Project Rwanda by JCI Canary Wharf Member

Project Rwanda by JCI Canary Wharf Member

November 17, 2013 10:31 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

My name is Tony Koutsoumbos and I am proud to be one of the first members of JCI Canary Wharf. Three weeks from now I, and three of my fellow debate trainers, will fly out to Rwanda to spend 10 days with 200 school children in Gashora Girls’ Academy, just outside the capital of Kigali. Each child will be travelling far and wide from across the country to be with us and they will be coming for one reason – to learn how debating will change their lives.

One of the reasons I joined the JCI this year was my first-hand experience of its life-changing power. Right now, my other half, Alexandra Spencer, is volunteering in Brazil and preparing to embark on a new career upon her return, none of which would have happened without the JCI. Now, I would like to explain what my team and I are doing to give the same opportunity to 200 children in Rwanda, and how you can help.

It starts with the Central London Debating Society (CLDS), a voluntary organisation I founded four years ago, which now has over 1000 members and provides a platform for anyone who wants to speak their mind on issues they care about in a supportive environment. Last year, I decided I wanted to do more, so I quit my job and founded CLDS Debate Training and have since run training courses for charities, businesses, and schools, and staged public debates in the House of Commons.

Three months ago, I met Sam Baker, project manager of Idebate Rwanda, a charity that uses debating to improve the lives of young Rwandans. Sam explained that he had been following CLDS online for years and was so inspired he set up a network of debate clubs in over 30 schools across Rwanda. He asked me if I could put together a team to fly to Rwanda in December to deliver a national debate training programme that he and his colleagues were planning.

I didn’t need to be asked twice.

A developing nation still emerging from the shadow of the 1994 genocide, Rwanda has progressed at a startling rate, this year becoming the first country in the world where women outnumber men in Parliament. Now, it aspires to become a medium wealth economy by 2020 as well. Sam and Idebate Rwanda see debating as the key to achieving this goal by teaching the leaders of tomorrow how to solve the most pressing problems in their communities today through critical thinking and open discourse.

The legacy of the programme will be managed by the local charity IDebate Rwanda, who will assist the students attending the camp to set up and run competitive debating clubs in their schools and universities. Planning for the camp is well under way: the Rwandan Ministry of Education has already granted us use of Gashora Girls Academy, and accommodation and living expenses for students attending the camp will be funded by the Goethe-Institut/Liaison Office Kigali.

How you can get involved
The one obstacle standing in our way is that Idebate Rwanda has not yet raised enough money to cover their costs and avoid charging students attending the camp. This is why we need your help: if we can raise £2500 by December, then attendance will be free, broadening the range of students who can attend.

We would therefore be extremely grateful if you can spread the word about the camp, contribute to the project via our crowd-funding page, or attend our fundraising events throughout November. To raise awareness and funds for the camp we are partnering with the Rwandan Embassy in London, Morgan Stanley, Parliament Week, City of London School, and Regent’s College to host four events in nine days from Tuesday 19th November to Thursday 28th November, details of which can be found here.

I would also be very grateful to sit down with any JCI members with experience of working in Africa and in particular, experience of marketing fundraisers, as this is very new territory to us and we need to make sure our events are a success. Finally, we are also interested in hearing from people with photography and video production skills who can advise us on how best to record our experience on a shoestring budget.

Help us keep Debate Camp Rwanda free so the youths of today can take their first bold step to being the leaders of tomorrow.

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