Hellen Griberg

A New Home for Fontes Youth Centre

by Hellen Griberg on 06/12/2017 No comments

With our lease for the plot in Muyenga due this year, Fontes faced the challenge of finding a suitable location for our Youth Centre. Several factors were taken into account while searching for a new place, including dispelling myths associated with the Muyenga location. Some of the misconceptions were related to how the students perceived the area. Muyenga has become an affluent residential neighbourhood in recent years, and some of our students found this very intimidating. Secondly, access to the youth centre by public means was difficult, which meant that enrolment and attendance could be an issue.

To address these concerns, we made sure to look for areas that were densely populated and more accessible for disadvantaged youth. After an intense search and the consideration of several locations, we finally agreed that the new youth centre location would be at Bunga Soya, Kalungu, on Soya Factory Road off Ggaba Road. As of July 2017, we moved into our new Youth Centre.

While moving to the new location, we faced a few challenges along the way. The main ones include:

  1. The natural water drainage system was a bit of a problem due to the location having many streams running through it. This made the construction process much harder and drove the cost higher than the initially planned amount as stated in the budget.
  2. Reconnection to the utility service provider was a big challenge with most of the processes marred by bureaucracy and unforeseen delays. Because of this, some of the start times for different courses were delayed and in turn caused attrition and fluctuation when it came to the number of students in the new course.
  3. Being that the location is a new one, the number of students is low. Vigorous mobilisation campaigns are being carried out to ensure that with the new site that the numbers of students accessing the course are much more higher.

As we get settled into the new location, we are overcoming these setbacks, and the community awareness of the youth centre becomes more pronounced. We look forward to continuing to make a difference in the lives of the youth of Uganda.

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Hellen GribergA New Home for Fontes Youth Centre

Testimonials from Previous Interns

by Hellen Griberg on 04/12/2017 1 comment

Samuel Kueng, FFU Intern Spring 2017 

During my internship at Fontes Foundation, I was granted the opportunity to take on different tasks in a challenging environment, collecting valuable professional experience. I highly appreciated the combination of desk work and practical tasks. My duties included compiling marketing material, conducting research and writing funding proposals, but also working on various projects at the Fontes Youth Development Centre and field work in several fishing villages at Queen Elizabeth National Park. My personal highlight was the organization of the first Career Day at Fontes Foundation for the students of the Youth Centre, as well as other partner organizations. After overcoming many challenges and exercising patience, it was deeply rewarding to see our sharply dressed students network with employers from various sectors, listen to inspiring keynote speeches, and present their startup projects. My experience in the charming city of Kampala was rounded up by meeting a broad range of professionals engaged in diplomacy and development. Interacting with people working for the United Nations, European Union or GIZ gave me great insights into prospective future professional fields.

Samuel Kueng, FFU Spring Intern

Rebecca Grattage, FFU Summer 2017

I really enjoyed my internship at Fontes Foundation. The work was often challenging, and I enjoyed learning more about youth employment and safe water implementation projects in Uganda. The tasks were varied and interesting. My primary role was to look for funding opportunities and writing funding proposals, attending events at the Fontes Youth Centre and writing blog posts for the Fontes Foundation website and social media pages, in addition to following up with Job Placement Programme (JPP) students and varied tasks. The primary challenge I faced as an intern was probably managing to schedule meetings with some of the JPP students, as they didn’t always keep their phones switched on! However, one of the most rewarding parts of the internship was indeed meeting with these students to hear their personal stories – successes, failures, hopes, and dreams. Some of the stories I heard were truly inspirational and will stay with me as I continue to learn and  grow as an individual. I am extremely grateful to Fontes Foundation for allowing me to be a part of the team. I hope the organisation continues to grow and help make positive changes in Uganda and beyond!

Rebecca Grattage, FFU Summer Intern







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Hellen GribergTestimonials from Previous Interns

Raymond’s FK experience in Rwanda

by Hellen Griberg on 04/12/2017 No comments

This year I was fortunate enough to be selected to participate in the FK exchange programme. The exchange programme is a 6-month placement between two partner organizations, which is funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. As Fontes Foundation partner organization is Amizero Institute of Technology and Hospitality, my placement was at their head office in Kayonza district in Rwanda. The institution offers vocational training for young people who have not completed secondary education.

During my time with Amizero, I had the opportunity to get involved in the institution’s youth training centre and develop digital tools for the institution. My job responsibilities included setting up a student database to monitor current and past students, facilitating capacity building sessions at the youth training centre and helping students connect with tech and start-up companies in Rwanda. While I was at Amizero I was able to apply my knowledge gained at Fontes Youth Centre through the Single Mothers Programme to help set up a child corner room in Kayonza where children could rest and play while their mothers attended training sessions.

