Conscious Citizens through Connectivity

Conscious Citizens through Connectivity

RwandaNtenyo, Rwanda
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Raising conscious and empathetic global citizens through online exchange and community building. Students in Rwanda and the US connect to teach each other.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Children in Ntenyo Primary School (755 students), Rwanda and Buford Middle School (649 students), Charlottesville, Virginia are socially excluded. Their schools lack basic resources for learning, they have a hard time seeing where they fit in the world, and relating to those from other backgrounds since they do not have the opportunity to interact with people from different walks of life. It is hard to dream big when the world seems so constrained; hard to feel hope when surrounded by so much despair; and hard to think creatively about how children can collaboratively solve the problems they see in their world.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

We will connect students in Ntenyo, Rwanda and Charlottesville, VA via the internet, to talk, share stories, and play online games designed to build relationships and empathy. The exchange will foster mutual understanding, respect and empathy, as well as show how we are all connected in a global web. We will also connect these young students to university students at the Batten School of Leadership & Public Policy at the University of Virginia (UVA), for additional learning opportunities. We will draw on resources from the university’s psychology department where researchers use computer-based empathy tools; and the Mindfulness Center, which has developed online mindfulness meditation programs to reduce stress and promote self awareness. We will start small with two classrooms in Ntenyo and two in Charlottesville, growing it into many laptops in Rwanda and multiple linkages in the US.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

There will be three components of the connection, which will grow, in time, to a broader web. 1. Children in Ntenyo, Rwanda will talk with children in Charlottesville, Virginia. They will share stories and play online games building cooperation and friendships. This will allow them to improve their English and expand their experiences. In addition, connecting to the Internet will increase their access to information by orders of magnitude. 2. Children in low-income schools in Charlottesville, VA will talk with children in Ntenyo, Rwanda. While thousands of children are relatively disadvantaged in Charlottesville Virginia, defined by the national poverty line, their access to resources is significantly higher than students in Rwanda. However, drop out rates are high (49% for African-American students). In Rwanda, hundreds of children arrive at Ntenyo Primary School every day, having walked miles, sometimes with no shoes, often without a meal, and suffering from a range of health ailments. Providing students in Charlottesville with this reference point should help them develop empathy for our far-away neighbors, recognize their own *relative* wealth and encourage them to take advantage of the resources at their disposal. 3. Children in both schools – in Charlottesville and Ntenyo will be connected to students at the University of Virginia. This will provide children in both schools access to additional tutoring and cutting edge developments in empathy and mindfulness curriculum. The university students develop a deeper understanding of poverty and empathy.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

No other organizations are working in the area of rural Rwanda where the Ntenyo Primary School is situated, and no organization in Charlottesville, VA is seeking to connect low-income children with students in other countries. So there are no direct competitors. Peer organizations exist that have curriculum which we will use during the exchanges; we are in touch with the Directors of Global Grassroots, an NGO teaching consciousness to girls in Rwanda; The UVA Contemplative Center, which is holding a conference and gathering materials on teaching meditation and self awareness in K-12 education; and the UVA Mindfulness Center, which has online mindfulness tools.
About You
About You
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About Your Organization
Organization Name


Organization Country

, XX, Ntenyo

Country where this project is creating social impact
Your role in Education


The type of school(s) your solution is affiliated with

Public (tuition-free)

How long has your organization been operating?

1‐5 years

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How long has your solution been in operation?

Still in idea phase, but looking to launch soon

Now that you have thought out your entry, help us pitch it.
Define your company, program, service, or product in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

Raising conscious and empathetic global citizens through online exchange and community building.

Identify what is innovative about your solution in 1-2 short sentences [136 characters]

Using modern information technology to teach one of the oldest and most basic of truths: we need each other.

Social Impact
What has been the impact of your solution to date?

Sanejo began working with Ntenyo Primary School 2 years ago when it was at risk of closing because of poor infrastructure and low graduations rates. Over the last two years we have built 5 new classrooms with the help of the Ntenyo community, landscaped the school grounds and installed two water tanks to ensure that the children have fresh drinking water throughout the school day. In 2011, the school was ranked 2/12 on the Sector level and 4/69 on the District level. During this time, we have brought in volunteers from different countries to expose the children to different cultures. This cross-cultural interaction has peaked the students' interest and they are constantly writing letters for the volunteers to take to children in their home countries. With this project, we aim to take their eagerness for pen pals one step further and connect them with entire classrooms in the US through virtual meetings, lessons and games.

What is your projected impact over the next 1-3 years?

