These Numbers Have Faces

Every student has the power to build a hopeful future. We invest in Africa's brightest youth to lead and empower their countries. While media statistics often paint a negative picture of Africa, we see Africa as full of life and color, light and opportunity. We believe there are people behind the statistics. A number is difficult to connect with, but when we see those numbers as real people, we find a purpose that compels us to action.
Jul 12, 2016

Becoming Role Models

It was a long walk to school - down dirt roads, past bikers and cars, during rainstorms and under the hot sun.

For Berthine, the dozens of kilometers spent walking to school each week were worth it. She would have walked a dozen more each day, if she had to.

In fact, it was on these treks that she would daydream about building a school in her village.‘What if children didn’t have to spend hours walking to and from school? I wonder if more children would attend school if it was right outside their door?’

If Berthine wanted to realize her dreams, she would have to pursue her education. To make real change, she would need to become an engineer.

Not far away from where Berthine grew up was a girl named Samantha. Like Berthine, Samantha also had a vision of becoming an engineer.

It was an uncommon goal for girls in their communities: to create effective infrastructure, and be part of Rwanda’s rising economy. But it was a desire they couldn’t let go of. Holding fast to their dreams was a risk worth taking.

In 2015, Berthine and Samantha became These Numbers Have Faces scholars, studying Civil Engineering at Kigali Institute of Science and Technology.

Samantha and Berthine have excelled in their courses, but they still lack female engineering role models.

As it would happen, a team of role models was coming to them.

In February 2016, a group from Aspen Heights, an Austin-based real estate development company, and their non-profit, Aspen Heights Awake, traveled to Rwanda to meet with These Numbers Have Faces scholars and fellows.

Aspen Heights partnered with These Numbers Have Faces in 2015 to support the launch ofThe Accelerate Academy entrepreneurship program. Greg Vestri, Aspen Heights partner and executive advisor, had already envisioned a partnership in Rwanda years before.

As Greg describes it, Aspen Heights and Aspen Heights Awake are centered on human development in the U.S., and beyond. Seeing the drive and character of young Rwandans, Greg wondered if there might come a day when Rwandan students could travel to the U.S. to experience American culture and business, and for the Aspen Heights team to experience Rwandan culture through the students.

On the final day of Aspen Heights’ week in Rwanda, Greg and team made a special announcement: summer internships for two These Numbers Have Faces scholars, Samantha and Berthine.

“I was so emotional, with tears in my eyes, because I was surprised to hear that I would be an intern at Aspen Heights,” Berthine said. “My fellows were also surprised, and they reacted by clapping and giving me many hugs. My family congratulated me. They are all so proud.”

In June, Samantha and Berthine traveled to the U.S. -their first time on an airplane- beginning a chapter of their journey they didn’t know was possible. This summer they're part of team of engineers who will be teaching them skills and business practices that will make them highly competitive and competent engineers in Rwanda.

In the years to come, when the next generation of girls are looking for role models in the engineering world, they will be able to look to Samantha and Berthine.

“From this internship I hope to discover more about engineering from a country that’s so developed,” Samantha said. “I’m looking forward to learning about improvements I can bring back to my country and contribute to its development. I believe I will discover many things about myself from living so many miles away from home.”

Jun 8, 2016

Accelerate Academy Finale!

Yvette Posing with Two Investors
Yvette Posing with Two Investors

After 8 months of training and mentorship through The Accelerate Academy, the first class of Accelerate Fellows gathered together for a full day of training and celebration. 12 of the top Fellows presented their businesses to a panel of international investors for the Pitch Finale, and 11 of them secured investments! These entrepreneurs have businesses ranging from chicken farming, to clean water delivery, to mobile phone bus ticket apps. 

Beyond the loans that will drastically elevate these businesses, the relationships with their new partners will grow the Accelerate Fellows in ways that show them they have potential; they were meant to be leaders; they are part of Rwanda's rising economy.