Being part of the FK exchange programme was an enriching experience as I got to develop my skills, work with inspiring youth and build relationships with people from different cultural backgrounds. My time as a FK participant went beyond my expectations and I grew as a person both personally and professionally. Having return back home to Uganda, I look forward to sharing my experience with the Fontes team.

Students at Amizero Youth Training Centre


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Hellen GribergRaymond’s FK experience in Rwanda

Hairdressing: A Booming Industry in Uganda

by Hellen Griberg on 04/12/2017 No comments

Fontes Foundation’s Single Mothers Programme (SMP) has trained over 100 women since we introduced it two years ago. The programme aims to provide market-ready skills to young mothers who constitute almost 75% of out of school youth in Uganda [Bakalu 2013]. It provides training in a variety of skills including cooking, hairdressing, soap making, jewellery making and mushroom growing. The hairdressing course has been the most popular course, which has drawn many women to Fontes Youth Centre. This trend prompts the question – why is hairdressing such a sought-after skill?

African women or black women, in general, have a complex relationship with their hair. This topic has been explored in depth in various documentaries, including “Good Hair” by comedian Chris Rock, which examined the billion-dollar industry in the US that caters to black women in particular. Uganda is no different, the business of weaves, wigs, and braids is enormous, and it employs a considerable number of young women, especially those without an education. There are entire streets and areas designated for hair in the capital of Kampala. You will find shops selling hair waves and extensions, and people willing to plait your hair for anything between 20,000 (5 USD) to 200,000 (55 USD) Uganda shillings depending on the style and what is trending.

Recognizing this trend, Fontes decided to focus its SMP programme on training women in hairdressing, especially the kind that did not require salon equipment. In addition to reducing start-up costs, this also challenges the single mothers and encourages them to use their creativity. The versatility of hair in Uganda provides massive opportunities for women in this industry. The cost of setting up is relatively low, and services can even be provided at home. Since the clients always purchase the extensions separately, single mothers can almost start the business without any capital and expect huge returns.

Sewing in a weave to braided hair.

Our twelve-week course provides the Single mothers with at least three different hair-braiding techniques, which will serve them well in this booming hair industry. The informal sector accounts for 58 % of non-agricultural employment in Uganda according to the Skilling Uganda Strategic Plan for 2010-2020 that was recently published by the Ministry of Education. Efforts to formalize this sector has resulted in the recent introduction of a ‘WorkersPass,’ short for workers passport, which accredits youth who have gained and mastered a skill informally. The Directorate of Industrial Training only issues this after exams and testing of the different skills. This has been offered to youth in several trades including hairdressing, tailoring and masonry. As the hair industry is growing in Uganda, more women will be able to make lucrative money out of their hair business including the single mothers that we train at Fontes Youth Centre. This means that the single mothers that graduate from Fontes Youth Centre will have a qualification and a skill set that is recognized by the Ministry of Education.

The SMP programme is a unique course that offers young mothers the opportunity to acquire skill sets that will enable them to establish a micro business that will help support them and their family. As the hair industry is growing rapidly in Uganda, more women are able to make lucrative money out of their hair business, including the single mothers that we train at the youth centre.

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Hellen GribergHairdressing: A Booming Industry in Uganda

Navigating the Private Sector – Why A Job Placement Programme for Youth Is Necessary

by Hellen Griberg on 04/12/2017 No comments

In recent years, the entrepreneurial spirit in Uganda has gained international attention and led to their title as the most entrepreneurial country in the world as 28 % of the adult population own or co-own a business (Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, 2015). The streets of the Kampala beautifully capture this spirit, as you often see endless vendors on either side of the road or the small boutiques popping up on every corner. Indeed, Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) account for 90 % of the private sector (Deloitte, 2016), and with the right kind of assistance, it is this group that can meet the growing employment challenge among youth in Uganda. Fontes Foundation Uganda (FFU) has been working the past year tirelessly to bridge this gap between MSMEs and youth through our Job Placement Programme (JPP).

Most of the businesses remain small or informal because they want to avoid taxes and registration costs but this poses severe challenges for employment. There is a significant chance of underemployment and poor work conditions. Employers are not required to adhere to employment policies, which means they can take advantage of youth who desperately need work experience. Since the informal sector accounts for 58 % of the non-agricultural employment in Uganda (Skilling Uganda 2011-2020, Ministry of Education), this problem is more prevalent than most people care to admit. To tackle this issue, JPP has been doing a thorough evaluation of potential employers, and we ask them to sign a written agreement that includes terms of employment. Employers agree to this because the contract also stipulates that we will do an onboarding process and continuous follow-up with our graduates through their three-month job placement. This is a win-win situation for both the employer and employee.

