Together We Can Make a Difference

By Eva Nyandoro

While helping to build a school in the beautiful valleys of Rwanda, Troy Aitken, co-founder of MAD4Africa, noticed that young men and women who were carrying the bricks and mixing the cement as labourers could change their lives by obtaining a craft or trade.

When Troy arrived back in London, in 2008, he and seven others who had shared similar experiences and had a diverse range of skills decided to setup a charity to help rural youth in East Africa learn a trade like sewing or carpentry to gain employment.

The young charity runs wholly on volunteers who work a 9 – 5 job and then work part-time for MAD4Africa. The UK Project Manager and Coordinator spent time visiting training centres in Rwanda to find a centre in desperate need of their help and where they could make the biggest difference.

Tailoring class in Rwanda

At the Kiyonza Professional Training Centre (KPTC) they saw nine girls sitting around one sewing machine. The girls’ were eager to learn but were being seriously hampered by having to share one machine. MAD4Africa took on KPTC as its first project in 2010. They renovated the run-down training centre and provided the centre with tools to enable young people in the poorest community to change both their lives and those of their families.

Workers Co-operativesA significant number of skilled craftsmen and teachers in the country were killed during the Rwanda genocide of 1994. MAD4Africa seeks to make a difference by driving a ‘skills revival’ for local people. It supports centres that teach young men and women life-changing skills in vocational, language and literacy training so they will be able to lift themselves out of poverty and into a job.  The small group of UK-volunteers have also set-up local Workers’ Co-Operatives. They are a place for students who have graduated from the centre to join forces with local business to offer a trade they have learned on the course. It is a modern day apprenticeship scheme.

MAD4Africa’s next project this year is to renovate and equip the Maraba Vocational Training College in Rwanda with the tools needed to increase the numbers of students attending the centre. Only 70 students are enrolled but there is a demand of 600 students waiting for a place at a training centre in the district.

Maraba Vocational Training Centre

The training centre’s poor standard of facilities and equipment means it has yet to be approved by the local Workforce Development Agency (WDA) which means graduate students do not get a recognised certificate.  MAD4Africa is taking on the development and renovation of this training centre to ensure it can provide places for over 130 students with an income generating project running alongside the centre. The income generating project will help the centre run independently and sustainably. The UK team are hoping to raise £55,000 to fund Maraba VCT project that will help young people in Rwanda learn new skills to build themselves a better future.

Troy Aitken, Operations Director for MAD4Africa, speaks candidly about the lessons learnt from the first project in Rwanda (KPTC). “The cultural difference between people working in the UK and people working in Rwanda meant at times it was difficult to deliver on the expectations we had set ourselves. The centre manager hired to run the project was not hired by us. With our next project we will ensure that we have a much bigger role in deciding who the person will be to run the centre.” He hopes that this will improve delivery and accountability.

One of the challenges facing MAD4Africa is competing for grants.  “We are finding that as a result of the budget cuts some of the bigger charities that would normally not apply for one of the smaller grants are now applying for these grants.”

As a result, MAD4Africa is looking for more volunteers, “as a charity run predominately by volunteers we are always looking for committed, hardworking people who want to make a difference in Africa. We’re desperately in need of fundraisers – people with experience in fundraisings particularly corporate fundraising.”

If you would like to find our more about the work MAD4Africa is involved in contact