In the next 1-3 years we aim to complete the renovation of the Ntenyo Primary School and adding enough classrooms to expand to include a Secondary School, new latrines, and an improved playing field. Electricity is slated to come to the school this year but we will also add solar panels for fluctuations in power. We will have a fully functioning computer lab dedicated to cross-cultural interaction over the internet with other schools in the United States (and ultimately, elsewhere). Our aim is to impact both students in Rwanda and the US by exposing them to people and cultures of which they would otherwise not have knowledge. By exposing them to new experiences and instilling empathy, our goal is to impact how they think about the world and encourage them to dream big and work together.

What barriers might hinder the success of your project? How do you plan to overcome them?

The Ntenyo & Charlottesville communities are 100% behind this project, however, there are logistical issues that need to be taken into account in Rwanda: 1. We need to raise $6,000 for the 300 meters of fiber-optic cable and installation. 2. The school does not yet have electricity, but electrical poles are in the vicinity and the government has promised that it will be installed by the end of the year. If it is not installed on time, we have contacts with a solar company and a rice-husk gasification generator company (rice is now being cultivated in the area). To ensure that national grid electricity will be installed as soon as possible, we have remained in constant contact with the local government. With approximately $2,500, we have been guaranteed that electricity will be installed.

Winning entries present a strong plan for how they will achieve and track growth. Identify your six-month milestone for growing your impact

Have 300 meters of fiber-optic cable laid from national fiber-optic backbone to school and purchase laptops and projectors.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your six-month milestone
Task 1

Have Cyusa Mucyowiraba - Léandre Country Representative - Telecom Consultant survey land and develop the installation plan.

Task 2

Raise funds for 2 laptops, 2 projectors, and 300 meters of cable and installation.

Task 3

Install cable, purchase 2 laptops, and 2 projectors in Kigali, Rwanda.

Now think bigger! Identify your 12-month impact milestone

Holding regular bi-weekly sessions with Charlottesville Middle School students and University of Virginia students.

Identify three major tasks you will have to complete to reach your 12-month milestone
Task 1

Finalize curriculum on empathy, consciousness/self-awareness and meditation/stress management.

Task 2

Recruit university students for online tutoring sessions.

Task 3

Arrange time for student-to-student sessions and begin sessions.

Founding Story: We want to hear about your "Aha!" moment. Share the story of where and when the founder(s) saw this solution's potential to change the world [125 words]

During the summer of 2010, Sanejo worked with the oldest students at Nteyno Primary School (P6) to create a mural about the dreams for their future. Initially the students were reserved in their dreaming, thinking only about goals that they knew were tangible for them. Together with the teachers, we encouraged the kids to start thinking bigger and once they realized that they had the power to control their future, there was no stopping them! "I want to be a doctor!", "I want to go to university!" reads the Dream Wall. Standing in the schoolyard the wall continues to be a daily reminder for the students and community members of what is possible if you work hard. The inspiration derived from the wall has inspired the community and Sanejo board members to think bigger and see how we can connect the students to the wider world before they leave school. Our goal is to further encourage our Rwandan and US students to work hard and view themselves a part of a wider, global community.

Tell us about your partnerships

Sanejo's primary partner is the Australian based NGO, YGAP. YGAP has been Sanejo's main funder since it's inception and we work together each year to renovate the school infrastructure, conduct teacher-trainings and inspire the students. In Charlottesville, we will partner with City of Promise-a coalition of local non-profits working with the low-income schools, including Buford Middle School, to improve learning outcomes, enrollment and graduation rates; and the University of Virginia, including the Batten School of Leadership and Public Policy, the Mindfulness Center, and Psychology Dept.

What type of team (staff, volunteers, etc.) will ensure that you achieve the growth milestones identified in the Social Impact section? [75 words]

The founding members of the board, and the international advisors will be key in additional fundraising for the laptops and fiber-optic installation and solar panels. A Rwandan IT company will be in charge of installing the 300 meters of fiberoptic from the backbone, and setting up the server. The teachers will be key in facilitating the online exchanges between students. The international volunteers that come each year will continue to grow the web and establish new locations with which the students can interact.

Please elaborate on any needs or offers you have mentioned above and/or suggest categories of support that aren't specified within the list

IT specialists are key to carrying out this initiative, but they are also very much in demand, and as a result are fairly costly, if Changemakers Fellows have advice about securing pro-bono IT support, that would be very helpful. In addition, though we have a number of sources for developing empathy-promoting curriculum, additional advice in this area would be very welcomed.