From Struggling Entrepreneur to Mentor: Charity’s Story

Mobile-focused Charity at her shop Fanchi Global Resources, with her garments making a colorful backdrop.

Mobile-focused Charity at her shop Fanchi Global Resources, with her garments making a colorful backdrop.

Meet Mrs. Charity Esezobor. She is a female entrepreneur, a mother of four, and a mentor to young girls in her community in Nigeria. Charity started her custom-garment business Fanchi Global Resources in 2016.

She had previously worked in an insurance company and later in a micro-finance bank. Then one day, Charity came across a store with beautiful fabrics that sparked her love for garment-making. From that point on, she devoted her passion to making attractive and affordable fabrics.

Charity standing proud as a female entrepreneur.

Charity standing proud as a female entrepreneur.

The year Charity decided to start her business was rough for Nigeria with the economy dip. The recession affected local businesses and made it a struggle for Charity to purchase more machines that make her products faster and neater. She also had difficulty with financial management and needed a more sophisticated stoning machine – critical for her work to stamp a design or graphic on a piece of fabric.

Charity and her two female apprentices embellishing fabrics with beautiful beads.

Charity and her two female apprentices embellishing fabrics with beautiful beads.

YTF came into the picture when we teamed up with our long-standing partner, Mastercard, to provide financial management training and mentorship to entrepreneurs like Charity. She received the professional education necessary to save more, keep accurate financial records, and make practical decisions for her business. She now has a generator that supplies power when the electricity supply is out. Also, Charity researched sources for the best market that provides affordable prices and quality material so she can retain and satisfy her customers. Since receiving help from YTF and Mastercard, her customer base has increased by 30 percent.

Charity using her electric stoning machine to make a new yellow, decorated garment for her store.

Charity using her electric stoning machine to make a new yellow, decorated garment for her store.

We want to empower women like Charity to have continuous growth in their field as they become self-sufficient and financially able to provide for themselves and their families.

Charity decided to take the huge step forward of leaving her job and pursuing the desire to be self-employed and create employment opportunities for youth in her community. Now, Charity is a female entrepreneur who passes the torch on to the young women in her community who have an interest in garment-making. She is helping raise the next generation of women entrepreneurs, making Charity an incredible asset for her community’s sustainability.

The two apprentices Charity mentors and supports in the garment-making business

The two apprentices Charity mentors and supports in the garment-making business

We are proud to share her story, and applaud Charity for being bold for change and standing firm by overcoming the challenges that came her way!

Launching a Life Vision With Family Support and Tech Training

Emmanuel (left) with his father and younger sister.

Emmanuel (left) with his father and younger sister.

A supportive family often provides love and encouragement to help youth reach their dreams, but at some point a child must stand on their own. Many of our students at YTF are at this crossroads, wanting to step out and learn skills to help build their life.

Emmanuel (22) from Imo State, Nigeria, is one of those students. He is grateful for the encouragement to further his education, supported by his father, a technician, and his mother, a nurse, and his younger sister.  

The First Steps: Technology Training with YTF

In 2014, Emmanuel enrolled in YTF’s Digital Literacy and Project 3E Training (Education, Entrepreneurship, and Environment). He was a technology novice and his teachers noticed a need to develop an independent mindset.

YTF’s digital literacy training helps students like Emmanuel develop proficiency in Microsoft programs (Word, Excel, and PowerPoint), Corel draw, page-maker, internet access, and more. Emmanuel’s second program, Project 3E, trains youth using education and entrepreneurship skills to solve environmental problems.

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As he dug into YTF’s training, Emmanuel learned to appreciate technology from teachers like IFeoma (pictured above).  

Emmanuel now believes that, with technology, things are being done faster and easier to achieve a better results.

“YTF has really brought joy to my life both academically and morally,” said Emmanuel. “After my enrollment in YTF, I became conversant with anything that has to do with ICT.”

YTF ultimately provided him with skills that have helped guide his steps and launch his life vision.

