2019

All posts from 2019

Commercial Kitchen

by Ryan Humbert on 19/12/2019 No comments

Lions Club, Aid in Meeting Norway (AiM) and Fontes Foundation have been able to achieve a lot within a short amount of time and with limited resources, with the construction of a new commercial kitchen at Fontes Youth Centre (FYC). The main aim of this project was to have a fully furnished kitchen to further facilitate the already existing Business Catering course, as well as to provide FYC with an opportunity to have a source of income through clients and students paying to use the kitchen for their activities.

The construction commenced in October and, as of December, the kitchen is being used on a daily basis. This December, a representative from AIM visited FYC, and was impressed to see how the current students have already started to put the kitchen to great use as they were completing their final practical exam.

While the kitchen was being constructed, job opportunities were also being created for graduates of the FYC Business catering courses. Former Business catering course graduates were given an opportunity to pitch as service providers for breakfast at Clarke International University (CIU) in Muyenga. The students made a sample breakfast with a variety of snacks for their prospective customers at Clarke International University (CIU), who were very happy with the products. The students have since signed an official contract to supply breakfast at CIU/Refactory every week day between 8 – 11am and are therefore now receiving a steady weekly income. These former students are now also using the Commercial Kitchen daily to prepare the breakfast for CIU.

The Commercial Kitchen is changing the experience of students as well as former students of the Fontes Youth Centre. Moreover, the Business catering course has started creating job opportunities for (former) students, thereby addressing the problem of youth unemployment in Uganda – one of the main goals of Fontes Foundation Uganda.

Thanks to both current and former students, the Commercial Kitchen has already enabled our very own staff to enjoy a great dinner during our annual Fontes Christmas party – we recommend it to everyone!

Thank You, Lions Club Aid In Meeting Norway.

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Ryan HumbertCommercial Kitchen

New water pumps

by Ryan Humbert on 19/12/2019 No comments

Fontes’ water systems in Western Uganda continue to provide safe drinking water to approximately 15,000 people in five different villages. On top of that, we are very proud that both of our field staff members in Western Uganda, Pascal and Cleophas, are former Fontes scholarship students. Having been provided with the opportunity to go through secondary education by one of Fontes’ donors, they are now able to give back to their communities. They follow up the water systems on a regular basis, encourage and train the water committees and report on technical challenges.

Once a water system is up and running, Fontes mainly focuses on training and follow up. In 2019, Fontes was able to carry out two main training seminars. During these events, we gather water committees and technicians from the villages and go through material such as how to ensure good maintenance, how to do basic accounting and how to sensitise the community on the importance of safe drinking water. Since all the committee members are working on a voluntary basis, they tend to rotate. It is therefore extremely important that these trainings take place on a regular basis. The technicians trained all come from the villages, and most of them have not had any schooling beyond primary education. Still, they are eager to learn and they enjoy the trainings very much!

In October we unfortunately experienced multiple pump failures. Most of the water systems were installed in 2007-2010, and pumps tend to have a 10 year lifespan. Since the villages in Queen Elizabeth National Park are very poor, the price for the water has to be very low for the residents to afford it. After paying the necessary inputs such as chemicals, fuel for generators and a small allowance for the technicians, there is almost nothing left to save for a large breakdown.

With help from our local field staff, the communities were able to request the local District government to include pumps in their budget. After a lot of hard lobbying work and follow up, two pumps were delivered in November. Fontes is very proud of this effort, since it is part of our mission to support the communities in taking advantage of local resources.

Nevertheless, two more new pumps were still needed to have all systems up and running. After a brief campaign on social media we were very grateful to receive donations for the purchase and installation of the remaining two pumps. One of the donors who funded an entire pump, had visited the villages in 2014 and still remembered the massive contrast between the poor fishing villages and the luxury safari lodges very closeby. Another donor promptly agreed to fund the water projects with a generous amount on an annual basis going forward. We are extremely grateful to these and other donors, who acknowledge the importance of our ongoing work in these villages.