Moreover, small and informal businesses struggle with recruitment because of scarce resources. Limited online presence means that they rely on word-of-mouth. This is equally challenging for potential employees, as they need to be much more proactive in their efforts to find employment. Our JPP addresses this, as our Job Placement Coordinator travel from business to business for possible vacancies. To overcome this obstacle requires a considerable amount of time and work, but it also changes how we talk about job searching to our students. We emphasise negotiation and communication skills, so when the time comes to do the grunt work on their own, they will know how to approach and leave a lasting impression on potential employers. In our experience, it is these soft or transferable skills that determine whether or not students acquire employment in the first place. Before students enter our core course, the idea of being assertive or even mustering up the confidence to speak to an authority figure was unimaginable, and since so much of job searching requires just that, the likelihood of remaining unemployed was very high.

Furthermore, limited resources also mean that MSMEs struggle with finding the right kind of people, which ultimately leads to high staff turnover.  Through our JPP, we evaluate students’ interests and match that with potential employment opportunities. This process allows us to establish what various businesses need, and how our graduates can add-value and contribute to their strategies. For instance, one of our former students, Jimmy Galabuzi, wanted to work for a coffee shop, so he could acquire the necessary knowledge and skills to start his own coffee business in the future. ‘Coffee At Last’ needed someone with social media skills to help them increase their online presence. Jimmy was able to assist them with that, and this coupled with his excellent customer service skills ultimately lead to his full-time employment. Coffee At Last was so pleased with our JPP process and how we matched their needs with Jimmy’s skills that they asked us to send more students from our Youth Centre.

Barbara Nakiyingi training to become a waitress at the Golden Tulip.

Finally, our biggest challenge is perhaps working with more established companies mainly because they fixate on our students’ educational background. FFU works mostly with high school dropouts, and their lack of diploma curb their chances of employment. Nonetheless, the hospitality and service sector offers excellent opportunities. In general, this industry struggles with finding employees who know how to use their customer service skills and creativity to handle various situations. Since our Personal Development course focuses on entrepreneurship, problem-solving and interpersonal skills, our students can discern the needs of the customers, and find a solution. Barbara Nakiyingi is perhaps a great example. She graduated from the Youth Centre earlier this summer and got a job as a waitress at the Golden Tulip, a high-end hotel in Kampala. Barbara excelled during the hotel’s pre-training mostly because of her creativity and problem-solving skills, something she mastered in her market research preparation for her business plan at the Youth Centre. This experience will be invaluable when she decides to fulfil her dream of opening her restaurant. In the meantime, Barbara can celebrate her sixth month of employment at the Golden Tulip!

These are just some of the lessons we have learned since the inception of the JPP earlier this year. So far, we have successfully placed 13 students, and 85 % of them have full-time employment now. By finally incorporating JPP, we have now embraced a holistic approach that not only trains youth but also tries to bridge the gap between them and MSMEs. This self-assigned role of mediator has given us exceptional insight that allows us to improve our courses to meet needs of the market but also challenge employers on their attitudes of the Kampala youth.


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Hellen GribergNavigating the Private Sector – Why A Job Placement Programme for Youth Is Necessary

Spotlight: FK Participant Serge Iradukunda

by Hellen Griberg on 23/10/2017 No comments

For the past 6 months Fontes Foundation has been lucky to have Serge Iradukunda from Rwanda working for us as part of his FK exchange programme. Before joining the programme, Serge worked as an Administrative and Finance Assistant at Amizero Institute of Technology and Hospitality (AMITH) in Eastern Province of Rwanda. I sat down with Serge last week to talk about his experience of joining the FK exchange programme and working for Fontes Foundation.

What made you decide to participate in the FK exchange programme?
I decided to join the exchange programme because I wanted to experience a new culture, improve my English language skills, expand my social circle and gain work experience abroad.

How was it to work for Fontes Foundation?
I really enjoyed working in a friendly and different environment with wonderful colleagues from all over the world. During my period at Fontes Foundation I have been involved in various activities, including organising capacity building workshops and events, planning and coordinating outreach activities in different areas of Kampala, organising Fontes first ever career day, which was a great success, and teaching at Fontes Youth Centre. What I like about Fontes is that the organisation offers personal growth and development opportunities during the programme as well as the chance to learn how to think outside the box.

What is your best memory you have from your time with Fontes Foundation?
I really enjoyed teaching at Fontes Youth Centre in accountancy. The students were great and I liked the way they were interested in the subjects I taught and asking challenging and sometimes funny questions about financial accounting and accounting principles.

What will you take away from your experience?
This 6-month exchange programme has been an experience I will never forget. My time at Fontes has been a learning experience, both personal and professional. It has shaped me as a person and I have gained new skills and knowledge that I would not have had if I had not participated in this programme. Thanks to this programme, I have grown as a person.

Fontes Foundation would like to thank Serge for his contribution to the team, and wish him best of luck in his future endeavours.

FK Norway is a Norwegian Government agency working to promote international and mutual learning. About 600 participants go on exchange each year through partners in Norway and countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America.

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Hellen GribergSpotlight: FK Participant Serge Iradukunda