Launching a Vision: How YTF Inspires and Equips Future Leaders

Emmanuel was able to secure a job using the independent search skills he learned with YTF. He is currently working as a computer instructor in Learners’ Nursery and Primary School in New Owerri and in the media department of his church. In addition, during his term examinations, Emmanuel goes to the schools in his neighborhood, collects exam papers, and helps type and print them out.

Recently, Emmanuel received admission to study Education Economics at Alvan Ikoku College of Education.

This is all part of Emmanuel’s life vision, inspired by YTF’s Project 3E program. He hopes to become one of the best economists in Nigeria and Africa at large. YTF’s training has not only helped him set a ambitious vision, but also create a path to achieve it. After learning the benefits of being self-employed, he hopes to start his own business as soon as he graduates from university — a business funded by his current job.

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Emmanuel is no longer looking to his parents for any financial assistance. He is independent; providing for his needs in school on his own and even helping out his family. His parents are proud of his work and his potential.

This International Day of Families, we recognize the importance of family support. We know our role in providing education to develop sustainable lifestyles is only possible within a greater ecosystem, and students are often emboldened and successful when they have a supportive family. 

Want to help more people like Emmanuel surround themselves in a support system of technology training and business skills? Find opportunities with YTF.

Stepping it Up in STEM Education: Q&A with Peace  

In a brightly-lit room, a group of students engage in an interactive education with the computers provided by YTF in Owerri, Nigeria. For nine years and counting, current teacher Peace continues her story with our organization from student and participant in her first three years to an employee inside many other rooms in the last six years. This Girls in ICT Day, we want to share her story with a Q&A session geared specifically towards her experience as a Program Manager throughout Nigeria and empowering young girls to pursue their passion in science.

Peace, Program Coordinator in Nigeria

Peace, Program Coordinator in Nigeria

 

Tell me a bit about yourself.

I am a mentor to dozens of girls and young women with the focus of inspiring them as the next generation of innovators. I believe that we make a living by what we get and get a life by what we give. I love reading about new inventions, mentoring, and travelling. I have served in various capacities implementing STEM projects especially with the focus to foster girls’ interest in STEM. I have always loved technological inventions. Technology makes life easier and connects the world. We can see the relevance of technology in every aspect of human endeavors and how it has relieved people of so much tension and stress.

How did you hear about YTF?

I heard about YTF while I was in the university (Imo State University, Owerri) in 2007. YTF had trained my faculty (i.e. faculty of Engineering) on the use of computers. After that training, I enrolled in YTF’s Tech Teens program because it was very affordable, almost free compared to what other computer institutes charged. When I resumed my classes, I found that YTF was not just a computer institute, but a family that is there to nurture youths towards achieving their goals in life. I received not just computer skills but also life skills.

Peace at a training session in Nigeria

Peace at a training session in Nigeria

 

Describe your current position.

As Program Coordinator, I have planned/implemented various programs that have impacted thousands of lives of youth, girls, and women throughout Nigeria. I also liaise with schools in YTF communities to develop partnerships and train students/teachers on appropriate technology, and I provide training on life/leadership skills for youth enrolled in YTF Academy and women in YTF communities. I worked with rural women farmers in YTF’s Agric-P.O.W.E.R. program to educate them on best farming practicing and access to agricultural information using technology: 60% testified that their crops were yielding better.

I implemented YTF’s Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs and Mobile Value Added Services program. This program has equipped over 10,000 women entrepreneurs with the necessary financial, business, and technology skills/capabilities needed to excel in their business. The program includes planning, recruiting participants, training staff, and delivering training to women entrepreneurs. Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs program resulted in 40% increases in participant income after applying the principles they were taught—this actually made me very proud.
I’m actively involved in Girls in ICT Day program—connecting over 400 girls from 30+ secondary schools throughout Nigeria. The girls were connected to female STEM mentors to encouraged them to pursue STEM careers and participated in 3D printing.

What’s your philosophy in teaching technology?

Technology is an integral part of our lives and few can imagine living without it.  As technology continues to advance and direct even more easiness in our lives, it is imperative that we equip today’s youth with the necessary skills so that they can be employable.

