How an idea became a reality through shared passion and interest.
Nicholas Ojwando and Maryam Mostajir met through taking online courses in social impact leadership with Philanthropy University in 2015. Philanthropy University offers an opportunity for interaction and collaboration among students from all over the world to accelerate meaningful social impact with the right skills and approach in making the world a better place.
Through the University assignment peer reviews and team work platforms, Nicholas reached out to Maryam for their shared passion for helping children and women in difficult situations. They realised that they could make a great partnership in a project to positively impact the lives of vulnerable children and women in Nicholas’ hometown, Pap Onditi, in Kenya. From there they started discussions and sharing project ideas they both had in mind and that is how this project was founded.
Nicholas Otieno Ojwando
As a child who lost his father at a very early age in Kenya, Nicholas Otieno Ojwando is no stranger to hardships and tribulations. At age 2, his father passed away. He witnessed the struggles of his widowed mother; attempting to provide for 6 children through manual labour, running small businesses even if it meant distilling illegal local brew which sometimes led to her arrest and spending time in police cell.
Nicholas could easily have become one of the 1,000’s of vulnerable children who roam the streets, forage thru garbage dumpsites for food or become entrapped into child slavery. He is the exception. Self-determination and strong family environment helped him to complete college. He was fortunate to work with both local and international organizations that provided social support and economic empowerment to vulnerable children and women both in Kenya and in South Sudan. Through this work experience, he has become a strong advocate for the cause.
The idea of starting such a social venture as a way of giving back to the community has been there with him for over 15 years. He started supporting few needy children in his own efforts on a very small scale access secondary education through his own and family resources from his village in 2008.
Through the struggle of his mother, the founder recognized the central role women play in the development and upbringing of the children in the community. Their daily struggle in engaging in small business ventures to generate income for the family is a test to this.
After his last assignment in South Sudan in 2013 working with refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) on social protection and livelihoods ventures he decided to find his own path and follow his heart and returned to his home rural village in 2014. He wanted to start a social venture that would improve the lives of vulnerable children and women in his community.
Upon his return, he made regular contact with his community members and especially women to get a feel of their daily struggles in supporting their families, their success stories and the challenges they are facing. He found out that many women have no steady sources of income but a daily struggle in trying to provide for their families. They mostly depend on casual labor like attending to garden but due to low economic activities in the area, such jobs are very limited. While some depends on small scale business, like selling local brew, selling vegetables, shops others are fetching water for others. This has direct negative impact on children in accessing the most basic needs like education, health care, clothing, shelter and denies them the opportunity for a better life in future.
His goal is to see a better future for vulnerable children and widows by empowering them through his social venture, called “The Sophia Foundation (TSF)”.