Perseverance despite the unimaginable: a commitment to education, community and peace in the DRC and Uganda
Content Warning// trauma, violence, gender-based violence
Please be advised that listener discretion is advised as some parts of this conversation are distressing
In 1995, Benson Wereje's village in the Democratic Republic of Congo was attacked by rebels. He was separated from his parents and he endured unimaginable bloodshed before reaching a refugee camp in Uganda. More than five million of Benson's friends and countrymen have been killed in his home area.
Dedicated to empowering youth and imbued with a deep admiration for the transformative impact that education can provide his country, Benson co-founded and became Executive Director of CIYOTA in 2005. Today, CIYOTA educates thousands of children and youths in refugee camps, focuses on community building and strives to unite tribes in the DRC to bring enduring and sustainable peace.
Join Philanthropod’s host, Anubha Rawat, in an eye-opening and honest discussion with Benson about experiencing and overcoming trauma, how a commitment to equality, forgiveness and education was instilled in him by his father, and how he continues to be inspired by his wife - a modern ‘heroine’. Benson leaves you with a powerful message as to why he believes it is his mission to train young people in responsible leadership and create a unified vision for their country.
For his work, Benson has been awarded the Desmond Tutu fellowship with African Leadership Institute at Oxford University in 2013, an Echoing Green fellowship in New York, the ASHOKA fellowship in 2015 and was a Tony Elumelu Foundation awardee in 2019.
To learn more about CIYOTA follow the link: https://www.coburwas.org/
View all episodes
2. Fighting poverty through education at The School of St Jude in Tanzania28:55In Tanzania, there are 20,000 primary schools. However, there are only 800 high schools. This means that each year hundreds of thousands of young Tanzanians compete for every single spot at the available high schools. When a child misses out they are denied access to education, opportunities, and more often than not - their ticket out of poverty. Unable to ignore this deep inequality, Gemma Sisia established The School of St Jude in Tanzania in 2002. Twenty years ago, The School of St Jude opened with one teacher and a handful of students. Today, The School of St Jude provides free, quality education to 1,800 bright primary and secondary students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 100% of these students are on scholarships which are 100% donor-funded, and 97% of St Jude’s secondary graduates go on to access higher education.The “Beyond St Jude’s” program has also been launched - where 100s of recent graduates volunteer as teachers in government schools. Not only does this program fill an urgent gap for teachers in Tanzania but is an extremely formative year for the graduates - where they navigate becoming an adult and giving back to their community.In this episode, join Philanthropod’s host, Anubha Rawat, in discussion with Gemma who takes us on her inspiring journey - from her childhood in regional Australia to the founding and growth of The School of St Jude. Along the way, Anubha and Gemma also discuss timely international development themes such as the importance of localisation and maximizing impact for both donors and students. Finally, the episode ends with incredible moments of circularity as Gemma shares how the impact of her work is starting to emerge in wonderful and unexpected ways: from running into two former female students working as doctors to meeting with an alum who is the first Tanzanian referee in the English Premier League. With such encounters only representing the first generation of graduates - the journey has only just begun. To learn more about the School of St Judes follow the link: https://www.schoolofstjude.org/
1. The social activist who learnt lessons in power and capital so she could affect change37:04Audette Exel is a lawyer by profession, managed one of Bermuda’s biggest banks and has a sprawling list of banking, leadership and business awards to her name. However, Audette does not think of herself as primarily a businesswoman. Instead, Audette identifies as a social activist who decided to pursue social justice and equality through leveraging traditional business, power and capital.At 35, she stepped away from the world of law and banking and embarked on her greatest challenge yet: setting up Adara Group - a global organisation that believes in the power of business and partnership to change the lives of people living in poverty. Today, Audette is the Chief Executive Officer of Adara’s two corporate advisory businesses: Adara Advisors and Adara Partners. The Adara businesses were established to help fund Adara’s health and education work with women and children in extreme poverty in some of the world’s remotest places (Adara Development). Knowledge sharing sits at the heart of their model, so that programs such as the Adara Newborn model in Uganda, can be stretched to remote regions and other countries in order to maximise impact. Since 1998, the Adara Group has had a profound impact on hundreds of thousands of people in poverty. In this episode, join Philanthropod’s host, Anubha Rawat, in discussion with Audette who takes us on her incredible Adara journey, from Bermuda to Uganda to Nepal, and introduces the listener to inspiring characters along the way. Audette also reflects on the changing international development sector more broadly. She believes that over her 25 years in the Development sector, she has witnessed watershed changes in the role of power dynamics and the addition of new, much-needed actors, such as private and public companies, joining the ecosystem. Audette's warmth, passion and leadership shines throughout the episode.To learn more about Adara Group follow the link: https://www.adaragroup.org/