Tell me about a difficult circumstance you handled. What action did you take? What were the results?

My role is to oversee the implementation of various gender-related programs. An unexpected obstacle occurred while implementing YTF’s She Will Connect program. We had already strategized with secondary schools and universities throughout Nigeria to meet the program’s goal of training 12,000 girls/women in basic ICT and entrepreneurship skills and had worked with them to implement the program. Then in the middle of the trainings, the universities went on strike and many students vacated—you can imagine the frustration. The program had a timeline so it was evident that if I didn’t do something about it, I would be in trouble. So I had to put on my thinking cap. I had to conceive another approach that would help us achieve our deliverables. Instead of universities, we partnered with faith-based organizations and community leaders to recruit participants. Fortunately, we were able to train the required number of clients with impressive results.

Who has most influenced you, and how did they influence you?

I have been influenced by so many people, but the two people that have most influenced me are my parents. My parents taught me to be diligent, courageous, and optimistic; and most importantly to put God first in everything I do. They are generous and always eager to help others, their love, care, and motivation has brought me where I am today. Another person that has influenced me is my boss. I am inspired and motivated by her leadership style, commitment, creative and innovative ideas. Her dedication to work has made very dedicated to my duties at Youth for Technology Foundation (YTF). Through her mentorship, I have been able to achieve a lot. She brings out the best in me.

What if a student/participant doesn’t “get it?” What do you do to help them understand?

If a student doesn’t get it in class, I arrange a private class for her where I will try to teach her at her pace and also use examples that she is familiar with.

Peace and Prince, a student of YTF Academy

Peace and Prince, a student of YTF Academy

 

 

What’s the difference in teaching ICT to the different age groups?

Each age group has a unique way of assimilation. It’s a lot easier for younger participants (8-30) to understand ICT than it is for the older participants (35-55). The youths are eager to learn, enthusiastic and do not have much distractions, while the older participants are occupied with family, work etc. It requires a lot of patience to teach them.

Which student/participant has most inspired you and why?

The student that most inspired me is Edward Rita. She is 19 years old and she is from Imo state, Nigeria. She loves drawing and designing and has always done them on paper until she enrolled in YTF Tech Teens program where she was taught how to appreciate technology and use it as a tool for change. Her light bulb moment was her ability to design on the computer and also emailing her design to her aunt. She felt very elated when her aunt showered her with praises. She loves designing and technological tools like the computer has made it more fun, easier, and interesting

With this ICT Girls Day, what’s your takeaway with the discussion happening in Empower Women?

Being part of the moderators on the e-discussion on science, technology, and innovation (STI) is a great opportunity to brainstorm with others on the future of STI. Let’s #stepitup by moving from teaching young girls STEM to taking young girls to STEM. Let them see real life application of science, technology, and innovation. It’s time to take a more proactive approach towards gender equality such as changing STEM education. Let’s step away from teaching STI to a more practical approach thereby creating an enabling environment for girls to see STI in action such as what YTF does on Girls in ICT day Celebrations.

Sparking a STEM Career During Spring Break: YTF’s 3D Printing Academy for Girls

Most girls in the U.S. report an interest in STEM fields, but only 24 percent of women currently in the workforce have a STEM job. Women are even less represented in engineering– only 15 percent of that field is female.

To help close that gap, we commit to empowering girls from an early age to continue developing their interests in STEM careers. We found one model to help take that interest and turn it into a tangible career path – 3D printing.

Earlier this month we opened the doors to our second 3D Printing Academy for Girls spring break camp at our U.S. headquarters in Louisville, Kentucky led by an all-female YTF staff.

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Our group of young engineers jumping for joy after showing off their experience to their close ones on family day.

Girls from the area, ages 11-14, were equipped with laptops that included TinkerCAD and Fusion 360 software, prepped to design and print objects on a Cubify or MakerBot 3D printer. Inspiration and training filled the curriculum, from documentaries on inventors to live product demos, with the promise of 3D printed jewelry by the end of the week.

Empowering STEMinist Messages

Technology companies and organizations filled each day with creative activities and speakers to educate and empower our participants.

