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Kenya: never fail to try

Nairobi, 6 July 2015 – Just a three-hour drive outside the Kenyan capital of Nairobi and any visitor will feel they have entered another world. The area known as Maasai land is mostly inhabited by indigenous Maasai. The Maasai are known for their nomadic lifestyle, but have begun to settle due to modern-day pressures. Most have only completed basic levels of education and are now trying to adapt to a new labour market as they move away from nomadism.

Most foreigners never have the chance to explore this area of Kenya, but one refugee has made it his home, opening a social enterprise aimed at increasing computer literacy in the community. Pierre Muhire, a Rwandan refugee, found his passion for technology after studying information technology and computer repair at Zetech University in Nairobi on a scholarship provided by Jesuit Refugee Service in 2013. He then applied his knowledge to his ambition and applied for a job training course and small business loan from JRS. Within just three months of opening a cyber café he converted it to a computer college.

 

"When I started, I had only five computers set up that people could use to browse the internet, but people came in asking to be trained. Most of them didn't know how to use a computer, so I started training two guys. Within one month, I had 25 students and was able to buy two more computers," said Pierre. Pierre, 23, trains upwards of 25 local community members per day in computer literacy at his college. At the end of the course, students receive certificates in computer science. "I came to this area because I knew the conditions were manageable and that people needed this service I could provide. I took a chance. I live by the motto, 'try and fail, but never fail to try.'"

The majority of his students are people in the workforce, while others have just finished secondary school and need to learn computer skills in order to enter university. Some companies have even begun to sponsor the training of their employees.

"I feel very touched when I go somewhere and the person serving me was once my student. I went to the supermarket the other day and was surprised to find my former student working there. He was able to get a job as a cashier after the course. Another former student was working with livestock for a chicken company and was promoted to a job in the company's office after learning computer skills."

In addition to being able to both support himself and his parents, Pierre feels fulfillment from being able to give back to his host community.

"I was helped to get where I am so I feel also very good when others benefit from my knowledge. I trust this community, and I treat them a lot of dignity." Pierre hopes that he will be able to remain living outside the camp despite Kenya's forced encampment policy, which technically requires all refugees to reside in overcrowded camps. However, he is one of 50,000 refugees in areas in and around Nairobi striving to be self-reliant and give back to their communities.

"We refugees are homeless, so anywhere I can wake up alive, I will thank God. If the camp is my last option, so be it. People there are human just like me, but if I can keep this chance to stay in Nairobi where I can use the little knowledge I have to impact on others, I feel that's a better option."

For now, Pierre will continue to work toward his goals of growing his business. By the end of the year he hopes to hire some Kenyan staff and purchase more computers to accommodate more students. Within the next few years, he plans to expand his education and may even enter the priesthood.

"My lifetime objectives first is education, even if I'm 60 I will keep going to school. I always think there is a better future ahead. We produce our best efforts and then God produces the sun for those seeds to grow."

                             

                         Angela Wells, JRS Eastern Africa, Communications Officer

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