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2014 TSO Year in Review


Dear friends,

This past year has been eventful for The Strongest Oak Foundation and our Oaks. We celebrated the university graduations of Rwandan Oaks Charles Mugabe and Steven Shyaka; we welcomed a new Rwandan Oak Leader, Lama Mugabo; over two thousand trees were planted in Uganda by our TSO representatives at Kulika; and we received one fully repaid internship loan with several others in the repayment phase.

We continue to move forward, focusing on placing our extraordinary Oaks in career-relevant internships and securing full-time employment opportunities. All our volunteer efforts and donor contributions are paying off: to date, we have secured eighteen internship positions for our Oaks and five Oaks are currently working in full-time or part-time paid positions.

TSO continues in 2015 to rise to the challenge of extending support to our Oaks. We are excited to be doing a site visit this May to spend some time team building with our Oaks and training them in job search strategies and job readiness.

Thank you to our generous supporters and our longstanding partners at Fig Tree Foundation, Alberta Culture’s Community Initiatives Program (International Development), The Rotary Club of Calgary Sarcee, The Rotary Club of Calgary Centennial and the Pengrowth Passion program (Pengrowth Energy Corporation). And a big thank you to ATB Financial for providing the donation service ATBcares, for which ATB Financial covers all transaction fees and matches 15% of each dollar donated to The Strongest Oak Foundation. Our individual donors are too many to name here, but you know who you are and we are grateful for your continued support.

And thanks to our team: Stace, Dan, Mark, Nick, Melissa, Vivian, and Mali. Thanks also to volunteers Kim and Shannon.

Bridget Wills
Managing Director

[Editor's note: And  a big thank you to Bridget Wills, our new Managing Director, for stepping into some big shoes! Stace stepped down from the Managing Director position to focus on TSO's strategic direction in his role as the chairman of our board.]
 

TSO Team Highlights

  • March 2014:  Stace and Dan visited Rwanda, delivering laptops and facilitating team-building sessions with the Oaks to better understand their needs and the challenges they face.
  • June 2014:  Nick  visited Rwanda, delivering more laptops and conducting a seminar for our Oaks on resume writing and interviewing. Nick also met with our Oak Leaders and members of Generation Rwanda.
  • June 2014:  Ugandan Oak Leader, Mathais, and the Kulika staff did an outstanding job of organizing a tree planting event in partnership with Pedagogy Plant, an Irish NGO with a mission of offsetting carbon emissions by planting trees worldwide. Mathais and Kulika far exceeded expectations, planting 2,235 trees!
  • August 2014: TSO welcomed our new Rwandan Oak leader, Lama Mugabo, who replaced the retiring Rwandan Oak Leaders, Serge Kamari and Jules Higiro, for whose dedication and service we are thankful. Serge and Jules are continuing with TSO as members of the Rwandan Advisory Board.
  • September 2014: Our Calgary-based TSO friend, Samuel Isaac, visited Uganda and presented a laptop to our newest Oak, Stanley.
  • December 2014: Pastor Samuel (former TSO Oak Leader) and his wife Faida hosted another successful annual Christmas party for vulnerable children in Democratic Republic of the Congo. Through the generosity of some members of TSO, and other donors, 350 children were able to enjoy an afternoon of food and games.




TSO by the Numbers

  • 1 internship loan was fully repaid; several others are in repayment phase.
  • 2 Ugandan Oaks are engaged in internships through the Glenn Oaks program.
  • 2 Rwandan Oaks, 2 Congolese Oaks and 3 Ugandan Oaks currently are under engagement with TSO.
  • 4  laptops were delivered to Oaks Charles, Stanley and Gertrude and Oak Leader Jules, thanks to generous donations from TSO corporate and individual donors.  
  • 7 Oaks graduated from the TSO program.
  • 14 Rwandan and Ugandan employers, from a wide variety of industries (including law, consulting, agriculture, publishing and academia) offered internships to our Oaks.
  • 18 internship positions were secured for Oaks to date. 5 Oaks are currently working in full-time or part-time paid positions.
  • 2,235 trees were  planted in Uganda by Kulika, in partnership with TSO and the Irish NGO, Pedagogy Plant.

Steven Shyaka celebrates graduation

Charles Mugabe graduation, with Mathias (Oak Leader)

Oak Highlights


Our Graduates

We said good-bye to seven Oaks, who either left or graduated from the TSO program. We wish all of them every success. Of our graduates, we would like to acknowledge a few notable  accomplishments.