Our speakers this year included:

  • Angelique Johnson, a University of Louisville assistant professor, shared her career path and her work in hearing aid device development.
  • Mary Beckman, community manager from FirstBuild, spoke about being an engineer. She partnered with Sarah Morris, a University of Louisville student in the Digital Manufacturing and Design Program.
  • Mary Fugier from McNeel’s Technical Support and Training division taught how to use the Rhinocerous 3D modeling software.
  • Jennifer Lea, lead electronics design engineer at GE Appliances, a Haier Company, demonstrating electrical engineering.
  • Erica Nwankwo, design education evangelist from Autodesk, demoed special 3D printing design features in Fusion 360.
  • Sydney Dahl, NPI project manager at MakerBot, shared her career path and explained her role in creating MakerBot printers.

These powerful women painted an image for our girls of what their future could look like as female engineers. 

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Dr. Angelique Johnson starting off the week of empowering messages from female engineers with an encouraging speech to all the young girls at the camp.

The first speaker of the week, Angelique Johnson, showed admiration for the group’s willingness to attend camps such as this one and supported their passion to pursue STEM-related fields. 

“I want to stay in management to help other women in tech like myself reach their goals,” said Dahl.

Following closely after, Mary Fugier presented a Rhino Tutorial and showed the students how to 3D design a lemon squeezer.

Tools of the Trade

The girls were introduced to 3D printing at the beginning of and reviewed throughout the week through videos on the printing process and materials to help support the training.

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Our teacher Lily working one-on-one with student Chloe.

Other core learning activities included:

  • A computer aided design (CAD) tool used to create models for 3D printing, called TinkerCAD, was introduced to begin making 3D objects. 
  • Another CAD tool, Rhino, where students typed in commands to create a collage of simple objects.
  • The OzoBlockly robot programming platform, with which students
  • Web programming introductions using Komodo IDE, FileZilla, and GoDaddy. 
  • Basic sketching and how to manipulate a special digital design surface called T-splines using Autodesk’s Fusion 360 CAD program. 
  • Two fun class projects with TinkerCAD: making coins and creating a “diamond” ring.

3D Printing as a Platform for Learning and Exploration

The girls were eager to learn, ask questions, readily participate in hands-on activities, and actively problem-solving. 3D printing is a unique activity, working equally well for group projects and individual work.

One girl, Pragya, expressed many of her ideas freely to the group and became an outstanding team manager during a game-building exercise. Another student, KeAris, enjoyed making 3D designs such as her own name and even printed a design with the name of her nana, Norma. The flexibility allowed students with a range of learning styles to stay involved in their work and flex their creativity.  

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From left to right, Jazmine, Kaema , and KeAris taking notes during a lesson.

The week-long academy concluded with a final review and a proud show-and-tell demonstration for Family Day.

We at YTF want to absolutely highlight our partners like:  University of Louisville, Society of Women Engineers, Best Buy, PPG Foundation, Kentucky Center for African American Heritage, GE Haier and our technology partners including 3D Systems, McNeel & Associates, MakerBot, Lexmark and Autodesk.

Now, we’re excited to announce the next 3D Printing Academy is open to serve more girls in Louisville this June. Stay tuned for more information and future events on the 3D Printing Academy website.

Boldly Boosting Entrepreneurs on International Women’s Day

women entrepreneur workshop Nigeria mastercard presenter

MasterCard’s Tayo Adesina speaking to the women entrepreneurs about customer service segmentation.

When we go bold, we go big. While you saw us tweeting away on International Women’s Day, what you didn’t see was an eager group of women entrepreneurs gathered in Lagos, Nigeria, ready to learn. Our team partnered with generous employees from technology-related companies to mark International Women’s Day as a truly actionable occasion.

While all women are celebrated every year on March 8, it is in YTF’s DNA to celebrate women entrepreneurs in particular – mothers of the thousands of youth we serve. This workshop encouraged our women entrepreneurs in Nigeria to be resilient in spite of the economic change and recession. Sticking with the global theme of International Women’s Day, we aimed to #BeBoldForChange, taking actions towards gender parity.

