When inspiration hits
”One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” -Bob Marley.
Let me tell you about what happens when inspiration hits you. When inspiration enters your body and mind, you feel tingling in your toes, being still becomes impossible and you feel fire works inside your mind. This is what I experienced last week at our Education Entrepreneuship Master´s studies 2nd cohort meetings in Helsinki during the Slush weekend. What a thrilling feeling it is to be among like-minded professionals who believe in better world through education. Alongside individual learning, finding this tribe which feels like my own, is the best thing in this particular program. I am grateful for the various networking possibilities this program has offered and will still offer more. I do believe these events will also give new channels for co-operation in my project of building an Innovation & Learning Center to Rwamwanja refugee settlement in Uganda.
Some of you may wonder, what exactly is a refugee settlement. The difference compared to a refugee camp is that people are assigned with their own piece of land after they have been registered as refugees. That piece of land is free to use for them as long as Ugandan government has no other purpose for the land. People are allowed to build their own houses, usually from grass and clay. People are also free to cultivate the land for which the climate in Uganda is usually very good. Uganda is actually very green country, which is totally different from the image people are given about Africa in media.Uganda is said to be the hidden gem of Africa. This I can confirm.
Refugee policies in Uganda are very liberal. Uganda is accepting nearly everyone looking for asylum and refugee statuses are granted as fast as papers are being processed. This is a remarkable effort from a country which is struggling with it´s own challenges as well. I once asked an older Ugandan man, how does he feel about this. He said, that helping the neighbor, as he described, is very natural act. There are still people alive in Uganda who had to escape during Idi Amin´s regime or after it. People have been crossing artificially drawn borders looking for asylum from different sides of the borders for centuries. Of course there is also resistance, just like we have in Europe. All and all, refugees are a natural part of every day life in Uganda. Kampala is full of ethnic restaurants and people you see on the streets are all looking different. It is quite easy to blend in the crowd at the streets of Kampala.
Just like in Finland, finding employment as a refugee in the new country of residence is very challenging. Usually the diplomas and certificates a person may have from his or her home country are not valid in Uganda. Finding resources for further schooling is almost impossible for the vast majority of refugees. The percentage of all refugees in the world who have the possibility to attend university in their new country of residence is only 6%. Youth employment through out Uganda is massive within all nationalities.
My aim during my journey in my studies is to create a concept which can offer a way and a place for people with some formal education and inventors without any education to work together and develop their ideas into productive businesses. On other words: making a living for themselves and their families. If you have seen the kind of toys children make in Africa, you know that they very creative and innovative. I have been amazed several times about the creativity people have in areas where people lack of nearly everything. Still, children always find a way to make toys for themselves. In Finland children used to make toys out of cones when my father was a child. Now children have smart phones. I am convinced, with a little help, similar progress is possible also in Uganda.
Coming back to last weekend – I am already noticing there are also other people in our group with similar aspirations. I am convinced that together we can achieve something good and make this world at least a little bit better.
Our home in Jinja Uganda is preparing to get busy. During December we are starting to build a chicken hut, expanding our garden and trying out soap making. Busy days are ahead both in Uganda and Finland. Busy is good. Busy means change. If nothing changes, there will be no progress either. Personally I am a huge fan of change and trying out new things. Bob Marley changed the world with his music. Most of us wont´t have the opportunity to change the entire world, but at least we can change the world for someone.