5. Eradicating Barriers to Education: Dave Everett’s journey and the Nadia & Alf Taylor Foundation26:41In this episode of Philanthropod, Anubha chats to Dave Everett, the CEO of the Nadia and Alf Taylor Foundation. Founded in 2002, the Nadia and Alf Taylor Foundation is an Australian PAF dedicated to breaking down barriers to education across 40 different countries. Throughout the episode, Dave shares his unique journey, from co-founding the School for Life Foundation in Uganda to joining forces with Nadia and Alf Taylor.Dave weaves in his observations and stories, recounting his formative years living and working in East Africa, where he witnessed the unyielding determination of children seeking education. These experiences propelled the decade he spent building the School for Life in Uganda, alongside Annabelle Chauncy, and completing both an undergrad and masters in International Development.Dave then highlights his career shift from the "doing" side to the "giving" side. This involved formalising the giving process at the Foundation plus seeking out partners with the potential for transformative impact. This shift also offered him the chance to work more broadly in the sector and collaborate on diverse projects across 40 countries. Listeners will gain insight into the Foundation's broad remit, which encompasses various fields from social enterprise, healthcare, social welfare, and poverty alleviation across Africa, Latin America, Asia and the Pacific. Dave describes the Foundation as agile, allowing them to build deep relationships with grant partners and witness the remarkable work being done on the ground.Finally, Dave and Anubha chat about balancing family life with a career that involves a busy international travel schedule - along with sharing some of his favourite travel destinations. Dave’s down-to-earth approach shines through in this episode along with his dedication to living a life of purpose. Links: Nadia and Alf Taylor Foundation: https://nadiaandalftaylorfoundation.org/School for Life Foundation: https://www.schoolforlife.org.au/ Annabelle Chauncy’s Philanthropod episode: https://shows.acast.com/philanthropod/episodes/a-passion-to-educate-poverty-out-of-existence
4. Breaking the Cycle: From Death to Life in Lwala, Western Kenya26:10In this episode of Philanthropod, host Anubha Rawat sits down with Julius Mbeya, the co-CEO of Lwala Community Alliance, to discuss the remarkable transformation that has taken place in the region of Lwala in Western Kenya. Julius takes us back to a time known as the 'cycle of death,' when the HIV pandemic ravaged the community, leading to an overwhelming number of funerals, tragic loss of children before the age of five and mothers dying while attempting to give birth.Julius shares the inspiring story of the founders of Lwala Community Alliance, known as the 'sons of Lwala,' who were determined to honour their parents' dream of improving healthcare access for their community. These two men seized the opportunity to study medicine abroad but made a promise to their community to never forget about them. This promise led them to establish the first hospital in the area.As the Co-CEO of Lwala Community Alliance, Julius's own journey compelled him to work for the organisation. He sees his role as a way of giving back to the community that invested in him and is deeply passionate about contributing to the growth of Lwala Community Alliance.Julius takes us on a journey of the organisation's growth and impact. From the dream of a father and his two sons, to an army of staff, partners and Community Health Workers (who are trained, supervised, equipped with the necessary tools and paid) to government adoption. The impact is evident with a significant reduction in under-five mortality rates, a 98% immunisation rate, and 99% of women giving birth in health facilities. The cycle of death has been replaced with a cycle of life.Join Anubha Rawat as she delves into the inspiring journey of Lwala Community Alliance and Julius Mbeya, uncovering the incredible impact they have on the health and well-being of the community. For more about Lwala Community Alliance, visit their website: https://lwala.org/
3. Activating Potential: Catalyzing Social Entrepreneurs to Alleviate Poverty with D-Prize28:19In this episode of Philanthropod, Anubha interviews Nick Fusso, co-founder of D-Prize - an organisation that supports social entrepreneurs in Africa and South Asia who are focused on alleviating poverty. Nick, along with Andrew and Paul Yuon, started D-Prize in 2013 because they believed that exceptional individuals lacked the necessary funds to launch their ideas.Every year, D-Prize receives a staggering 6,000 applications from aspiring entrepreneurs. Nick explains the rigorous process of reviewing and evaluating these applications to select exceptional entrepreneurs who will receive seed funding. The organisation goes the extra mile to find grassroots entrepreneurs who may be overlooked by others. These unsung heroes work tirelessly to bring about change in their communities. D-Prize's main goal is to expand access to existing interventions and maximise their impact to reach those in need on a large scale.Nick shares some success stories from D-Prize that demonstrate the transformative power of seed funding. One such story is about Altech, an organisation in the Democratic Republic of Congo that received a $15,000 grant in 2014. This initial support acted as a catalyst for their growth, enabling them to secure additional donors and investors. Today, Altech is the largest energy distributor in Congo, positively impacting countless lives.Another remarkable case study is Youth Impact, an organisation focused on health and education in Botswana. D-Prize came across them when their idea was still in development. Through the application process, D-Prize provided guidance and support, leading to their expansion. With the help of mobile phone technology, Youth Impact now reaches 35,000 students across six countries, improving educational outcomes and transforming lives.Anubha and Nick discuss the key characteristics of successful social entrepreneurs. Nick emphasises the importance of believing in the impact and envisioning a better future. A well-thought-out operating model and a roadmap for scaling are crucial for success, as is the composition of the team, with local and proximate leaders more likely to achieve positive outcomes.D-Prize takes calculated risks to ensure that talented individuals have the opportunity to unleash their potential and create lasting change. Join Anubha and Nick in this episode of Philanthropod as they celebrate the entrepreneurial spirit, discuss the keys to success, and witness firsthand how D-Prize empowers extraordinary individuals dedicated to fighting poverty and shaping a better world.Additional links: D-Prize website: https://d-prize.org/ Altech website: https://www.altech-rdc.com/Youth Impact website: https://www.youth-impact.org/