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Ryan HumbertNew water pumps

Disrupting tech education in Uganda

by Ryan Humbert on 19/12/2019 No comments

Like in many other African countries, information technology is just taking off in Uganda. Technology start-ups are attracting more and more funding from investors, and some tech companies have already become famous in Africa. Many of them are riding on mobile money and aiming to provide financial services to the poor. Others are in e-commerce, online services or blockchain. Generally, there is a lot of buzz and the Government and donors are increasingly interested in supporting the tech sector as a way of growing the job market. More and more students choose IT degrees and aspire to careers in the IT sector.

Established software firms and large corporates with needs in their IT departments are struggling to find talent with the right skills. Competition over software developers with some experience is fierce in the market, which pushes up costs and leads to high turn-over rates. It also increases the risk and cost for companies to invest in training their employees, since they easily leave for a new opportunity when they have the skills.

At the same time, the local universities are being slow to adjust to the trends. The curricula taught are still the same as 10 years ago, and many courses are entirely theoretical. At many institutions students can get through an entire IT degree without writing a single line of code. 

Laboremus Uganda Ltd, where both Marius and Lucrezia (part of the Fontes founding family) are involved, experienced this first hand. Being a Norwegian software firm outsourcing work to Uganda, the biggest challenge was finding and retaining the right talent. At the same time, Clarke International University (formerly IHSU), a private university in Kampala, had embarked on designing a course with a closer link to employers in order to make sure the curriculum is relevant. A formal partnership between the two in 2018 led to a successful application to Norad, along with Fontes Foundation.

Now, at the end of 2019, Refactory is already a well-known brand in Kampala. The number of applicants for the three-month “Catalyst” course is increasing by about 20 students each round. 77 students have already gone through the Catalyst in 2019, and up to 120 students will participate in course in 2020. Most of the students finishing the first round of the six-month practical boot camp in December already have job offers or have been invited to interviews. Refactory is getting calls from companies, HR agencies and even foreign companies who are all interested in hiring the graduates.

The feedback from the students is also overwhelming. Many say that they have learned more in three months at Refactory than during their entire three-year IT degree at university. Others simply say that “Refactory has taught them how to learn”. Life-long learning is key, especially in the tech industry where new frameworks and tools come out every month. Others say how Refactory has shown them the importance of understanding the problem they are trying to solve with a tech solution very well, including listening to the users, customers and all stakeholders involved.

In September, Andela, a Silicon-Valley backed firm aiming at setting up outsourcing hubs at a large scale across Africa, announced a change in strategy. Instead of training youth from scratch, they would now only hire developers with experience. This is just one of the companies that realised that the investment for a private firm to train people from the level they have when they leave university, to a level where they can successfully deliver software for international clients, is too large. This makes sense from a commercial point of view, but only increases the demand for relevant IT training in Uganda. Read more about what this means for the tech sector in Uganda here. 

For Refactory, this just confirmed the importance of our project, and how big the gap is that we are trying to fill. We are determined to make this programme a model for tech education in Uganda (and beyond), and we are actively looking for additional funding. The funding is needed to cover our contribution according to our contract with Norad (which only provides 50% of the funding), but also to enable us to expand the programme so it can reach many more students.

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Ryan HumbertDisrupting tech education in Uganda

BJL Fontes Football Club

by Ryan Humbert on 19/12/2019 No comments

Shortly after the creation of our youth centre in 2012, we created a Music Dance and Drama Team (MDD), also known as the Fontes Cultural Troupe, as well as our very own Fontes Football Club. The aim of both these activities was to engage with the local community, learn more about the challenges young people face in the communities, keep these young people away from drugs and crime, as well as to spread the word about the education opportunities Fontes has to offer.

Allowing vulnerable young people to evolve in a group by dancing or playing football together has huge benefits; the solidarity, support and purpose which these activities provide to disadvantaged young people with limited opportunities is invaluable. Not only do they keep the young people from the street, but the youth groups also form a very strong bond with each other and their coaches. In the case of the football team, the fact that the entire team has chipped in to support tuition fee payments of some of their struggling team members, shows the strength of this bond and support.

