A year shy of graduating from Boulder’s Fairview High School, Eric Glustrom went to Uganda in 2002 to make a documentary about the plight of thousands of refugees from surrounding warring nations. He met an orphaned youth about his age, Benson Oliver, whose one wish was for an education to help his community and his homeland.
Glustrom helped Oliver get into a school, and came back to the United States determined to do more.
Educate! is now an established nonprofit with a unique solution for the challenges of war, poverty and disease.
This year, 415 Ugandan high school students will be the first graduates of an Educate! program to bring practical, sustainable solutions to their communities’ problems.
“Uganda has the youngest population in the world,” says Educate!
President Boris Bulayev. “More than half of the people are under the age of 15. A quarter of them are in primary school.”
The two-year program at 24 “partner schools” in Uganda provides these young people with leadership training, mentoring and experience in problem-solving. Education in Uganda includes private and public schools. But even when there is no fee simply to attend, students must buy their uniforms, books and study materials. They may have to pay for room and board at some facilities.
“The schools are in different kinds of communities, rich or poor, Muslim, Catholic, whatever,” says Maya Ellman, director of U.S. operations and communications. “Each student has the power to create change according to what each community needs, but it’s all equally change.”
Among many things, the program’s students learn social responsibility, how to start small businesses and micro-lending programs, how to organize community efforts, and how to teach others. Educate! pays for the mentors and teachers at participating schools to teach the two-year empowerment training, as well as provide alumni network support and post-graduation mentoring.
The government of Uganda has asked Educate! to incorporate its program into its public school curriculum, says Bulayev. With growth, of course, comes more expense, even with grants and funding such as the $40,000 partnership recently awarded by the Vancouver-based poverty-fighting agency Global Agents for Change.
“We are a very small nonprofit with 24 staff members, 15 of them the mentors and teachers in Uganda,” Bulayev says. “Some of our U.S. people work half-time, and we depend a lot on volunteers. Our two biggest challenges are raising money and keeping up the quality of the program.”
Donors can contribute as little as $25 a month to fund an Educate! Scholar through the entire two-year program. One-time contributions are welcome, of course, and there are a number of other ways to help out, including attending the annual Ball for the Future of Africa on Feb. 12, at the Avalon Ballroom in Boulder.
Where’s Glustrom today? As executive director of Educate! he spends a lot of time in Uganda, where he was at the time of this writing.
By the way, he managed to graduate from Amherst College in 2007 with a degree in biochemistry.
For more information on Educate!
visit www.experienceeducate.org. To learn more about Global Agents for Change, check out www.globalafc.org/ Global_Agents_for_Change/Home.html.