Formula for Fast-Track Entrepreneur Building

The first day of the workshop brought together women entrepreneurs alongside a group of Mastercard and HP employees, in addition to representatives from the Association of Nigerian Women Business Network (ANWBN), a network of women entrepreneurs invited by the Center for International and Private Enterprise (CIPE).

This four-hour training and knowledge sharing session included building an action wall. Participants brainstormed what they would do to achieve gender equality if they were put in charge of their country. Ideas ranged from giving free vocational training to disadvantaged girls to opening doors for a female president.

The keynote address was delivered by Alexa Lion and Oladipo Ogunshire from the Mastercard team. They introduced Mastercard and shared their vision for “a world beyond cash,” explaining Mastercard uses technology to make payments safe, simple and smart.

Mastercard employee hugging woman enterpreneur

Mastercard’s Alexa Lion giving one of the women entrepreneurs, Charity Esezobor, a hug at the beginning of the workshop as part of an icebreaker.

Sessions throughout the day included:

  • Some practical dos and don’ts in a recession, presented by YTF staff.
  • The impact of e-payment for women entrepreneurs, presented by Uwa Uzebu and Kamil Olufowobi of Mastercard. They educated the women entrepreneurs on what e-payment can do for them as a businesswoman, saying that it can save lots of time and inconvenience.
  • A hands-on training on how to write a business plan, presented by Casmir Anyaegbu with YTF. The women were markedly happy to receive such a practical guide.
  • A focus on empowering women in small and medium businesses, presented by Joyce Onumere and Ruth Owolabi from HP. They introduced HP LIFE – an online business and IT training platform – and encouraged the women to take advantage of the platform to gain education on relevant topics and boost their businesses.

 

Finally, the entrepreneurs were instructed in customer service segmentation to help relate to each customer appropriately and offered ideas on creating customer loyalty by offering discounts and deals.

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Joyce Onwumere of HP speaking to the women entrepreneurs

 

Entrepreneurs in Action: Visiting Aeesha Collections

The next afternoon, the YTF team accompanied the Mastercard crew for a tour of one entrepreneur’s business – Aeesha Collections. Owner Aishat manufactures shoes and has participated in YTF’s Nigerian Women Entrepreneurs training in Lagos. She designs the shoes, puts them together using leather and rubber, and has a couple small machines to complete the product. Very few women in Nigeria do this type of work.

Woman entrepreneur shoemaker in Lagos, Nigeria

Aishat (left) giving a tour

The group met her seven employees – all male – at her workshop and spoke with Aishat about her business. After exploring her workshop, Aishat took the group to her showroom to show off some of her designs.

YTF introduced 3D printing to Aishat and has been working with her to explore the possibilities of 3D printing shoe soles and other materials of her shoes. The Mastercard team learned about this process from Aishat and considered ways in which working with YTF, they can advance this vision for Aishat and many other women entrepreneurs looking at ways to innovate within their product lines. 

Boldly Navigating the New Frontier

We believe Africa is the newest frontier for creating sustainable livelihoods through micro, small and medium enterprise development – especially for women at risk of vulnerable employment. That’s why our #BeBoldforChange idea for International Women’s Day was this event.

The opportunity to get Mastercard employees to donate their time and talent, diving in by touring a business of a woman entrepreneur we support and listening to her stories, challenges, and successes firsthand was the pivotal outcome of this two-day event. Forging connections between entrepreneurs and paths to success is a role we’re excited to play – whether that’s a piece of critical knowledge or a company willing to support small and medium business.

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The Skills Gap Up Close and Personal: Chiamaka’s Story

Secondary school graduate Chiamaka worked happily in sales at a supermarket in Owerri, Nigeria until they adopted a cashless policy and she was forced to quit due to her lack of experience with electronics. Fast forward six months, and Chiamaka has now acquired all the skills necessary to tackle any technological endeavor. The tables have turned so much that she now works at a technologically-focused company as a secretary, beloved by her boss. What changed?

