Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.
Before the Connection I worked in the Republic of Moldova with street children. I was part of a team that built a village for those children. Soon I realized how high the rate of tuberculosis infected children was - more than half of our children had to spend months in an hospital due to tuberculosis before they were allowed to stay with us. And the hospital was in a horrible condition (no heating, broken windows...) I knew that I had to address this problem. I contacted a Viennese pediatrician and asked him to come and visit our street children project. After showing him around I presented my idea of creating a kind of outpatient clinic for these children so that they could return every evening after treatment to their families or our village. We then found support for this idea and started planning such an outpatient ward in the hospital. But after some consideration we had to abandon the plan partially realising that some parents preferred their children to stay in hospital for longer as the living situation at home was worse. So as my initial idea of an outpatient ward did only work for street children coming to live in the village, we re-adjusted and instead renovated and modernised one floor in the hospital. I could convince the AKH in Vienna to train the staff in cleanliness so as to prevent further infections and our village volunteers were also trained to inspect and control contiguous hygiene.
Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?
Beside our great team, there is a wide variety of stakeholders that helped the Connection to become what it is and will play an essential role in its growing process.
• The mentors: professionals from diverse backgrounds that are happy to spend their time and pass on their knowledge to the youngsters. Without those volunteers the Connection would not be running. To find highly qualified people who are willing to give their time is hard, but we managed to create a pool of committed mentors who are having an immense impact on the youngsters and serving as role models. Those mentors are also multipliers that are currently helping us to enlarge our pool of mentors.
• The Youngsters: the project would not be successful without their curiosity and enthusiasm to learn. But of course we often have to deal with lack of motivation, no previous learning experience and a high drop out rate. Therefore we continuously develop our program together with the youngsters.
• Partner Youth Organisations: To build confidence and trust in our work is a very important but hard task. Only through the work of our partner organisations are we able to gain the trust of the youngsters. School social workers, youth coaches and supervisors from refugee homes are sending us the young immigrants. Those partner organisation encourage us to grow.