Empowering Vulnerable Communities: Rising Above the Storms (RAS) Partners with Westcon-Comstor Sub Saharan Africa

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Brentwood, TNRising Above the Storms and Westcon-Comstor are thrilled to formalize a partnership to empower vulnerable communities in Africa.  The announcement extends Westcon-Comstor’s support from RAS’s programs for vulnerable children to young impoverished mothers supported by our local partner Amahoro Builders (AB).  Westcon-Comstor’s General Manager for Africa, Vincent Centonu, visited RAS and its partner in Kigali, Rwanda last month to personally give a twelve thousand dollars donation.  Last year Westcon-Comstor, a $3 billion global technology distribution company, gave about $17 thousand to RAS, bringing the total giving close to thirty thousand dollars to date.

Last year’s gift went to funding RAS’ street children program, focused on rescuing children from the street, rehabilitating them and nurturing them back to school.  This year, the lion’s share will go to Amahoro Builder’s program that helps young, single mothers with micro loans to start businesses to support their families.  This is critical to the welfare of RAS’ children, because many left their homes for the street because their single mothers couldn’t support them.  Alphonsine Anderson, RAS Founder and CEO says “We believe that supporting their mothers or custodians with a way to earn a living to support their families will break the cycle of children returning to the streets.”  

A smaller portion of the gift will go to supporting two individuals who went through the RAS’ program.  One is a high school student named Fabrice, who is an orphan who supports his grandmother and siblings.  He’s getting a micro loan to help him to start a business to support his family while he pursues higher education.  The other is Idrissa, who was one of the first street children to attend RAS’ program and the first to receive a scholarship to university, where he’s studying an engineering degree.  Until now he’s been living at home, where he doesn’t have an adequate place to study, nor electricity or Internet.  The gift will pay for his room and board on campus.  

“Teen mothers experienced rejection, depression, poverty, school dropout, lack of career developmental opportunities that affect the well-being of teen mothers’ children at a tender age. We are thankful to Comstor’s support that will empower 45 teen mothers, creating a viable environment for their babies, rehabilitating teen mothers’ dignity toward complete healing of their wounds. The financial support will assist to start small businesses generating income, pave a way to self-reliance and child protection”, said Appoline Kabera, AB Representative. 

“The partnership between RAS and Westcon-Comstor began in November 2021. Focus was on three areas: education, empowerment, and technology.  The November 2023 collaboration focuses on enabling and empowering young people to fulfill their potential (hence Education : Supporting 2 gifted students through University Education & Empowering Teen Mums through proving Trade skills Training & providing Small business Seed money” said Vincent Entonu.

“I extend my deepest gratitude to Vincent Centonu and the entire Westcon-Comstor team for not only their contributions the past two years, but their willingness to visit our facility in Rwanda twice,” said Alphonsine Anderson.  Two years ago she was introduced to Comstor, one of the largest distributors for Cisco Technologies, where she works full-time.  “The first time Vincent visited us he was moved by the work that Amahoro Builders was doing to support young impoverished mothers, many with recovering street children” said Apoline Kabera, Managing Director of Amahoro Builders.  “It means a lot to the mothers, their children and our staff that he personally took the time to meet with us,” she continued.  

About Rising Above the Storms 

RAS is on a mission to give vulnerable children a chance to succeed, one child at a time.  We support them through (3) three programs.  (1) Street child program: We rescue children from the street, rehabilitate them through counseling & nurture them back to school.  (2) Scholarship program: We provide scholarships & financial aid to high aptitude children from low income families.  (3) Soccer program: We provide a soccer club as an after school activity for street children who compete in local matches.  RAS operates in Rwanda through partner Amahoro Builders, who provides local oversight as well as focusing on its own mission to empower young impoverished families, primarily single mothers.

Bridging The Opportunity Gap: RAS Empowers Children From Low Income Families With Scholarships

Last month we introduced our soccer club program and some of our older children who are going to the pros. This month we are excited to highlight our scholarship program.

Education is one of the most important tenets we teach our children at Rising Above the Storms; however not all of our street children excel in school or have college aspirations.   At the same time, there are many vulnerable children who are bright but come from families that can’t afford their education.  This particular group of children is college bound!