Over the past years, Hamiss Wasswa has been a lot more than a football coach to the players. He starts each of his training sessions by trying to understand his players’ daily problems and see how he can help. Thanks to his network in the community, Hamiss has often been the decisive link between his players and their first employment. After some very encouraging results against the U-17 of KCCA (one of the major clubs of the country), we are very proud to announce that one of our players has been selected to play for KCCA, who will provide him with a scholarship. Excitingly, the Fontes team has recently entered the second division. This will provide the team with a huge opportunity for growth, as they will be playing very strong teams.

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Ryan HumbertBJL Fontes Football Club

Fontes Cultural Troupe

by Ryan Humbert on 19/12/2019 No comments

Shortly after the creation of our youth centre in 2012, we created a Music Dance and Drama Team (MDD), also known as the Fontes Cultural Troupe, as well as our very own Fontes Football Club. The aim of both these activities was to engage with the local community, learn more about the challenges young people face in the communities, keep these young people away from drugs and crime, as well as to spread the word about the education opportunities Fontes has to offer. Allowing vulnerable young people to evolve in a group by dancing or playing football together has huge benefits; the solidarity, support and purpose which these activities provide to disadvantaged young people with limited opportunities is invaluable. Not only do they keep the young people from the street, but the youth groups also form a very strong bond with each other and their coaches.


This year, Fontes Cultural Troupe has increased its reach and some of the members have had international exposure by travelling to China and Vietnam. Sharing some of the deepest cultural roots of Uganda, the Troupe is now self-sustainable and earns money through its performances, which they use in order to improve their shows. They provide great entertainment, performing at different types of events, including weddings and graduation ceremonies. Recently, some of the Troupe’s dancers have volunteered to train several classes of Kansanga Parents Primary School, one of the poorest schools in the region, after which the children successfully performed several traditional dances at their first ever graduation ceremony.

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Ryan HumbertFontes Cultural Troupe

Fontes/Refactory is looking for a Job Placement Programme Coordinator!

by Ryan Humbert on 03/12/2019 No comments

Job Placement Program Coordinator – Refactory

..are you passionate about reducing youth unemployment in Uganda?

..do you have experience in guiding and coaching youth towards improving their careers?

..are you exceptional in connecting with students and knowing their aspirations for the future?

..do you have professional communication skills and are you able to professionally deal with industry partners?

..are you curious about the future of work and how the digital economy is changing this at a global level?

Refactory is looking for an experienced person with a strong interest in youth empowerment and who can easily connect with students. He/she must present excellent career counselling skills.

One of the key objectives of Refactory is to ensure all students end up in meaningful employment. Key to achieving this goal, focusing on making opportunities from the sector known to the students and preparing them to succeed in the application processes is the main task of  the Job Placement Programme Coordinator. The position will be contracted through Fontes Foundation, which shares its premises with Refactory. The JPP Coordinator will report to the Refactory Coordinator at Fontes Foundation, and works in close collaboration with the Partnerships Manager at Refactory.

Application deadline: 06.01.2020

About Refactory

Refactory is an initiative that seeks to address the shortage of skilled software developers in Uganda and youth unemployment. Refactory was established with support from the Norwegian Government and implemented by three partners; Clarke International University (CIU), Laboremus Uganda Ltd and Fontes Foundation. Read more about Refactory here.

Responsibilities

  • Coach students on career direction, roles and career paths in the tech industry
  • Develop personalized or group workshops on CV writing, LinkedIn profile improvement, interview skills, communication skills, work etiquette and other seminars with the help of Fontes Foundation, Laboremus and CIU
  • Establish partnerships with relevant employers. This includes pro-actively seeking out organisations that hire large numbers of tech graduates and establish strong partnerships with them
  • In cooperation with the Refactory Partnerships Manager, effectively manage JPP partners and ensure they are followed up in a professional way
  • Manage the JPP platform and ensure postings for jobs and internships are frequently shared
  • Manage other requests for talent such as from professional HR agencies
  • Organise a Career Day twice a year with different activities for industry partners and students 
  • Document all program activity, track student placement in jobs and internships, analyse data and prepare periodic reports
  • Develop the JPP Programme towards a revenue-generating aspect of Refactory. Participate in the development of the business model, pricing strategies and execute pilots
  • Manage the Refactory alumni database, organise periodic alumni events and ensure they stay engaged. Keep supporting alumni as they advance in their careers