Chiamaka in the middle of her classmates at graduation.

Chiamaka in the middle of her classmates at graduation.

This 22-year-old worker with no idea how to use digital stock inventory systems or conduct point of sale transactions on the computer isn’t that much different than others her age. According to a 2014 study by PWC, 96 percent of CEOs in Africa (compared to a global average of 63 percent) are concerned about the lack of skills.  

“In Nigeria, too many graduates lack non-academic skills.” Dozie Okpalaobieri, Director, Quincy Advisory Limited

At least two-thirds of unemployed youth in Africa are between 15 and 24 years old. Chiamaka did not receive ICT (information and communications technology) skills training in high school. Even if she had, technology has continued to advance drastically. Once she left the job at the market, she decided to enroll in YTF’s six-month program.

Once she left the job at the market, Chiamaka decided to enroll in YTF’s six-month program.

A Rejuvenated Future with a New Job

Our teachers noted how Chiamaka’s motivation and fast learning led her to high confidence once she joined the program. We provided her with internet access, a computer, a digital camera and other learning materials like practical booklets.

Chiamaka then had the chance to practice her skills as a YTF Academy graduate intern for two months.

Chiamaka second from the right focused on working her new-found skills on the computer.

Chiamaka second from the right focused on working her new-found skills on the computer.

After completing the program, a company called “FOR HIM COMPUTER” hired her as a secretary. This position builds on what she learned in YTF’s program and helps her further develop her skills in a professional setting. Plus, Chiamaka receives a round-trip transportation stipend each time she comes to work.

Chiamaka clearly has a desire to keep learning, with plans to attend a university next school year.

A Higher Education Motivation, Boosted by YTF

Chiamaka keeps dreaming of what she can achieve with her newfound skills, now hoping to be a world-class nurse in the future. We are so proud to see a student like Chiamaka go through a complete turnaround – from technology novice to a girl who can leverage technology to reach new dreams. 

We know hope remains for many other students just like Chiamaka, who is one of more than 100 YTF Academy students who go above and beyond in their studies. It’s not a surprising path, considering 96 percent of YTF program graduates go on to higher education within two years of graduating.

We at YTF see stories like this every day, and we can’t help but share our favorites. Stay tuned for the next student’s transformation journey.

A Supportive Community Equals a Thriving Business

What comes around goes around and a network of entrepreneurs keep the circle of support in the communities of Umudiator Village in Imo State. Mother and wife Mrs. Oluchi has the passion and creativity innate to support her trade. Since training with us, Mrs. Oluchi has also had a reliable network and the technological wisdom to continue a thriving business. Now Mrs. Oluchi gives back to the community and provides a tour of her workplace to YTF participants learning about entrepreneurship.  Continue reading

What I Learned about Women Empowerment from Working with YTF

Post by Narges Khoramshahi, Next Generation Leaders program

Since the day I walked through the doors of YTF’s Louisville headquarters in October 2016, I’ve been floored by how YTF works. Prior to joining the team, I had no idea how far-reaching and positive the impact of one organization could be.

I have the unique opportunity to embed with YTF for a year through the Next Generation Leaders program, digging deep to develop leadership skills that I can take back to my country. So far, I have been included in several talks with YTF country managers and have been incredibly inspired by how YTF leverages technology, often in places that an outsider might consider technology to be a luxury.

This exposure to emerging technologies has prompted me to integrate aspects of technology into my action plan for work back home, opening doors to become more effective.

Roots at Home and Branches Across the Ocean

I have learned that being an influential leader requires a clear understanding of the communities and people you want to work with and empower. A home base for YTF in Louisville, Kentucky, may seem strange at first, but once you get to know Njideka’s vision, experience and dedication – paired with a keen eye for the right partners and a capable team – it’s clear that no individual across the world is out of reach for YTF’s life-altering impacts.

