January 15th 2013
"I sometimes want to quit my job and start an NGO," confided the head of the Department of Development Studies at Uganda Christian University. "I just want to hire all my students because I know that many of our graduates will never find work in their area of training and gifting."
That's the message I kept hearing from students and faculty today.
With close to 80% unemployment in the country and little capital for entrepreneurial startups, talented graduates are stuck. Many move home to their villages after graduation, never maximizing the full impact of their training. Some take lower-level jobs in sectors in which they have no interest or passion. Many never have the opportunity to actualize their vision and dreams.
I leave Uganda more convinced than ever that the vision of UrbanPromise International--to provide a year-long training fellowship for college graduates in developing countries, teaching the skills necessary for creating youth-serving NGOs--is a vision that is unique and desperately needed in countries like Uganda.
Meeting with the heads of the Department of Child Development, Public Administration, and Social Sciences affirmed the significance of a fellowship experience in the United States.
"We have this incredibly talented pool of students," shared Fredrick Mukhwana, program coordinator for Child Development, "but it sits dormant after graduation. It dies. I can't tell you how important it is for our students to go away for training and experience. And to have them come back with capital to start projects is incredible."
So today I listened to students share dreams about starting schools, starting youth programs, working with wayward teens, and becoming legal advocates for children's rights. Their energy was contagious. Their visions infectious. All they need is opportunity. A chance to take the next step.
Leaders change neighborhoods. Leaders change organizations. Leaders change countries. Having the opportunity to play a small role in shaping the next generation of leaders in Uganda is humbling and inspiring. --Bruce Main