Our  original Oak, Charles Mugabe successfully complete a Bachelor of Social Work and Social Administration degree from Kampala University in Uganda in March of 2014. After graduation, Charles took some well-deserved time off and spent time in Switzerland with his European family (long-time donors). He is now looking for his first career opportunity.

Our  second Oak, Steven Shyaka successfully defended his dissertation and graduated from the Kigali Independent University with a degree in Law in December 2014. Steven is working part-time for TSO, teaching English to a few of our other Oaks, while he pursues a diploma from the Institute of Legal Practice and Development. Once he has the diploma, he may begin to practice law in Rwanda.

Joseph Kabarisa completed his three-month (Fig Tree Foundation sponsored) Accounting Assistant internship in the Department of Finance at the University of Kigali. He must have made quite an impression as the university hired him in a part-time position! While at this job, he is actively searching for a full-time position in the accounting field.

Pascal Dusabumuremyi completed a three-month (Fig Tree Foundation sponsored) internship at Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management Ltd. (FAIM). After his internship, FAIM hired him and then promoted him to Head of Production, in which he manages twenty-two staff. Pascal has the distinction of being the first Oak to repay his Fig Tree loan, as well as secure a full-time job in the company of his internship.  


Congolese Oaks

Espoir Magendo completed his internship as a network analyst at Uganda Christian University and is continuing his study of Computer and Information Technology. As an active member (Head of Publicity) of the International Students Association (ISA) at the university in 2013, in 2014 Espoir was elected President of the ISA! And, to top it all off, the rapid improvement in his English competency has been remarkable.

Scola Sikitu is in her third year of Finance at the University of Kigali. As a Congolese, attending classes in English in Rwanda, Scola has the daunting task of learning two languages: she is mastering Kinyarwandan (Rwandan) and improving her English. As she waits for her ESL classes to resume, Steven Shyaka (Oak graduate) is tutoring her in English. Starting in early May, Scola will begin a volunteer position at Aspire Africa, where she can gain some valuable practical experience working with Aspire’s accountant.
 

 

 

Rwandan Oaks

Jeanne Mutoni continues to study accounting at Kigali Independent University, and is working part-time at Mareba Health Centre to gain workplace experience in her field. She is in her fourth and final year of studies and is looking forward to graduation. Since March of this year, Jeanne has been undergoing weekly English tutoring sessions with Steven Shyaka (Oak graduate) to improve her English and become more competitive for internships and jobs, where employers are looking for people fluent in English. 

Philomene Nyirarukund successfully completed her Oak internship at Rwanda Printing and Publishing Company as a journalist and is currently in a full-time internship at the Rwanda Ministry of Education, where she works in public relations to promote educational programs in Rwanda.  Philomene has shown great leadership as an Oak, hoping to initiate networking between Oaks to share experiences and information to assist in their employment searches. Finally, we would like to once again congratulate Philomene on her marriage to Telesphore on December 27, 2014.


Ugandan Oaks

Gertrude Nanyonga has been excelling at the Jinja School of Nursing and Midwifery. Her grades put her in the top of her class and she finds her practical schooling exciting because she is able to apply what she learns in the classroom to real-life situations. Her practicum assignments have been in a medical ward, a surgical ward and as a night-shift supervisor in a children's ward, where she is expanding her knowledge of childhood illnesses and congenital abnormalities. In March of 2015, Gertrude fell ill with malaria, but we are happy to report she is now in good health.

We welcomed Fatuma Namagobwe in October of 2014. Before joining TSO, she graduated with a Bachelor of Information Technology from Makerere University, Kampala, Uganda. She is currently gaining valuable IT experiences as an intern at Ndejje University (Kampala), where she works with staff and students to restore systems.  Fatuma has made a very favorable impression on her internship supervisor, so we are optimistic that she will have success in her employment search.

Stanley Ssozi joined in September of 2014. Prior to that, he earned a diploma in Information Technology from Buganda Royal Institute of Business and Technical Education (Mengo). With TSO, he completed his IT internship at the Kampala Computer Centre. In February 2015, the Ministry of Internal Affairs hired Stanley for a one-month term as a supervisor for the National Identification Issuance project. With the wealth of experience gained from his internship and Ministry of Internal Affairs engagement, and an impressive CV, we are confident Stanley will find meaningful, long-term, employment.
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