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!

Jan 19, 2016

How Pascaline Conquered Her Fear & Used Her Voice

If you were to ask people across the globe about their top fears, statistics show that 50-percent would respond “Public Speaking.” Pascaline would have answered the same.

Pascaline is one of our Computer Science scholars in Rwanda. While she was ready to tackle the world of technology, stepping out from behind a screen and onto a stage was something she never thought she’d do.

When she was selected by her school to participate in a Entrepreneurship & Leadership Summit organized by Babson College, she doubted that she was truly qualified.

“I was not very confident about my speaking and listening skills,” Pascaline admitted. “I was also from a French background and feared expressing my ideas in English to a group of Americans.”

Despite her fears, she decided to attend the summit.

On the final day of the event, her group chose her to present their business pitch in front of a panel of investors, along with an audience of all the summit attendees. Her heart was racing, but she accepted their nomination. She didn’t want let her team down.

To her surprise, she won her group third place!

The next year Pascaline was invited to the Rwandan National Youth Entrepreneurship Debate. Even though she was successful in the business pitch competition the previous year, when she stood before the judges, she said she felt like she was about to cry.

“Luckily, my colleagues built me up in confidence and we won that round,” Pascaline recalled. “We even got a chance to attend a debate camp where we met very good coaches and mentors.”

As Pascaline became further involved in public speaking, she saw how it was helping her to develop valuable leadership skills: critical analysis, quick thinking, managing emotions, and forming and accepting constructive criticism.

Pascaline was invited to work with the IMBUTO Foundation and PAJER (Parlement des Jeunes Rwandais) in Rwanda, organizations that provide speech and leadership trainings to children who aren’t in school.

“I was so glad to work with these organizations,” Pascaline said. “It amazed me because I knew how much it hurt to have words in your heart you cannot utter. These non-schooling youth have different challenges. Teaching them debate, leadership, and public speaking is a great way to help them work for their future career and complement their knowledge with different skills.”

As she watched the children grow in their confidence, Pascaline felt proud of their success.

“In my life, I have a strong wish of helping people to know and understand their voice,” Pascaline said. “I plan to continue volunteering in secondary schools, and one day I hope to become a University lecturer.”

In 2015, Pascaline served as a judge in the National Universities Female Speech Championship, and represented Rwanda in the Pan-African Universities Debate Competition in Ghana, where her team finished 36th out of 92 groups from 13 countries.

Worldwide, culture has not always supported women in leadership positions, or standing up to use their voice. Pascaline, however, wants that to change.

“As a girl, participating in debate helps you to be useful for your society. You do not fear to give your opinions in a meeting, and you discuss together with men solutions to your community, nation and the world as a whole. Simply put, it’s a powerful tool to help people think and speak about a better world.”

Jan 12, 2016

A Pivotal Year for Arnold

Accelerate Fellow, Arnold with his Grandmother
Accelerate Fellow, Arnold with his Grandmother

Arnold was just a young boy when his father died. He has no memories of him - just photos.

Soon after his father’s death, Arnold’s mom left to find work and he moved in with his grandmother. Even though Arnold felt the loss of his father, and the distance from his mother, he says his grandmother's love and care has made a lasting impact on his life.

“My grandma is my joy because she raised me. All the things I have, what I am, the discipline - I attribute it to her. I can’t imagine me without her.”

Arnold’s grandmother worked hard and made sacrifices for Arnold’s education. Her dream was - and still is - that her grandson would one day graduate from university and pursue a career that matters.

Outside of classes, Arnold was always learning new things from his uncle, who studied Information Technology at university. Arnold remembers being fascinated by how his uncle could use computer applications to solve problems and make life easier. From the example of his uncle and grandmother, Arnold became determined to go to university and study IT in hopes of learning a skill that would help his people rise.

Arnold was accepted to the National University of Rwanda, and with a Leadership Loan from These Numbers Have Faces, in September 2015 he graduated with a degree in Computer Science. His dream is to create mobile apps for Rwanda's increasing technology-based economy.

When Tina, These Numbers Have Faces' International Programs Director, heard from Arnold about his story and his amazing grandmother, Tina knew she had to meet her, so Arnold arranged a visit.

But Tina also had ulterior motives for her visit that day.

Standing between Arnold and his grandmother, Tina told them they were filming a thank you video for These Numbers Have Faces supporters. Then, she turned to Arnold and told him that he had been selected for a prestigious summer internship at Amazon Lab126 in San Francisco! Arnold burst out laughing, turning to his grandmother to translate the news. 

A few months later, Arnold was US-bound, the beginning of a life-changing journey - one that would increase his IT abilities, and also surround him with those who have made successful careers in computer science. These were the professional role models and mentors he had been waiting for.

When Arnold returned to Rwanda, he was selected as one of 100 young entrepreneurs to take part in These Numbers Have Faces' Accelerate Summit. After the three-day intensive summit where Arnold met and worked with top American and Rwandan business leaders, Arnold was chosen to be in the first class of Accelerate Academy Fellows! As one of 27 young entrepreneurs, this year Arnold will receive business training, mentorship, and seed capital to help make his business plans a reality. 

While it's only the beginning of his year as an Accelerate Fellow, Arnold is already beginning to build a mobile platform. Arnold was asked to share his new Conference Management app at Transform Africa 2015, a conference by the President of Rwanda, brining together the country's top web innovators!

After such a pivotal year, Arnold maintains to live by his favorite quote:

Try to be a person of value rather than a person of success.

“I believe by impacting others you end up being successful and you have a life worth living," Arnold said. "I hope to use my skills to impact my society by developing softwares and applications to change peoples lives, especially in Rwanda.”

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