Feeding Children Everywhere hosted a special guest this semester. Stephen Itiakorit (“iSteve” as he prefers) is a local from Uganda, a country where over a third of the population make less than $2 a day. FCE was excited to benefit from his unique cultural background and experience and to help him serve the nation of Uganda by learning how we fight hunger.
Q: Tell me about the program you enrolled in to be able to come to America.
A: I am a leader for The Community Solutions Program of the Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs of the U.S. Department of State implemented by IREX (International Research & Exchanges Board). The program is very competitive and provides an opportunity for leaders across the world to come to the United States to share and gain experiences in their field.
Q: That does sound competitive! What kind of experience did you have to be chosen for the program?
A: I worked hard for several years in nonprofit industries in Uganda. I was blessed to be chosen. One of my larger projects in Uganda involved balancing out labor discrimination against women in my country. The daily calendar for women in Uganda is filled with more tasks than men. For instance, collecting firewood, getting water and gathering food. Sometimes the women have to travel far distances to collect the wood and carry it back.
Q: How did you help solve this problem?
A: I worked on a solution to provide charcoal briquettes to the community to eliminate the need for collecting firewood. The charcoal was made from waste including banana peels, corn straws, rice straws, etc. It was an alternative renewable energy resource they could provide to help relieve the women of the extra challenges they often faced when gathering.
Q: That’s amazing! So, what is the purpose of The Cultural Solutions Program?
A: The purpose is to have a mutually beneficial learning and development experience with FCE. After my experience, I will return to my country and implement a program to help the community. I have learned about my related industry during the four-month program, and I will be able to use that knowledge to apply a community action plan.
Q: What skills have you gained from working at FCE that will help you with your future plans?
A: At Feeding Children Everywhere, I learned about the procedures and practices of running a business that helps distribute food, the model of FCE and how they work as a nonprofit, and how their internship program is managed. I also learned how markets work for farmers in the U.S. This will help me implement my program when I return to Uganda.
Q: Can you tell me more about the project you want to carry out when you return home?
A: My plan is to implement a social enterprise program to help unemployed youth in Uganda who are seeking jobs. The program will address issues around unemployment, sexual gender-based violence, and help to improve the marketing and sales structure. It will allow recently graduated youth to be part of a work program similar to the internship program at Feeding Children Everywhere.
Q: That’s really neat. How will the interns within the program support themselves?
A: The interns in the program will receive income that comes from running a coffee shop and will be training farmers so they can sell products at the shop as well. The coffee shop will start serving from “coffee bikes.” These bikes will be fully functioning stations that will brew coffee and serve snacks. The vision is to run a physical coffee shop in the future, but we will start with the bikes. Youth can stay in the program until they obtain stable employment and will gain valuable skills and professional growth within the social enterprise.
Q: How can people be involved?
A: The starting goal is to fund one “coffee bike.” I know that together we can make the world a better place.
Here’s a link where you can help send the first bike!