By Phionah Katushabe; Originally published on this blog
The alarm rings. In my bed I turn restlessly, obviously still haunted by sleep. I stretch my warm hand to turn off the alarm, cursing all the reasons why I have to be up this early. Just then, my mind remembers an African proverb that I have read so many times before. “If you think you are too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito.” I always conjure up these words of wisdom in situations when I need self-motivation to do something I have committed to, but find my body rebelling against my will.
Hesitantly, I manage to overcome my laziness, kick the beddings away, take a cold shower and saunter out of the house. Darkness still lingers in the air as the moon dances jealously in the sky, as if enjoying my drama. Slowly, I begin to make sense of why I have risen earlier than the sun on a Saturday morning.
I was invited by my friends Amos and Rehema to document (pictures and video clips) the work they do with some youths at Re!gnite Africa. Yes, Reignite, “a youth-led and youth-focused development organization that provides young people with a platform to access career development opportunities, life and advocacy skills to become employable, more productive and socially responsible vocal citizens of their communities”.
When the invitation came I was too quick to say yes – partly because Amos and Rehema had whispered alluring words into my curious ears about the determination and seriousness of the current class (and rightly so!). But important also was the venue where the class was to be held.
The Innovation Village (http://innovationvillage.co.ug/) in Ntinda is not overrated. It is as great in experience as it sounds in words. What’s not to like? The wooden and leather furniture scattered everywhere or the empty spaces and large windows that allow in a vast amount of light, hence a futuristic look? Don’t even get me started on the bold orange, yellow and turquoise blue colors that mask the walls! This ‘Village’ occupies the whole 3rd floor of Block B of Ntinda complex. The WiFi is great. There is also a cafeteria inside, so you can’t worry about thirst or starvation. And for now you can access this venue at fifteen thousand shillings a day. In my view, that’s a good deal because you can choose to nap away on one of the sofas, work or think of the next big idea and how to birth it.
My personal favorite; if you don’t get inspired by the existing writings on the walls, there is still enough room and markers to inscribe your own wisdom to inspire the next person who comes in – I sure left mine there. (The dreamer in me was left wishing that this space could be somewhere in a basement, with mirrors on every wall.)
Back to the reason I was up early. By the time I arrived at the Innovation Village, a good number of the trainees had settled in, waiting for the session to begin. A few of them are working while the rest are volunteering in different organizations. For over three hours, the facilitators led by the amazing Maria took the trainees through basic skills in problem-solving, engagement, entrepreneurship and critical thinking. It was a good atmosphere and I could see that the participants were keen to learn.
They reminded me of myself and some of my friends when we had just finished university – lacking in skills and not sure how to find jobs. At the time there were not many oorganizations offering career positioning programs to fresh university graduates like Re!gnite is doing. Therefore, when Amos told the trainees “no one owes you anything. Not your parents, government or employers. Instead of looking for jobs, identify problems and come up with creative ways to solve them”, I nodded my head in agreement. I could see that everyone was making mental notes on how to conquer the world. With machines fast replacing humans at workplaces, these youths need all the skill sharpening tips to compete favorably.
It is said that if you wish to move mountains tomorrow, you must start by lifting stones today. Re!gnite Africa, thank you for starting the stone lifting process. I am convinced that your vision to achieve a society where all young people have equal access to opportunities is possible. And you can always count on me to cheer you on. After all, like the Ethiopians say, “when spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.”
All photos by Phionah Katushabe