 Skills and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree
  • Minimum of 2-3 years of work experience
  • Experience in mentoring/coaching young people
  • Excellent and professional communications skills (both written and verbal), with basic knowledge of customer care
  • Some previous exposure to recruitment processes in the private sector
  • Basic experience from the IT/software development sector in order to know the main roles in software development projects
  • Organized and able to follow through and prioritize tasks
  • Self-starter who takes initiatives and sees opportunities
  • Knowledge and network in the IT/tech sector in Uganda is an added advantage
  • Excellent written and oral English and Luganda skills

 Are you the one we are looking for?

Applications for this position are closed!

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Ryan HumbertFontes/Refactory is looking for a Job Placement Programme Coordinator!

Fontes is looking for a new Director!

by Ryan Humbert on 03/12/2019 No comments

Director

…do you want to grow your leadership and team-building skills?

…do you want to make a real impact on reducing youth unemployment in Uganda?

…do you want to join Refactory leadership team and be part of shaping an highly innovative tech programme?

…do you want to take Fontes Foundation to the next level and move significant parts of the organization towards a social enterprise model?

…do you want to work with passionate and committed individuals in an international network?

…do you like to be creative, innovative and see things happen?

Then you might be the one we are looking for!

Fontes Foundation is looking for a highly reliable, responsible and motivated person with a strong interest in youth empowerment and who takes the initiative. He/she must present excellent organisation skills as well as great interpersonal skills.

The Director is responsible for the overall management of the organization including all the projects in Uganda, international contacts, as well as its staff. This includes financial management (accountability, budgeting, and taxes), strategic planning, fundraising, project management (planning, implementation and reporting), human resources as well as donor, public and stakeholder relations. The Director will also join the leadership team of Refactory and be directly involved in coordinating programme activities as well as managing partnerships.

Application deadline: 06.01.2020

About Fontes Foundation

Fontes Foundation Uganda is the executing arm of Fontes Foundation, registered in Norway. Fontes Foundation has been active in Uganda since 2003 and started out in the water sector where we trained community groups in basic business management so they could manage their small piped water schemes. Since 2012 Fontes has been active in youth empowerment, mainly through a youth centre in Bunga providing skills to disadvantaged youth. Since 2019 Fontes is a partner in Refactory, an innovative skilling programme for youth interested in a tech career. It also equips motivated young people who have a passion for tech with software development as well as personal leadership skills to adress the current gap between clients’ standards and conventional education. Refactory and the Youth Centre are currently the main two projects at Fontes Foundaion, which consists of a small team at the head office (3-4 staff) as well as 12-15 staff at the youth centre (most are part-time facilitators). 

The Director reports to the Board of Directors of Fontes Foundation Uganda, but also works closely with the Director of Fontes Foundation in Norway, which is responsible for most of the fundraising. The Director will receive coaching and continuous follow up from the Chairperson of the Board.

Starting salary: UGX 7.5 – 8.5m gross.

Responsibilities

  • Oversee staff and optimize their output by listening to – and supporting- them as well as creating an optimal culture for effective team work.
  • Constantly think of ways to improve the NGO’s work through innovation, synergies with partners, restructuring and creating an environment for a social enterprise model.
  • Ensure staff are motivated, engaged, followed up and know their priorities and tasks at any one time.
  • Ensure there is a working culture that reflects the vision, mission and values of the organisation: long-term and out-of-the-box thinking, constant learning, honesty, transparency, responsibility, and efficiency.
  • Ensure that project activities are implemented on time and activities are adequately reported.
  • Ensure the implementation of Refactory remains in line with the grant agreement.
  • Overall responsibility for the financial health of the NGO and raising financial concerns early. 
  • Support Fontes Foundation Norway in fundraising efforts such as proposal writing and carry out local fundraising to expand the organisation’s work.
  • Represent Fontes Foundation to other stakeholders at events and ensure there is social media coverage.
  • Be passionate about helping vulnerable communities.

