Vanessa Ishimwe Seeks to Expand and Improve her Kindergartens for Refugee Children through ALforEducation’s Growth Lab

Each day, Vanessa Ishimwe oversees a network of kindergartens and early childhood development centers that serve over 1000 children in the Kyaka II refugee settlement in Kyegegwa district, Uganda. She now seeks to take her work to a new level through participation in ALforEducation’s Growth Lab beginning in September 2021.

Vanessa is a co-founder of the Youth Initiative for Development in Africa (YIDA), and was a finalist for the 2018 Anzisha Prize. YIDA aims to educate its community’s young members and create employment for the youth through education and entrepreneurship.

The three Kindergartens and Early Childhood Development centers not only provide academic lessons for children aged 3 to 8 years old but also nurture the children’s social and development by providing ample and safe space for play and ensuring all children are fed during school time. The school centers teach more than 1000 school children per year and, to date, more than 560 parents have been empowered to focus on their own entrepreneurial ventures while their children are being taught! Vanessa has partnered with UNICEF to ensure that thirty-two young refugees were trained as educators and caregivers. 

Vanessa was born in Rwanda, but has been living in Uganda as a refugee for over 10 years. Driven by her and her siblings’ struggles to obtain stable schooling in her childhood, YIDA was formed to afford other young refugee children quality education. She shares, “The Anzisha Prize helped me refine my YIDA idea and business model. It also helped me learn how to message and pitch our work to donors and supporters, which is important as we currently rely largely on donations and grants. Lastly, their lifelong mentorship is still useful to me today. The Anzisha team still follows up with me and enquire about how they can support us.”

Vanessa remains motivated to stay connected to the ALforEducation network as she continues her journey in education. “The network has experienced people in education and entrepreneurship that I want to keep learning from. Anyone who ventures into entrepreneurship needs mentors to keep them accountable to their goals and I appreciate that about the network. I am able to mentor others who come after me in the same way.” added Vanessa. 

It is with this optimistic, always-learning attitude that Vanessa will once again tap into the network as she applies to become a part of Edupreneur Growth Lab 2021. Through the program, she hopes to learn how YIDA can refine its work and strengthen its foundations. Vanessa specifically seeks to explore how YIDA can improve the quality of its offerings as it continues to pour itself into the lives of Kyaka II’s young people.

Learn more about YIDA’s work here.