Instead of focusing his energy on making a full recovery from dysentery, Mwale Joel was thinking of a master plan. At the age of 16, Mwale contracted dysentery from contaminated water that had been provided to his community during the dry season. The thought of having such a serious health risk in his community sparked an ingenious idea. With the help of some volunteers in his community, Mwale invested all of his savings, a total of $95, and began digging a borehole until he eventually found water. He installed a pump that would allow extraction of the water, subsequently providing clean water to over 500 households in his village.
The success of this project and the unfortunate turn of events that occurred afterwards ultimately led to the creation SkyDrop Enterprises. After the death of his father and being forced to drop out of school, Mwale was determined to find a way to pay his tuition and support his family. Coincidently, the idea for SkyDrop came to maturation while Mwale was caught in a rainstorm. Next to a small shop where he went to seek shelter, Mwale saw a water tank that was being used to store rain water and that’s when it occurred to him to trap rainwater, purify it and sell it to the public.
His inability to find lenders willing to invest in a 16 year old boy’s dream led Mwale to sell his family land. With the profit from this sale, Mwale bought a water purification machine, and paid for the cost of operation to produce low-cost drinking water. Rainwater was collected in the rain season and purified and sold in the dry season. Initially SkyDrop was only able at sell about 10 bottles a day but the company soon took off, selling 33,000 bottles in 2012. Mwale now has a fully functioning plant and employs over 20 people from his village. He has been able to replace the land he sold in order to fund SkyDrop and has funded the construction of 4 boreholes in surrounding communities.
In 2011 Mwale won the Anzisha Prize for youth leadership, which provided him with a two-year scholarship to the African Leadership Academy in South Africa as well as $30,000 dollars to support his business. In 2012 he also received $30,000 from the MasterCard Foundation to support SkyDrop. Mwlae is now working to expand his business to further impact his community.
Neftaly Malatjie has a passion for social entrepreneurship and a track record of commitment to community work. Since the age of 11, he has worked as a preschool teacher, peer educator, library assistant, HIV/Aids counselor, drugs awareness and prevention teacher, learning and development advisor and afternoon care coordinator.
At age 20, Neftaly Malatjie is already a distinguished leader in his community of Diepsloot, a sprawling township grappling with underdevelopment and poverty.
Diepsloot Youth Projects, the non-profit organisation he founded in 2005, is making a difference in the lives of fellow youngsters.
The hard-working Malatjie is the CEO of the organisation, which he runs with a group of volunteers and professional trainers.
The list of community initiatives taking place under the auspices of Diepsloot Youth Projects is burgeoning, ranging from the popular computer-training and pottery and craftwork academies to the school and community outreach programmes.
“We’re a non-profit organisation that’s mainly focused on awareness, capacity-building and training,” said Malatjie during an interview in his makeshift office.
Originally called Diepsloot Youth Arts and Culture, Malatjie started the organisation as a performing-art project after identifying a need for it in the community.
“I was attending an acting school and I thought this type of thing is needed in the township,” he said.
The success of the initial phase was encouraging for Malatjie. “The support we received was amazing, as well as the participation and performances. Even parents were supporting it.”
The organisation expanded when Malatjie began working with other young leaders from Diepsloot. They started in-depth research on what the community desperately needs, and found that “our people need jobs, they need skills”.
And so Diepsloot Youth Projects was born.
A recent highlight is being awarded an accreditation certificate, in July 2011, to operate their computer-training facility as a Microsoft IT Academy.
They also got accredited by the South African Qualifications Authority (Saqa), meaning the academy’s more than 200 students will graduate with recognised computer studies certificates.
Malatjie said they are now hoping to secure an ISETT Seta-accredited training provider licence in the next few months.
Microsoft and Saqa accredited them after “they were satisfied with everything and found that we’re really committed”, while the Seta licence will be granted after the organisation appoints an assessor for the programme – according to Malatjie.
The academy caters for youngsters who’ve completed secondary school and those who left in grades 10 and 11.
Proper building planned
Diepsloot Youth Projects has now appointed experienced professionals to serve on its board committee, as well as in management and executive teams.
The organisation is planning to build a proper facility to operate from in the near future, but they are still accruing funds for construction.
The piece of land donated to the organisation by the City of Johannesburg is currently scattered with containers, used as makeshift classes. This is where their “modest” building will be erected.
Chikore Takaidza, a Zimbabwean youngster living in Diepsloot, attends the computer academy and is hopeful that he’ll gain the necessary skills to find a job.
“I’m going to get out here a changed person in terms of how I conduct myself in the business world,” he said.
Malatjie and his team also help community members find employment. In addition to drafting CVs for job-seekers, they circulate adverts on vacancies in their internet cafe.
Pupils can also visit the organisation’s three centres for career guidance and help to secure study funds.
The pottery and craftwork academy is another project that’s realising tangible results. Its students, most of whom were once unskilled youngsters, are already producing artistic creations for the market.
