By Seb Cox, President of the Rotaract Club of St. Jude’s Arusha, Tanzania
Vijana Poa, meaning “youth are cool” in Kiswahili, was designed to combat one of the biggest social problems facing youth on the African continent – unemployment. In 2017, the Rotaract Club of St. Jude’s Arusha took on this initiative and started a Vijana Poa project in our own community.
We discovered 53% of Tanzanian youth are unemployed, so we decided that work readiness training and entrepreneurship education through the project would be a great way to inspire and empower some deserving youth.
The Rotaract Club of St. Jude’s is a club for staff, graduates and friends of The School of St. Jude, a charity school located in the Northern Tanzanian city of Arusha. The School of St. Jude provides a high quality, free education to over 1,800 students living in extreme poverty. Since the founding of the school, Rotary members have provided endless support.
Using the Vijana Poa models developed by our District 9211, the club projected a budget, held a fundraiser, and sought support through Rotary clubs in Arusha Mount Meru. Through an extensive application process, we found 12 motivated and deserving local youths to participate in the program.
The majority of these participants had attained only a primary-level education and struggled to find gainful employment, with many spending their days walking door-to-door to find a job. Workshops comprising of intensive one-day classes began in February and covered topics including ‘generating a business’ and ‘developing and managing employment’.
While no financial or employment opportunities from project participation were promised, our club members were so impressed by the participants’ skills and aspirations, they were soon soliciting within their networks for potential mentors, internships, and pathways to employment.
Our club members drafted a letter to local Rotarians and business owners that resulted in 12 suitable internships. The internships lasted three months, with club members assigned to oversee each placement. These internships included hairdressing, juice making, cleaning, cooking, and customer service. At the completion of the three months many of our youth received full-time employment in the company, while two started their own sustainable businesses, with start-up capital given by our club.
Carlos, one of the 12 program participants, excelled in this project. At the beginning of 2017, Carlos was unemployed when he applied to our program. After completing the training, he had an internship as a customer service assistant in an algaculture company, which turned into full-time employment. By the end of the year, Carlos was honoured with the company’s customer service person of the year award. Stories like Carlos’ show the power of Rotaract and what can be achieved when a group of youth work together.
The Rotaract Club of St Jude’s Arusha is committed to supporting the youth of our local community. At our most recent District Conference, our club won a best Interact and Rotaract partnership in the district award. This is showcased annually when our club hosts an Interact RYLA for youth in our local area.
The Rotaract Club of St Jude’s Arusha won the 2017-18 Rotaract Outstanding Project Award for the Sub-Saharan region.