At the same time, I’m learning that you can’t be indifferent about the community that surrounds you. Defining new projects in order to be a change agent and leader where you live is just as critical as reaching new continents. For instance, I am becoming familiar with various YTF programs such as 3D Printing Academy for Girls. While YTF’s 3D printing work started in countries like Nigeria and Kenya, this 3D printing program was recently brought home to Louisville. I have learned to appreciate the accessibility of the Louisville community and their welcoming attitude. I see a great potential for connection and collaboration.

The concept of community for YTF’s work extends beyond directly serving the people of Louisville. YTF also deeply values and benefits from partnerships and learning from their fellow changemaker organizations. YTF wants to be an active part of the nonprofit community in Louisville and as such is a member of Center for Nonprofit Excellence (CNPE), based right here in Louisville. We participated in the CNPE annual conference last fall and saw the potential of the Louisville community – an inspiring reminder of the role YTF can play in this space. We especially loved the supportive atmosphere, agreeing with fellow attendees that an effort to be fair and patient with each other can pay dividends in all our work.

Want to Make a Big Impact? Make the Details Matter.

At YTF, every single appointment, phone call and visit matters. And each interaction and communication requires preparation and focus.

We evaluate ourselves before and after our meetings and calls. We try to determine what success looks like in any session. We prepare, have a plan and follow up to establish accountability to implement tasks and keep driving forward. We make it a goal to learn one thing from every meeting. It’s clear these small, organizational culture things matter and make a difference.

This may seem obvious to some, but it speaks volumes to YTF’s operating principles. How you approach your work and how you honor people’s values makes for stronger relationships and lasting, meaningful changes in the world.

Telling Our Story, Our Way

When I first met Njideka and heard the story of how she started and shaped YTF, I knew instantly I could learn a lot from her journey as a leader. As social entrepreneurs, Njideka and I co-wrote a piece in celebration of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day last fall. Talking about our passion working with Iranian and Nigerian women is certainly close to our hearts. It’s been incredible to discover the enormous similarities between our communities when it comes to women. Even more, I’m finding through YTF the potential and the desire to break through all my limitations and to stand tall on their behalf.

I’ve been reminded time and again that empowering one woman is like empowering all women. I cherish the work that YTF does to provide opportunities for girls and women and I am honored to be part of it.

“SCRATCH”-ing the Code World

Brenda Wangwe-Kilonzo writes for YTF Kenya and is based in Nairobi. She wrote this based on her experience at Africa Code Week at Nairobi’s Winka Academy.

The energy is infectious. I am not very sure there are many better ways of unwinding than sitting in the midst of excited 10 year olds. It’s all hands raised, fingers snapping and near-desperate calls on the tutor – everyone seems to have that special answer he is looking for.

 “Education is simply the soul of a society as it passes from one generation to another.”

G.K. Chesterton

I’m at Youth for Technology Foundation’s (YTF) Africa Code Week at Nairobi’s Winka Academy; teaching ages 9-11 to code using a software package called Scratch.

“This is an entry point to the more advanced coding,” said Wanyumu Ibuka, YTF’s program coordinator. “It comes with pre-set icons which can help children program their own interactive stories, animations, and games.”

Scratch helps young people learn to think creatively, reason systematically, and work collaboratively – essential skills for life in the 21st century.

“With no signs that population growth will slow in the decades to come, it is imperative that Africa leverage the talent and energy of its youth to create dramatically higher levels of prosperity and equality and avoid the latent risks of unemployment and social instability,” said Fred Swaniker, founder and CEO of African Leadership Academy. A view that YTF concurs with.

Daniel code ytf scratch

This is even an issue U.S. President Obama has weighed on. In 2015 at the African Union Headquarters in Ethiopia, Obama explained: “Africa is one of the fastest-growing regions in the world.  Africa’s middle class is projected to grow to more than one billion consumers. With hundreds of millions of mobile phones and surging access to the Internet, Africans are beginning to leapfrog old technologies into new prosperity,” US President Barack Obama has said.

So YTF is reaching out to empower Kenya’s youth population to help narrow social and economic disparities through one simple concept: access to information. The information we expose youth to creates economic opportunities and the ability to compete globally.