“The whole aim is to help them generate income for themselves. We now have people who are selling their products, some are exhibiting in markets.”
The craft school is also helping unearth talent among once-idle youngsters. “The school doesn’t teach craft, but looks at talent and goes beyond it,” said Malatjie. “We never say to our students your art is nice. We always say go fix this or that.”
Their sewing training project has also taken off, noted Malatjie, as they now have necessary material.
Malatjie’s ultimate dream is to see the majority of Diepsloot youngsters becoming self-reliant and able to find jobs.
“We are changing stones into self-moving assets,” he said, referring to Diepsloot’s many youngsters who are despondent about their prospects.
“I want people to have success stories, and would like it if one day people say that that organisation made them who they are.”
Creating entrepreneurs is part of the organisation’s aim. “If someone starts a business, my people will get jobs,” Malatjie said.
Diepsloot Youth Projects lists government and private companies as its funders, but Malatjie said more contributions are needed to sustain initiatives.
The organisation is planning to start operating in other underprivileged areas in the near future. “We’re about to spread our wings to other townships,” Malatjie said.
Recently, Neftaly was the recipient of R200,000 award from Rand Water Foundation.
The hip-hop artist has used music to draw attention to the plight of child soldiers, a life he knows well. Jal was born in war-torn Sudan and conscripted to be a soldier as a young boy after trying to cross into Ethiopia for a chance at an education. He eventually escaped and was adopted by British aid worker Emma McClune, who was killed shortly after taking him in, but not before smuggling him to Kenya. After a tumultuous childhood that involved time spent struggling to survive in slums, he began recording music and speaking about the need for peace and prosperity in Africa. He opens up about his experience in the song “War Child” and in a documentary by the same name that received acclaim on the film circuit, including at the renowned Tribeca Film Festival. “I believe I’ve survived for a reason, to tell my story, to touch lives,” he raps. In addition to his music, Jal founded a charity that offers scholarships to Sudanese war refugees.
Lorna Rutto has achieved more in her mere 28 years than many people would hope to achieve in a lifetime. She has won numerous business awards – including the prestigious World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) Nature Award and the Bid Network Nature Challenge Award – and has seen her company grow from strength to strength. However, it is not just business accolade for which this formidable young woman should be proud; it is also the impact that her work is having on the environment.
Lorna is the founder and chief executive officer of a business called Ecopost, a recycling company based in Nairobi, Kenya.
Setting up a successful business in her mid twenties was by no means easy. Lorna has firsthand experience of how difficult life can be for the country’s poorest people; she was born and raised in the Kaptembwa Slums in Kenya. Day-to-day life is a huge challenge for many people in the slums; families constantly struggle to put food on the table, and education standards are not at the same level as those in the cities.
However, as a child, Lorna developed an interesting and therapeutic hobby; she would gather plastic litter that she found around the slums and would melt it down to create desirable ornaments. Her unusual hobby was a way for her to express her creativity and it was perhaps this that drove her to make a huge success of her life. She went on to study hard at school, and later achieved her commerce and accounting certificate. She then decided to pursue a career in finance. However, a few years after starting her career, Lorna wanted to do something positive for both the environment and the people of the slums; it was then that she made the decision to turn her childhood pastime into a viable and environmentally responsible business.
Ecopost makes use of waste plastic by turning it into plastic lumber, as an alternative to wood. The lumber is then turned into many different types of posts, including fencing posts, sign posts and building and construction posts. This imaginative idea saves the unnecessary culling of trees, contributing towards protection of the country’s forests. So far, Lorna has sold more than 20,000 posts, which have been made from more than one million kilograms of plastic waste. This has saved more than 250 acres of forest.
Creating local jobs
The achievements of Ecopost go beyond helping the environment. Since Lorna started Ecopost in 2009, she has created more than 400 jobs for local Kenyans. This is a huge accomplishment for Ecopost, and is also incredibly important to the country’s wider economy and development. Most exciting, however, is that Lorna has structured her business in a way that it is expected to create more than 100,000 jobs in the next 15 years. Ecopost has been applauded for the opportunities with which it has presented local people; it has not only created jobs for disadvantaged youth, but also for women who have grown up in the slums.
A financial challenge
Lorna Rutto is a fantastic example of a woman that has risen to the top of her game through sheer determination. Growing up as a girl in the slums, she knows firsthand the difficulties faced by people living in these conditions – women in particular – who want to start a business in order to provide for their families. Lorna was lucky because she already had a career in finance before stating her business. However, many other people lack the career history and experience, and have no option but to try to start their businesses from scratch. These people are faced with little or no financial history, so they find it very difficult to get a loan to start their business through the banks. They would instead need to invest their own money to get started, which requires years of saving in many cases. To get a business loan with little financial history, the person would need to have some kind of record of success or proof of the viability of their business. It is not impossible, but it is a difficult task; however, Lorna is proof that starting a successful business is possible for even those faced with the most difficult and challenging journey; Ecopost currently generates more than $120,000 per year, and is on course to grow exponentially over the next few years.
