Her Campus uOttawa had a chance this week to interview two ladies who are a part of an organization that aims to provide education to youth in Congo. They are changing the lives of these children for the better. I had a quick chat with Nicole and Leah, the co-presidents of the foundation, who are both studying International Development and Globalization.
HC: What is the Nyantende Foundation?
Nicole: We are the University of Ottawa Chapter of the Nyantende Foundation. It is a grassroots organization started by two Queen’s University students and a native of Nyantende. Our aim is to empower Congolese youth living in the greater Nyantende area by enrolling them in local elementary, secondary and post-secondary schools. As government institutions are largely absent in the Congo’s Eastern region, families are forced to pay monthly fees in order to enroll their children in local schools.
Leah: A significant percentage of the adult population are without stable income, youth often remain on the streets with no means to pursue an education. By subsidizing the cost of their schooling, the Nyantende Foundation seeks to give Congolese youth the means to improve their capacities and attain the freedom to pursue a life they have reason to value. The foundation currently supplements the cost of enrollment for 236 boys and girls at 24 academic institutions in Bukavu and the Greater Nyantende area.
HC: When did this project start?
Nicole: The foundation itself was created in 2010 at Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario. Since then it has been certified as a non-profit organization by Queen’s University, the Ontario government and the Congolese government. We opened the uOttawa chapter in the early 2014.
Leah: A little fun fact, the foundation will be turning 5 years old this November.
HC: What are the objectives more precisely?
Leah: Every year the goal is to raise enough funds to keep the youth in school who benefited from this program in previous years. Now that the organization is more established we can take on exciting and ambitious projects. This November we are joining Queen’s in their efforts to raise $40,000 to build, maintain, and staff an Educational Technological Centre (ETC).
Nicole: Indeed, the students in Nyantende have a computer skills class they must complete, however, because of the lack of accessible technology not a single student who graduates will ever touch a computer or experience the Internet. This centre would give secondary school students the opportunity to gain computer and technology skills which will further their education and help them create a connection with the global world increasing their chances of having a brighter future.
HC: Just out of curiosity, is the foundation a club within the SFUO?
Nicole: Yes, our chapter is a club within the SFUO.
Leah: You can find us on the SFUO clubs list under philanthropic!
HC: How many members does your chapter have and what are their roles?
Nicole: We have a current executive team of seven: two co-presidents, VP administration, VP finance, VP social/Marketing, and two event coordinators and our general members.
Leah: Nicole and I are the co-presidents. We oversee the other executive members as well as maintaining relations with the founders and the Queen’s chapter. Our other executives are a close knit group who manage everything from event preparation to execution. We’ve also been lucky to have a few loyal general members who give so much time to making our fundraising events a success.
Left to right: Nicole, Leah, Marcie, Rebecca, Julaine and Kaitlyn
HC: Why did you want to get involved with this project?
Nicole: The project is very close to my heart. My family is actually from Nyantende, I moved to Canada when I was 12 years old. I am fortunate enough to live in a great country with great access to education. That is what I want for the youths of my country: to get an education in order to build up our country.
Leah: Nicole approached me and told me about this incredible organization that she wanted to carry over to uOttawa’s campus. I had been looking for a group that I could join for a long time and figured my previous leadership experiences would help the team she was putting together succeed. As a bonus, I am able to see the inner workings of an NGO from the point of creation to take-off and it has given me a valuable insight into the theories I have learnt in university.
Nicole: Being in International Development has opened up my eyes to how unequal access to education truly is. Another thing that really drew me to the Nyantende Foundation is the nearly equal enrollment of both boys and girls.
Leah: Also, I was drawn to the Nyantende Foundation because it is an organization that preserves community engagement, autonomy, transparency, and human dignity. When you donate, the money is not assigned to a specific childlike sponsorship programs, instead it is assigned to the school where tuition is first covered and supplies for the students, then is spent on improving classrooms. Nyantende is not just providing education, but also equal opportunities for boys and girls to become active global citizens and members of their communities.
We hope they do well in their mission and reach their goal this year!