Noeline Kirabo is the founder of Kyusa – a non-governmental organisation that uses a social entrepreneur model to create social impact by solving youth unemployment.
When the 35-year-old failed to raise university fees after her senior six in 2000, a thought crossed her mind that her life would get ruined for good. But thanks to her perseverance and determination, she is now changing lives of hundreds.
With Kyusa, Kirabo has been able to gather school dropouts at her office in Kalerwe and train them on how to overcome the pangs of unemployment by starting up their own businesses. So far, she says more than 250 people have benefitted from her training.
At 18 years, Kirabo was shocked to find that her mother Joyce Badebya, the sole family breadwinner, had cancer. With no source of income, Kirabo, who was in her senior six vacation then, put aside her studies and started taking care of her sick mother for the next full year.
“So, I didn’t join the university. In short, I dropped out of school. I was in the hospital all that time and so I lost that year,” Kirabo adds with a rather sad face.
In 2003, Kirabo enrolled for an online course in computer application but still remained unemployed until 2006 when she got her first formal job.
“My first job was at an organisation called Empower Children and Communities Against Abuses where I worked for two years as a programme officer,” she recalls.
It’s after here that Kirabo landed a similar role at Children at Risk Action Network (Crane) where she worked for six years. But the suffering of other school dropouts in her area, Kalerwe – a Kampala suburb – made her quit that job too, just to find a solution for them.
“At the end of 2012, I resigned from Crane and applied for a scholarship to Kanthari Institute in India for seven months,” Kirabo says.
At Kanthari, it’s where her life changed for the better. She was equipped with techniques, methods and ideas on how to start up and run effective, relevant social projects that can benefit the less disadvantaged in society.
When she returned to Uganda, she was determined to change the lives of unemployed youths who were a real reflection of herself years back by starting Kyusa which is Luganda equivalent for ‘change’.
In 2014, Kirabo started Kyusa Organisation, which trains youths to do several things that can earn them handsomely, even when they haven’t completed their studies.
“At Kyusa, we have three types of interventions: Business Start Up where we work with young people with ideas and want to start a business, Business Accelerator where we work with small and micro entrepreneurs to help them scale up their businesses and
Employability Class where we work with young people who want to secure jobs,” says a smiling Kirabo.
Located in Kalerwe, the organisation partners churches including Deliverance church, and other Ugandan-based organisations like Start And Improve Your Business, and Pollination Project who give her financial support and training services.
“Our classes are structured in such a way that we only give practical skill. We developed our own curriculum that ensures leaners really understand the practical knowledge that we give them,” Kirabo says, adding that the training is done at very affordable prices.
To ensure that what they teach is properly understood, Kirabo says she agreed with facilitators to only admit 20 trainees per intake which takes place after every two months.
“We take up small classes because we want a 1:5 facilitator to trainee ratio. Currently, our success rate is 70 per cent, [of the 250 they have since trained from 2014] of trainees getting employed or starting their own business,” Kirabo proudly says.
Kirabo is also delighted to add that Kyusa’s alumni are currently thriving in businesses and employing other youths.
“Henry Ssempala is one of them. He is in Luweero and owns a commercial farm dealing in growing of fruits, maize and vegetables, among other things and is employing over 15 youths,” she says.
EDUCATION, FAMILY BACKGROUND
In addition to Kanthari Institute, Kirabo has also moved to a number of schools and enrolled for some other short courses online. She started from Mengo primary school for P1 to P3 before being changed to Bat Valley primary school from where she sat her PLE.
“For S1 to S3, I was at Wanyange Girls’ secondary school in Jinja. Then, I changed to Nalinga Lwantale secondary from where I completed S4. For A-level, I was at Kampala High,” Kirabo reminiscences.
Born in a family of three in Jinja, Kirabo has a very faint image of her late father she never wants to talk about.
“I grew from my maternal side, a family many know as the Badebya family. I’m the last born of three; one brother and a sister,” says Kirabo.
In her free time, she enjoys reading books about leadership, swimming, going for adventure and motorcycling.
Kirabo plans to start a chain of different companies that will create employment for the youths because “to accelerate youth employment or eliminate youth unemployment constitute my mission now.”
“I also want to have published 60 books at my 60th birthday,” adds Kirabo who swears not to reveal anything about her love relationship.
Her message to the youth is that they should believe in themselves no matter what other people believe in them. She says it is much better to start small and grow big than wait for bigger things.