By: Jeremy Phillips, Executive Director
A small group of Empower scholars huddle around a computer researching potential loans they could make through the At the same time, yet on the other side of the world, a group of high school students from Woodrow Wilson High School in Dallas are doing the exact same thing. Coincidence? Hardly. For several weeks, these two groups were participating in a course through Uwezo Institute, a program of Empower African Children which creates educational exchanges that foster mutual learning and brings the content to life through real world experience.
Together, each group of students engaged in lessons, activities, and discussion about the factors that cause a business to succeed or fail. Each group shared their ideas via online video as an opportunity to learn another perspective from students in a completely different context. Next, they put their new knowledge to the test by making $500 in real loans to small businesses all over the world.
Teddy Namuddu (L) and Lukia Nantale (R) explain the reasons for selecting their loans in a video created for Woodrow Wilson High School group.
Last week, when they logged in to check on the status of their loans, our Ugandan students’ loans were outperforming their American peers (perhaps because their knowledge of developing countries gave them a competitive advantage?) But, what really stood out to them was the performance of Uwezo Group. The group had already repaid 62% of their loan in less than three months!In their loan search, our Empower scholars stumbled upon the opportunity to support in neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) that, coincidentally, sells shoes. The group’s name and purpose so closely mirrors that of Empower African Children’s own venture, , that it seemed too fitting to pass up and the Uwezo Group was included in their loans.
Frank Roby, Board member and former CEO of Empower African Children, designed this course for Uwezo Institute and taught it to the group of Dallas students. He reflects, “The course was designed to reinforce how to be resourceful, that students in Uganda can compete with students in the US and that when we experience what is possible we are no longer bound by the limitations of our circumstances.”
“Uwezo” is a Swahili word that means “capable.” Apparently, “uwezo” is a good fit for Empower African Children—whether it refers to our shoe brand in America, a group selling shoes in the DRC, or educational exchanges between students in Africa and America—the capabilities of these young people seem to have come full circle through this concept of “uwezo.”
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