Dec 1999 – 2005: Conception of ITF, Venuste’s struggle and Passion
It all started in the aftermath of the dreadful Rwanda genocide in December 1999 when Venuste Kubimwana lost his mother, the only parent he was left with. Venuste was born in Southern Province of Rwanda, a rural area stricken with poverty. He was raised in a poor family with his seven siblings. During the 1994 genocide, Venuste lost almost everyone in his family making it even more difficult for him to meet his daily needs. Things got worse in 1999 when he lost his mother. He was only a 14 year old high school student at the time, and he was forced to search for a job to meet basic needs for him and his siblings but nobody would give him a stable job because he was still a child, and he wasn’t from an influential family. The frustrations Venuste went through balancing school life, working to pay school fees and supporting his siblings gave him passion to create opportunities for fellow young people. That is when the dream to create a youth system that would provide jobs, offer opportunities to grow and contribute to individual development of our communities was born in Venuste’s mind. Since then that dream influenced his choices and dictated his life path.
2007 – 2008: Venuste meets Bonnie in Rwanda
Initially, Venuste was convinced that studying public works for his higher education would help him amass enough money to start a youth organization after employment. However, two years after completing his course, he started working as a full time volunteer for an international youth organization in Rwanda where his brilliant performance earned him a promotion to a senior management position. His experience at the youth organization equipped him with sufficient knowledge in running a youth organization. In 2007, Venuste met Bonnie, a Kenyan who had also come to volunteer with the organization. As the only African volunteers, Bonnie and Venuste shared one of the staff houses and living together made them discover just how much they had in common especially when it came to their values and dreams.
Bonnie was raised in Icaciri village, Kiambu County by a struggling single mother after his parents divorced when he was only two years old. He strongly believes that everyone should live to their fullest potential. The experience shared by Venuste and Bonnie working together in Rwanda and going for missions across East Africa gave them a pure understanding on youth development needs, inspiring them to make a difference. Bonnie finished his volunteer time in 2008 before returning to Kenya.
Dec 2009 – August 2010: Twisted fate & ITF Registration
In mid 2009, Venuste resigned from his full time volunteer position, determined to start the registration of a youth organization. However, when he was handed the requirements for starting an organization, he realized that he did not have enough money to cover the whole cost. He then came up with a plan to travel abroad so as to make more money. This decision was hugely motivated by a promise he had made to someone very dear to him. On 14th December 2009, Venuste left Rwanda for Kenya anticipating a bargain on flight to Americas. He got accommodation at an affordable place but his finances were not enough to sustain his expenses in Nairobi. He thought about contacting Bonnie for help but he dismissed the idea for he didn’t want to look desperate. At that point in time, Bonnie was living with his uncle while searching for employment. Eventually, Venuste decided to call Bonnie since he didn’t quite have another choice. Fortunately, Bonnie had just gotten employed, he had received his first month’s salary and had bought a mattress, plastic carpet and rented a room.
That’s the room where the idea to start ITF as a non-profit organization was shaped. For the next few days, Bonnie would leave for work in the morning and Venuste would sit back and
read all of his books. Bonnie was a book lover but since he couldn’t afford to buy a lot of books, he downloaded several e-books from his previous job as a cyber café attendant. It is during that period that the conversation on starting a youth organization came up. Bonnie then advised Venuste on starting a youth nonprofit organization since the laws in Kenya allows individuals to start a nonprofit without necessarily having a lot of capital. This news was like a dream come true for Venuste and he immediately started making plans on setting up a youth nonprofit organization in Kenya with Bonnie’s help.
Venuste and Bonnie spent the following month planning and designing various aspects of the organization such as the constitution, logo, organization name and other details. However, one of the requirements of setting up an organization was to have at least 3 people. They then pitched the idea to Pauline and Javan, who were friends with Bonnie. They agreed to the partnership and that’s when International Transformation Foundation set off as they submitted all required documents in March 2010. On 25th August 2010, the Registrar of Societies in Kenya approved their registration and handed them a certificate to allow them operate as an international organization. That evening, they had their first real board meeting at Javan’s house.
August 2010 – December 2012: First Operational Phase
The immediate plan of action was the main subject of their first meeting that evening and the outcome was mainly to brilliantly make the ITF name known to the world and to put forth values that portray youth as protagonists in the fight against youth problems, not mere spectators. They had deep aspirations that real change comes about when young people are able to identify issues of primary concern to them and are empowered to develop, implement and manage youth-owned strategies. They created and designed ITF on principles of stimulus and inspiration for change and transformation of youth for individual achievement and their aim was to provide youth educational and self development programs encompassing leadership and entrepreneurship built around youth needs.
They quickly started looking for office space and they were fortunate to get space in the 15th floor of View Park Towers, Nairobi where they were provided with a computer equipped desk –work station and a shared reception and a board room. This decision proved futile a year later on when they discovered that the rent was too costly for their budget.