2. How Seed Funding Gave Life to an Innovative Idea During Covid33:17Oxygen is essential for life, and plays a key role in medical care. During the Covid-19 pandemic the need for oxygen had never been greater. However, in many low-income countries bottled oxygen is not readily available. Consequently, oxygen concentrators (a device used to increase the percentage of oxygen by removing nitrogen from room air) become vital. However, due to high maintenance and limited supply chains oxygen concentrators are often prematurely written-off as no longer repairable in the Majority World.It was in this urgent context that Dr. Gerry Douglas and Dr. Timothy Mtonga, Founder and Director of the Global Health Informatics Institute of Malawi and Open02 respectively, realised there was a life saving fix that could breathe new life into Malawi's health care system. Rather than throwing out the whole oxygen canister - you can refresh the zeolite crystals - the chemical responsible for removing the nitrogen.During the second wave of Covid-19, their innovative idea truly came to life through a new partnership and catalytic seed funding from the DAK Foundation under the leadership of Marnie Rickards, DAK Foundation’s Operations Director. By December 2021 - Open02 had repaired 649 oxygen concentrators servicing 58 hospitals, making an additional 657,860 cubic metres of oxygen available - enough to support up to 34,553 babies with a continuous flow of oxygen for one week.The team at AIDN are thrilled to launch this special edition of #philanthropod, where host Anubha Rawat sits down with Gerry, Timothy and Marnie to discuss this pioneering global health initiative. Tune in to learn more about Malawi’s health sector, the challenges of working in the development sector during Covid-19, and the importance of creative ideas and flexible partnerships. Gerry finishes with advice to others who may have a simple yet effective idea about how to approach life-saving seed funding.
1. Leading a humanitarian engineering charity as a woman leader in the face of the growing climate crisis28:08In our first episode of our new season, Philanthropod’s host Anubha Rawat sits down with Eleanor Loudon.Eleanor is an experienced international development leader with a deep, lifelong commitment to social and environmental justice. She has spent over 10 years in professional leadership roles, including in Sri Lanka (ChildFund International), and Cambodia and Thailand (Australian Volunteer Program). Eleanor is also on the board of the social enterprise ATEC.Eleanor is currently the CEO of Engineers Without Borders Australia (EWB) – a humanitarian engineering charity that uses the power of engineering to help create a more equitable and sustainable world. They work with communities in Australia, Cambodia, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu in need to provide access to clean water, renewable energy, disaster recovery and develop sustainable infrastructure. At the heart of their programs they ask: How do we engineer differently? How do we engineer sustainably? How do we engineer with community?In the episode, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about EWB’s huge remit - from being integrated into university engineering curriculums, to building technical capacity of in-country engineers, to challenging gender norms and supporting women engineers, to working on major infrastructure projects in Timor-Leste. A focus on Indigenous outreach is also core to their ethos. The episode, launched on IWD 2023, is also a must-listen for those interested in the intersection of gender, engineering and women's leadership more broadly. Eleanor and Anubha discuss women’s leadership in a sector where women’s representation drops from 70% across the sector to 40% at a senior level. Eleanor provides sound advice for other women looking to take up leadership positions in the international development sector and beyond. Eleanor sheds light on her experience of a changing ecosystem – it is now the private sector who come to EWB to ask about Sustainable Development Goal 2030 strategies. For Eleanor, this represents the fact that issues like climate change are no longer ‘dirty words’ in the urgent development context of today. To learn more about Engineers Without Borders follow the link: https://ewb.org.au
3. Yevu Clothing: realising the transformative impact of economically empowered women34:41Anna Robertson first travelled to Ghana as an Australian Youth Ambassador for Development. With a natural interest for entrepreneurship, innovation and accessible finance for the financially excluded and underserved, Anna quickly learnt that 80% of populations in developing contexts earn a precarious and often dangerous living in the informal sector, and the most vulnerable in this group are women. Inspired by the transformative impact of economically empowered women, Anna founded Yevu in 2012. Yevu is a for-profit social enterprise, manufacturing and selling its clothes online to a global customer base, whilst economically empowering women in Ghana’s informal sector through fair and sustainable employment opportunities. Anna has also worked as the Head of Innovation Labs at Affinity Africa, which delivered a patentable prototype for Ghana's first digital retail bank, and as a Policy Advisor Deputy Lord Mayor at the City of Sydney. Join Philanthropod’s host, Anubha Rawat, in discussion with Anna who reflects on privilege, power and the role that she can play in connecting the bespoke and beautiful Ghanian textile industry to overseas markets. Anna highlights the importance of always centering the Ghanaian women who work with Yevu at the core of the business, collective and transparent decision-making, shared learning, and mutual goal-setting. Anna also speaks to the changing social enterprise landscape she has witnessed since Yevu’s inception.