Back to the refreshing moments at Winka Academy’s Africa Code Week. Like many successful teachers, we want to hear out our students. “Who goes first?” I ask. Daniel shoots up his hand.

Daniel YTF youth code scratch

Daniel is keen on being part of Kenya’s technological future tapestry. The 10 year old second-last born of five siblings says when he is not outside playing soccer with his friends or doing his chores at home, he is usually on the on the computer. “I use my older sister’s computer to play action games, and to talk with my friends over Skype and Whatsapp – just finding out how they are or checking whether they have finished their homework.”

He loves machines and would like to be an engineer when he grows up. Daniel says he has enjoyed the Scratch week and hopes the coding he has just started with YTF would enable him achieve his passion – using the computer to make educative games for children. “I want them not to get HIV and to know have to make good use of the soil,” he asserts.

Eighteenth century writer Alfred Mercier said: “What we learn with pleasure we never forget.”YTF takes this to heart, aiming for plenty of fun at Africa Code Weeks to help launch the next Mark Zuckerberg or Michael Dell – right here in Kenya.

 

Two Girls, Two Countries, One Thread: Hope for the Future

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Nzambi is 13 and lives in Kenya. Precious, 17, lives in Nigeria. Both girls count YTF’s flagship program – YTF Academy – as their opportunity to not only hone in on their future aspirations, but build a path to reach them confidently.

YTF Academy is uniquely positioned to help youth eliminate a life lived in poverty – often aiming for things they didn’t know were possible. The program operates with a curriculum based on principles and flexes to meet the needs of differing populations and circumstances.

Attitude is first. YTF Academy students are taught to dream. They are guided to tackle issues with a can-do attitude and encouraged to participate actively in the learning process.

Within this empowering context, students are taught to be both innovative and effective. Things like creativity and critical thinking top the list of skills students should walk away with upon graduation.

Health Issue Turns Into Inspiration

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Nzambi is recovering from an infection that started after an ordeal that left her with multiple fractures on her left leg. She can’t play much, but notes her favorite subjects are science and Kiswahili – which she loves to speak.

In the course of her treatment she had to be admitted at the Kenyatta National Hospital for eight months. It is here that she noted the inefficiencies that plague a well-meaning workforce. In particular, she recalls Kenya’s biggest referral hospital having its reception area crammed with patients needing emergency attention.

“I would like to use the computer to come up with systems that would see to it that patients are attended to quickly and appropriately.”

She explains that as much as she likes the computer, she does not get to spend much time on it at home. When she does get a minute, she listens to her favorite musicians. She was particularly pleased to spend extra time at a computer and learn to code “Scratch” during the coding week at with YTF.

Besides a technology solution to facilitate faster admissions and attention in hospitals, Nzambi wants to learn how to use technology to establish easier ways of recording and sharing music videos.

On becoming a producer with 3D printing

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Proud graduate of YTF Academy, Precious holds up her certificate.

Young people in Africa make up nearly 40 percent of today’s working-age population, yet 60 percent are unemployed. Looking to the future, the World Bank estimates that some 11 million youth will enter Africa’s labor market every year for the next decade. 

Precious is a secondary school graduate awaiting admission into university to study nursing. Since enrolling in YTF Academy, Precious has learned to use Autodesk Fusion360 to design and model 3D printed items. Some of her product designs are proudly displayed on Thingiverse. 

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Precious, far left, learning from 3D printing teacher Donatus, middle, about the steps necessary to design 3D printed products.

A mismatch exists between the African education system and the jobs in a knowledge-based economy. Too many young graduates are earning degrees only to find that they are not qualified for lucrative employment opportunities, largely due to the lack of basic, technical and transferable skills.

YTF Academy is changing that by providing youth with marketable skills so that they have choices; as enthusiastic employees or as job creators themselves. 

“Being a student of YTF Academy and learning about 3D printing technology has taught me that as a  young entrepreneur, I can meet my communities needs without depending on any producer or supplier,” Precious explained. “Having these skills will enable me to continue to be relevant in the global marketplace. Maybe one day I will be able to 3D print medical devices and other parts.”