The first project that launched ITF was the Leadership and Entrepreneurship training which would consist of Debates and Training workshops giving youth life didactic principles with rigorous instructions that shove them to expand their boundaries of knowledge molding them into great leaders and entrepreneurs. The annual debate was hosted as a concrete place for change and transformation of youth through the exchange of ideas in a persuasive and argumentative manner. ITF would also conduct training workshops regularly in various
institutions and communities to impart youths with principles that would help them become accomplished men and women.
While at View Park towers, they managed to recruit their first volunteers/members who overwhelmingly helped to stage their first and historical activity “the 2010 ITF Debate” at Green Court Hotel on 25th to 26th November 2010. The first volunteer’s team included the University of Nairobi’s Volunteers Association led by their passionate chairman Anthony Githinji, the Students Union at Nairobi Aviation College led by Harrison Murimi, Ruth Goga and Fredrick Omondi. They were later joined by Compuera College students that included Karimi and John Wanja.
The Debate was attended by about 260 youth and students mostly from Nairobi’s communities, colleges and universities such as University of Nairobi, Kenya Polytechnic and Nairobi Aviation. The debate was sponsored by reputable companies such as Nakumatt, Air Arabia, Manji and Summaria Industries thanks to the efforts made by George Arango, one of the volunteers. The success of the first debate was beyond their expectations and it encouraged them to keep moving forward and create even bigger impact.
By December 2012 ITF had reached over 26000 youths across Kenya and had helped design ITF flagship projects (1 slum 100 Computers Project, Community Library & resource centre, Water kiosks) and had very successfully completed our organizational first operational phase ahead of time.
January 2013 – December 2015: Sustainability quest start
After successfully completing the organizational first operational phase, which consisted of getting publicity for ITF, putting forth their values and involving fellow youth in designing and organizing their flagship projects, they embarked on the organization’s second operational phase meant for sustainability quest. In the second phase, they intended to operate designed community based and owned youth leadership and entrepreneurship programs to ensure ITF’s self sustainability and growth, empowering and facilitating youths to forge partnerships with other groups in the community and instil a sense of ownership in the efforts to improve their well-being and building their capacity to realize their individual aspirations and contribute to their communities development.
They then began the process of transitioning which included setting up the ITF Secretariat and restructuring its management to include full time staffs on volunteer basis to be able to fundraise and implement three designed flagship projects.
In July 2013, ITF partnered with Join the Pipe Foundation, launching Join the Pipe project, a project that involved installing specially designed Dutch taps stations near playgrounds, city centers, parks, schools and bus stations in Kenya in order for people to drink clean water whenever possible.
In November, 2014, ITF launched yet another project; 1 Slum 100 Computers Project thanks to a kind donation from the Rabo Bank Foundation. The project aimed to provide computer training and entrepreneurship mentoring to youth groups in Eastern Nairobi slums and informal settlements to be familiar enough with computer applications and design computer based business. At completion of the training and mentorship, loans them computers and other technological devices to set up a computer-based business.
Shortly after, ITF started working on starting up yet another project, the Kahawa West Community Library & Resource Centre, a project designed to operate as a hub and serve as the community’s one stop resource, information and continual learning centre for approximately 39994 people residing in Kahawa west and adjacent areas with a variety of services to fight against poverty and illiteracy. Unfortunately, the project wasn’t able to secure needed funds to sustain it.
By the end of 2015 ITF had built 9 join the pipe water kiosks/stations in Nairobi, Siaya and Bungoma County’s communities providing clean tap water and associated multiple benefits to 4338 students and 70,587 general community residents.
Over 26,947 Youth across east Africa had participated in our leadership & entrepreneurship training consisting of debates and workshops. We provided youth groups from eastern Nairobi slums with Computer training and entrepreneurship mentorship to design and set up a profitable computer based business to 4 youth’s groups with 25 youth members.
31 young people under 30 years old from 8 different countries and three continents had worked at the ITF Secretariat. We also won 2 global awards: 2015 Global awards for fundraising - Big Impact Small Budget Award and PanAfrican Awards for Entrepreneurship in Education. ITF was also featured in various local media sites including Family TV, GBS TV, Daily Nation News paper and X-Newspaper.
January 2016 –: Expansion quest start
As ITF continues to make unprecedented progress, we believe that the lack of employment opportunities for youth is not a short term problem. We need to harness our creativity and relationships so that our Youth system continues to provide jobs that offer security, opportunities to grow, and continue to contribute to the development of our communities. Today, in a time that offers so much hope and potential for Youth transformative change, we are powerfully reminded that the benefits of our programming still fall far short of reaching billions of our fellow young men and women.
Starting 2016, we will continue to strive to strengthen and sustain our coordination Secretariat in Kenya to expand and deepen Youth dignity and be more ambitious by replicating our flagship projects in other nations across East Africa.