Transformational, globally relevant change for refugees in Rwanda
It all began with Gaetan.
Gaetan is young man from Congo, but he’s lived in Nyabiheke Refugee Camp in Rwanda for the past 15 years. Like any young person, Gaetan wants to be connected. But Nyabiheke is frustratingly cut off from the world – the nearest internet café is 15km away, and even that is bare bones, with old computers and spotty wi-fi. He had no easy way to stay in touch with loved ones in Congo, do an online job search, or take online classes…things that might actually help him build a future.
In the past 20 years, Rwanda has transformed into a hub of tech activity, with the capital Kigali at the center. The country is investing in tech infrastructure, with the world’s most powerful multinational tech companies, including the likes of Google, Facebook, and Amazon, setting up shop.
Gaetan saw opportunity. And he saw no reason why refugees shouldn’t be a part of it.
An idea began to take shape, of getting Nyabiheke its own computer lab. And not only that, Gaetan dreamed of a program that would offer IT training, preparing him and his friends for the real world in Rwanda, out Nyabiheke’s walls.
Enter a group of visitors from the U.S., traveling with Alight. They spoke with Gaetan at Nyabiheke, they listened. And after returning, they banded together to raise enough funds to build the lab itself, to construct the building, to furnish it with new computers, and to invest in all the equipment to get it up and running.
Nyabiheke had its computer lab, the first of Gaetan’s dream came to life. Buoyed by their success, we set out to take it to the next level. To design a coding school that not only created a space for connectivity, but that equipped refugees with high-demand, highly marketable IT skill sets. That guarantees job placement in some of the most desirable tech companies. That radically improve the lives of refugees in Nyabiheke. That makes them competitive in the global economy.
It’s happening, and we’re bringing together humanitarians, entrepreneurs, tech professionals, and refugees to do it.
We’re convening this all-star team to design a six-month course that will immerse students in competitive programming languages, with the goal of placing every one of those students in jobs once completed. Our goal is to equip graduates with world-class coding skills – skills that would be competitive anywhere.
Our team includes kLab, an open technology hub in Kigali where students, fresh graduates, entrepreneurs and innovators come to incubate and develop their ideas. It includes AfricSearch, a recruitment firm with a network of offices throughout Africa, Europe, and the U.S. And, at the center are young adults like Gaetan, refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo who live in Nyabiheke camp.
This is more than just a coding school. This is transformational, globally relevant change – rooted in human needs desires, and dreams.
“We aren’t just creating a coding school that trains refugees and then says ‘good luck,'” says Alight Rwanda’s Country Director, Bernad Ochieng. “No. Our coding school gives them best-in-class skills that are competitive and desirable for tech companies. And then we’ll land them that job. Settling for less is simply not good enough.”
If you want to learn more and join us on the journey, contact Nadia at Nadia@WeAreAlight.org.