Caleb and I love telling the story about Beautiful Response and the kids in Uganda. It is an easy story to tell. It is a story we have told more times than any other story. We love to tell people about all the kids in school, that some of them are at the very top of their class, and about the excellent schools that they are attending thanks to the generosity of so many.
The follow up question nearly always is what the kids will do after graduation. This part is not an easy story to tell. I typically stammer through something about university for some, trade school for others and that some might return to work for the organization where they grew up. But then I find myself admitting the truth; I don't know what they will do. There are four times more people graduating from university and training schools annually than there are available jobs. The reality in Uganda—as with many other places in the world—is that the economy is not big enough or active enough to absorb, employ and engage an ever increasing educated population. This reality does not make accessing the best education available to them any less valuable. On the contrary, education continues to be a critical building block for the kids and for a country that has so much to offer.
The US Africa Summit took place in Washington, DC earlier this month. Other than a near run in with the president of Mali’s motorcade, I had no involvement in the events that week. But even from a peripheral view, I found the narrative of the meetings so refreshing. The story was not about a group of people who needed the charity and goodwill of Americans. Rather, 50 African leaders were invited to the US because over the next five years, Africa will be home to 8 of the 10 fastest growing economies. US businesses see that Africa has so much to offer through its growing middle class, increasingly educated youth and abundant workforce.
There likely won’t be a job for the kids we sponsor when they finish school. Chances are slim that a US business invests in Kampala and is able to employ the kids we are sponsoring. In fact, more than likely, the kids will need to create new jobs in new industries for themselves and their peers. But business is growing in Africa and the kids we sponsor will be a small part of a generation that is highly educated and possesses the grit and commitment to change their story.
Through education and innovative ideas, they’ll get the chance to tell their own story.
The narrative in Africa is changing and seeing this group of kids excel in school is one piece of that.