Skills and experience

  • Minimum of a Bachelor’s degree.
  • Minimum 3-4 years of work experience.
  • Having been a team member but also having led a team.
  • Experience in execution of projects and project activities.
  • Passionate about reducing youth unemployment in Uganda.
  • Excellent communications skills (both written and verbal).
  • Organized and able to follow up and prioritize tasks.
  • Self-starter who takes initiatives and sees opportunities.
  • Experience from the IT sector or education sector is an added advantage.
  • Experience with financial management such as project accounts, budgets, financial planning and financial reporting.
  • Excellent written and oral English skills.
  • Are you the one we are looking for?

Applications for this position are closed!

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Ryan HumbertFontes is looking for a new Director!

Hello (and goodbye) from a Fontes intern

by Fontes Foundation on 02/09/2019 No comments

First: who am I?

Hi! I’m Marit Frost and I have spent the last three months interning with the Fontes Foundation in Kampala, splitting my time between the Bugolobi main office and at the Youth Center in  Bunga. I was born and raised in California, USA, and now study International Development and Geography at UCLA in Los Angeles. If you are curious how a California girl came to be living in (and loving) Kampala, well this is where my elevator pitch starts. I came here through a program, Insight Global Education, which pairs students from North America with internships in Kampala and enrols them in two classes at Makerere University: Africa in International Relations, and Peace, Conflict, and post-conflict resolution. Beyond that, what we make of our experience is up to us. While in East Africa I have driven across the border to Rwanda to visit the memorial in Kigali commemorating the terrible losses of the genocide, spent a day and a night in awe at Lake Bunyoni, boated across Lake Victoria, abseiled down a waterfall at Sipi Falls, rafted down the whitewater rapids of the Jinja Nile, and spent a week exploring the history and beauty of Zanzibar, Tanzania. Each of those trips was a small vacation I was extraordinarily lucky to have — an opportunity to explore a new piece of a world I had never experienced before — but none even remotely compared to just living and working in Kampala.

My time with Fontes.

While at Fontes I have come to feel like my little table — pushed up against the 5 others that make up the Fontes corner of the office — is really mine. My desk is right next to the foosball table (that I am still a little nervous to try out, people really take their foosball tournaments seriously!) where daily post-lunch games feature loud laughter, fierce competition, and genuine friendliness. I sit near the little kitchen where our Office Manager Irene has coffee, tea, and delicious Ugandan snacks prepared everyday. Just five meters away, is where each of many birthday cakes were placed as the whole office erupted into song and anticipatory cake-excitement (Surea always got the most excited over the chocolate ones). And just upstairs is the lunch buffet featuring local foods, where I had countless conversations about everything and anything, with everyone and anyone who happened to get hungry at the same time as I did. Don’t get me wrong, working at Fontes has definitely been challenging at times. But isn’t that exactly what an internship should be? Plus, I had a partner in crime! Melvin Sedeora: fellow intern, friend, and housemate; student of Simon Fraser University (in Canada); truly kind and very intelligent. 

Melvin and I had the job of substitute facilitators during much of our time at Fontes; we were able to meet the incredible students of Fontes Youth Center who are actively taking their lives — and education — into their own hands, and to help them on their way toward successful careers by teaching the business skills that are most useful — and most lacking — in the young labour pool today. While at the office in Bugolobi, Melvin and I primarily focused on instituting strategic procedures for organizational Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). We performed data collection from within our preexisting programs to develop a framework for evaluating their success, and explored options for broadening the reach of those programs while maintaining their viability. The mission of Fontes is not a static one; the organization is constantly re-evaluating its preceding work so our goals are as achievable as possible, and changing those goals in relation to new understandings of the circumstances and capabilities of each program. These are values I will take with me when I fly home in a week. I have learned to never be content with the work I have done, but to strive to evaluate and change it when it inevitably isn’t perfect.

What I am taking with me when I leave.