William Kamkwamba, a born inventor, , became a Local Hero in Malawi at the young age of 14. Trapped in poverty and unable to afford school, William found a rough plan in a library book and taught himself to build a windmill, which he modified to be of use to his family. The windmill ultimately powered his family’s home and generated income for his family and his village.
William’s out-of-the-box thinking and talents did not go unnoticed. In recognition for his ingenuity, he became a TED Africa Fellow, won a scholarship to the African Leadership Academy in South Africa and has garnered great media attention. You can read William’s inspiring story in his best-selling book The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope and watch the documentary about his life, called Moving Windmills, which has won several awards.
A champion of “social entrepreneurs”, William dedicates himself to rural economic development and education projects in Malawi that foster economic independence and self-sustainability. He continues to develop his skills as an inventor dedicated to making affordable products using readily available materials and powered by alternative energy sources that people in Malawi and other countries can adopt to improve their quality of life. Some of his recent inventions include solar power lighting for homes, a solar powered pump to extract clean water, and a drip irrigation system. Read more about William’s project with GO below.
Through lectures, workshops and hands on training, William is a role model for youth – inspiring them to follow in his footsteps, continue their education no matter what challenges they face and explore unconventional solutions to solve community based problems.
Richard Turere, 13, doesn’t like lions. In fact, he hates them. Yet this bright Maasai boy has devised an innovative solution that’s helping the survival of these magnificent beasts — by keeping them away from humans.
Living on the edge of Nairobi National Park, in Kenya, Turere first became responsible for herding and safeguarding his family’s cattle when he was just nine. But often, his valuable livestock would be raided by the lions roaming the park’s sweet savannah grasses, leaving him to count the losses.
“I grew up hating lions very much,” says Turere, who is from Kitengela, just south of the capital Nairobi. “They used to come at night and feed on our cattle when we were sleeping.”
So, at the age of 11, Turere decided it was time to find a way of protecting his family’s cows, goats and sheep from falling prey to hungry lions.
His light bulb moment came with one small observation.
“One day, when I was walking around,” he says, “I discovered that the lions were scared of the moving light.”
Turere realized that lions were afraid of venturing near the farm’s stockade when someone was walking around with a flashlight. He put his young mind to work and a few weeks later he’d come up with an innovative, simple and low-cost system to scare the predators away.
He fitted a series of flashing LED bulbs onto poles around the livestock enclosure, facing outward. The lights were wired to a box with switches and to an old car battery powered by a solar panel. They were designed to flicker on and off intermittently, thus tricking the lions into believing that someone was moving around carrying a flashlight.
And it worked. Since Turere rigged up his “Lion Lights,” his family has not lost any livestock to the wild beasts, to the great delight of his father and astonishment of his neighbors.
A former child soldier, Michel Chikwanine has already endured and overcome unimaginable pain and struggles. His passion and belief in the possibility for change makes him a truly remarkable individual and humanitarian. Born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Michel grew up amid the terror of the Great War of Africa. He witnessed the torture of his father, who was singled out for his political beliefs, the rape of his mother and endured torture of his own. Much of Michel’s childhood was ravaged by the death and decay of a war that claimed the lives of 5.8 million people, his father included.
Forced to leave his home as a refugee at the age of 11, Michel has since travelled to many African countries, witnessing first-hand the problems facing the developing world, but also the beauty of the communities and people who live there.
Today, Michel is an accomplished motivational speaker, addressing audiences across North America. He has spoken to over 100,000 people and has shared the stage with such speakers as Craig and Marc Kielburger, founders of Free The Children, Dr. Jane Goodall, Robert F. Kennedy Jr., Mia Farrow and former Prime Minister Paul Martin just to name a few. He was also a speaker on Oprah’s O Ambassadors Roots of Action speaking tour, largely reaching students at resource-poor schools. Sharing his personal story, Michel has captured the attention of national media, including CBC, CTV and major daily newspapers as he inspires people to believe in their ability to create change.
Michel leaves audiences with a new perspective on life, a sense of hope through social responsibility and a desire for change.
Career highlights include:
Ory Okolloh a Kenyan activist, lawyer, and blogger. She is currently a Policy Manager for Africa with Google. In 2006 she co-founded the parliamentary watchdog site Mzalendo (Patriot). The site sought to increase government accountability by systematically recording bills, speeches, MPs, standing orders, etc. She helped Kenya create Ushahidi (Witness) website in due to the violence that was taking place in 2007. The website was used to record and report any reports on violence by using text messages and Google maps. This Technology is now been adapted in a number of countries. Ory Okolloh also worked as a legal consultant for NGOs and has worked at Covington and Burling, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights, and the World Bank in the past. She obtained an undergraduate degree in Political science from University of Pittsburgh and Graduated from Harvard Law School in 2005.