had helped design ITF flagship projects and had successfully completed the organizational first operational phase way ahead of time.
Quest for Sustainability
Here, our plan was to initiate and implement sustainable community-based and youth-owned leadership and entrepreneurial program to facilitate and empower youth by forging partnerships with other members/groups in the community and instill a sense of ownership in the efforts to improve their well-being. The first order of business was to set up the ITF Secretariat and restructure its management to include full time staff on volunteer basis to be able to fundraise and implement the 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.
Quest for International Expansion
ITF continues to beat the notion that lack of employment opportunities for youth is not a short term problem. It continues to address the need to harness creativity and relationships so that the youth system continues to provide jobs that offer security, opportunities to grow, and continue to contribute to the development of communities.
To keep up to date with ITF activities, please open the ITF website here (www.itfsecretariat.org)