The staff recruited the first 30 students for our first cohort last Fall, representing a range of grades from primary to secondary schools (Grade 1 – 12).  We fund their tuition, uniforms, materials, and other school-related expenses.  Interest in the program has been incredible, and we already have a long waitlist for the next cohort.

Our 5 Students Graduated in July 2023
Meet Our 2023 Graduates

This past July, 5 children in our scholarship program (all girls) took standardized tests this year to advance to the next grade. Rwanda tests children in grades 6, 9 & 12.  3 received perfect scores and 2 earned 83 percentile. We are very proud of them. Your donation makes it possible for children like these to continue pursuing their education.  You go girls!

Idrissa studying on his laptop
Idrissa studying on his laptop

The scholarship program was partially inspired by Idrissa Dusengimana, the first street child to graduate high school in 2020 – and in the top of his class. He also received a scholarship to engineering school.  You can read his story here.  Idrissa wouldn’t have had this opportunity if not for our generous donors who help us make this happen.

The Future

Our current website is undergoing changes that will soon allow donors to directly sponsor students from our site.  You’ll be able to sponsor a child in primary school for $38 a month or secondary school for $55 a month.  Stay tuned for updates!  In the meantime, you can sponsor a child now on our website. Simply enter the amount ($38 or $55), and select recurring for a monthly donation. Our team will reach out to you with details about the students in our program from which you can select to sponsor.

We’re also investing in our students’ futures in college and beyond through financial aid and by approaching businesses about mentorship and internship opportunities. We look forward to sharing more as this program expands and more are added.

7 of Our Children Are on their Way to the Rwanda National Soccer League

We are excited to announce that one of our two soccer teams earned a spot to play in the Rwanda Football Federation League, the national soccer league. The team will play in the league’s newly established third division, which showcases the skills of lesser known yet promising teams. The League boasts three divisions with the Rwandan national team drawing its players from the top clubs in division 1.

Our Rwanda Learning Center currently has two soccer teams: one formed with children under 17 (U17) where most of our kids fall into, and a second team with children 17 and above (U23 or Under 23). The age requirement to join the National League is 17; this means that the U23 team has had to recruit additional players outside the program to fill the team, until our U17 children can reach 17. We currently have 4 children from our Street Children Program in the U23; the rest of the players come from broken homes, and were often spotted at the court as spectators of our matches.

The U23 team named after our local partner, Amahoro Builders Football Club, qualified to apply for the third division after the league took notice of its winning streaks in local friendly matches. However, the league put the team through a rigorous acceptance process that required our local partner to rent an acceptable field for home games, among other requisites. The team was accepted into the league in May 2023 and commenced its first game on June 24th.

RAS provides funds for jerseys, shoes, socks, and equipment for both teams, as well as a coach who also doubles as a counselor at the Center. One of RAS’ future fundraising goals is to purchase a new facility with land that can be converted into a soccer field.

In other soccer news, three other children from the Center are also on their way to the same national soccer league as professional referees. They’ve been part of a training program hosted by the league to recruit young referees as it expands. The trainees have been training alongside Federation referees at local youth matches and will be eligible to officiate division 3 matches when they graduate later this year.

“One of the things RAS encourages is for our children to think about what careers they want to pursue in the future, and we help set them up for success,” stated Alphonsine Anderson. When our Rwanda staff learned about the referee program, they shared it with our kids and enrolled those who were interested, paying all their fees. Once they graduate, they’ll have an opportunity to earn money doing something they love.

Rwanda has not been a stranger to the world of soccer. Those who watched the World Cup last year might recall the presence of a Rwandan woman named Salima Mukansanga among the referees.  Alphonsine expressed hope for the future of these aspiring referees, saying, “We hope these kids reach their dreams, maybe even joining the ranks of FIFA referees like Mukansanga someday.”

We find inspiration in the unwavering resilience of our children, who are actively shaping their own future. Soccer has become a powerful catalyst for our children, instilling in them confidence, hope, and the bravery to pursue their dreams. It fills our hearts with joy to watch them shine not only at the court but also in every aspect of their lives!

Will you join us as we continue to empower vulnerable children?