My memories from working here are filled with nerves, cake, laughter, stress, coffee, kindness, doubt, matooke, and pride. I will never forget my colleagues, my students, or that foosball table that I will use sometime in the next 5 days. I will never forget the daily standups — where we all learned about each project that was being worked on and put a colorful sticky-note on the board to represent the task — the monday morning check-ins, the chocolate Julianne brought back from Norway, or the sense of community that exists here but is so rare in most workplaces. Truly, I will never forget my time with Fontes.

Lots of love for my students, colleagues, and this incredible city,

Marit

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Fontes FoundationHello (and goodbye) from a Fontes intern

Lifting Uganda towards becoming a global player in the technology ecosystem

by Fontes Foundation on 04/03/2019 No comments

A partnership between Clarke International University, Fontes Foundation and Laboremus Uganda

Rarely does a month go by without new evidence of the ”skills gap”  that exists between what schools and universities teach and what employers need. Employers routinely report difficulty filling ICT positions and dissatisfaction with the skill level of current graduates. While the skills gap has raised challenging questions for policymakers and existing educational institutions, it has also created an opportunity to introduce more agile solutions.

Together with Clarke International University and Laboremus Uganda, Fontes Foundation started a new project that will offer several full-time immersive courses in IT, entrepreneurial skills, critical thinking, leadership, project management and will link the students to potential employers. The program will thus try to further close the gap between the education supply and the market demands for talented youth in the sector.

Michael Niyitegeka, program director Applied ICT at Clarke International University, gives an interview about the project.

The first cohort will start in March 2019 and will be pursuing an Accelerated Learning Course (ALC). The most talented and hard-working students will then go for a six-month immersive boot camp where they will work on projects with industry partners in order to improve their practical skills. Lastly, graduates will be supported as they enter the job market through different programs and partnerships with elite ICT companies. Throughout their training, the students will be supported and guided by senior software developers and mentors.

 

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Fontes FoundationLifting Uganda towards becoming a global player in the technology ecosystem

The Exchange that Helped Change the Trajectory of My Career and Life

by Agnes Kampire on 10/01/2019 No comments

Agnes Kampire is Fontes Foundation’s project coordinator for the safe water and scholarship programme. She recently spent six months in Rwanda as a part of our FK Norway/NOREC staff exchange project with Amizero Training Institute. She was one of the final participants in the project, which has been running for three years. Here she is reflecting on her experience.

Career

During my exchange, I was given an opportunity to lead many people, some much older than me and more intelligent in their line of work. There is one great lesson I have taken from the exchange; “Do your very best wherever you go”, so that when you leave, your employers will have a hard time replacing you and your contribution will be highlighted. Going on exchange gave an opportunity to lead and make changes. Not that I did not have this before, I did, but having a different setting really boosted my professionalism. On top of my experience back home, I now have added something new.

Behaviour

Working in a different organisational culture, and with people older than you, is a chance to learn and grow. In my behavioural change, I learnt to listen intently and to respect people’s opinions, to give people a chance to express themselves no matter how wrong they may sound.

Julius Kamukama and Agnes Kampire during the FK Norway/NOREC training in Kampala in November 2018.

Future prospects

I somehow managed to put my priorities right during my exchange. So often we get soaked in the fact that we need to work but we forget why we need to work. Being on the exchange gave me time for reflection and self-realisation. There are things I used to know and I practiced on a daily basis, but not for once did I really take time to reflect on their impact on my life and the lives of others. I know that all my dreams are real and where there is a will, there is a way. My advice to young people out there, especially those on exchanges, I challenge you to self-assess where you are and find your way to a more comfortable space of total integrity and optimal self-growth.

Coming back home

East, West, home is best.  The exchange taught me that we all are equal and each person has a contribution to make in this space we call life. I have learnt to reflect on that fact and I therefore treat people with respect, and love giving everyone a chance to contribute what they know. It is good to be back to my country and to my organisation; so much contribution awaits. What I learnt through my exchange I will implement and I am also grateful for what I got to contribute to my host organisation.

Cover photo: One of the farming cooperatives Agnes was working with during a maize planting session.

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Agnes KampireThe Exchange that Helped Change the Trajectory of My Career and Life