A star from our finale was our youngest fellow, Yvette, who recently started the IRIBA water project. Her water project ‘IRIBA water’ which locally translates into ‘a clean water source’ aims at providing clean water solutions to people living in rural areas of Rwanda.

When Yvette’s family relocated to the small community of Kayonza, she realized that access to water was a true challenge for many people. Not only were water sources miles away, but even the cost of water was unattainable for many.

“Twenty liters would cost Rwf500 or even higher. That made me think a lot about finding solutions to this problem. Water was already available from the sources such as springs and lakes but I made more research on making it both safe and affordable for people,” she explains.

IRIBA Water Project collects water, treats it with a UV purifier, and distributes it to households throughout Kayonza using bicycles. Currently Yvette supplies safe and clean water to 100 households on a daily basis, but with this new investment she plans to expand operations to serve at least 300,000 homes each day.

Thanks to your support and your investment in the Accelerate Academy Rwanda’s infrastructure and economy are changing from the ground up. Community needs are being met, individuals are gaining employment, and young people are empowered to fulfill their dreams of running a business.

Apr 20, 2016

Engineering Her Own Story

Since Alice became a These Numbers Have Faces scholar in 2014, we’ve watched her rise to the top of her University classes, represent Rwanda at an international engineering conference in India, and develop her leadership skills at the Africa Youth Leadership Forum in Goma, DRC.

Looking at Alice’s resume, you’d assume her background provided her with every opportunity to succeed. 

In reality, Alice has spent nearly 20 years living in a refugee camp in Northern Rwanda. It would seem she has reason to complain, or lose hope; but that is the polar opposite of who Alice is -- brave, determined, faithful.

At a recent Leadership Training in Rwanda, our staff announced to Alice that she was chosen to be an intern at Allion USA Engineering Services in Oregon this summer! As the room filled with applause, and fellow scholars ran to hug her, Alice said she felt like she was in a dream.

But it’s real, Alice. You made it happen.

Regardless of circumstances, we believe all our scholars are capable of achieving their vision, and having a seat at the business meeting, the engineering lab, the University lecture hall.

As we get ready to welcome Alice to the USA in June 2016, we invited her to share a bit more of her story, and why her hope is an unstoppable force.

Who or what inspired your passion for engineering?

I had a teacher in primary school who told me that I am bright and capable. When I reached secondary school, I became inspired by historical scientists like Einstein and Newton. At that moment, I wished to be part of the women who would participate in the advancement of science. 

By the time I reached high school, I had analyzed my community and found the need for electricity was paramount. I believe electricity is the backbone of development. I wish to be part of the great work that will develop my community.

Did your childhood influence your desire to pursue a college education? 

My childhood has absolutely influenced my desire to pursue a college education. I was motivated by my parents, grandparents and teachers. They believe in me and have always told me that I can make it.

There have been many challenges to pursue a University degree, however, because refugees do not have access to government tuition assistance. As a refugee, I had no way to afford college. Despite this challenge, I worked hard and was determined, because I believe that the best inheritance is your knowledge. No one can take away what you learn. I never lost my belief that one day I would be a University student. 

Tell us about your role as a leader in your community?

I was the first female math teacher at Hope School in the Gihembe Refugee Camp (a volunteer-based school). Teaching gave me confidence in what I am capable of doing. It was hard work, but I was serving my community and I knew that was important.

I became an example to other girls, showing them that they can study, work hard, and become something, like their brothers. I grew to be a leader and saw that I could positively influence the youth in Gihembe. My hope is that they will keep working hard, be determined and never lose their vision. That is what I tell them and show them through my own example.

What was your reaction when you heard Allion was offering you an internship?

When I heard about the opportunity of becoming an intern at Allion, I was so excited. Allion is a big company and I know I will learn so much from them - with electronics, engineering and leadership. This internship will influence my future.

Final thoughts?

I would like to thank Allion for this amazing opportunity. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I can't wait to see you soon!

 

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