How easily we sometimes tend to blame other people for our woes and misfortunes; our parents for not going the extra mile, the government for not creating enough jobs, our friends for not holding on much longer and sometimes life for being utterly unfair. But the truth remains unchanging, things will never get better until we quit blaming others, take responsibility for our lives and step out of our comfort zones.
Innocent Byaruhanga’s life took a rewarding turn when he found this truth.
He may well have been counted among scores of under privileged Ugandan children roaming the streets daily or the 83% estimate by the African Development Bank of unemployed youths in East Central Africa.
But not anymore……….
Innocent chose to rise above his fears and circumstances to create a future, not just for himself, but for thousands of other children who are faced with the same problems.
With zero capital, inadequate education but a lot of hope and an unremitting devotion to purpose, Innocent founded Pamoja, in 2011. A center that works with former Ugandan street children and vulnerable youth to produce sustainable shoes out of disused tires.
He thought of something that will not only yield benefits for him but one that can also equip other children with the skills they need to create a living. And like most determined entrepreneurs, he came up with an ingenious solution.
“What we did was come up with [an] idea that can give skills to these children,” he says.
Having spent many years on the streets of Uganda, Innocent was aware of the untold hardship these street kids faced each day and the dangers they were constantly exposed to.
“The biggest challenge that youth and former street children face is unemployment and drug abuse,” he tells CNN. “They are either exploited by the drug lords or use them to enable them forget their problems. This is because they live in poor conditions and have to cope with their poverty or find a livelihood by all means available to them.”
Innocent Byaruhanga’s Pamoja Center is an initiative of his Save Street Children Uganda, a non-profit organization founded in 2005, whose goal is to help Ugandan youth reach their aptitude by equipping them with techniques and knowledge that they can use to “make a contribution to society within their communities.”
“We came out with an idea of making shoes and we said what can we do that people are not doing?” he explains “What can we do that will attract people to buy? What can we do in order that will earn us money at a quicker speed and at the same time which is very cheap?”
The answers were closer than he ever imagined,
On one of his scavenging trips with his team, Innocent discovered piles of disused tires scattered by the side and that moment, his face glimmered with hope. Business was set!
And so from exhausted rubber tires, innocent and his team of former Ugandan street kids began to cut and manufacture eco-friendly foot wears for sale.
In his interview with CNN Africa Startups the ingenious entrepreneur outlines the uniqueness of his shoe-making venture;
“Number one: Ugandan-made; two: Ugandan-owned; three: made from the thing that people don’t see; four: we want to do something that is very durable,” he says.
So far, the Pamoja centre has employed and trained 117 young people, 80 of which are street children and 37 vulnerable youths. All the employees are between 12 and 24 years of age. The income earned from every pair sold is shared with the shoe makers to help them sustain their lives.
And that’s not all the genius has planned for,
Despite his far reaching impact, the youngster still aims for the skies “We want to surprise the entire Uganda as a nation. We want to set up an industry,” Innocent says in delight and zeal. “Young people should be the ones to lead, to make decisions.
“We want to create jobs for the youth; we want to create jobs for former street children, and also the orphans.”
Like Innocent Byaruhanga, we can create an amazing future for ourselves, if only we will decide to take the leap.
“Pursue YOUR Dreams, Silence YOUR Fears” Alynn Marble.