In 2008, while volunteering at a school in East Africa for Congolese refugee children, Edmund Page founded the Xavier Project. Following his initial trip, he committed to sponsoring eight refugees through school in Kampala.
A recipient of the Queen’s Young Leaders Award, Edmund graduated from university in 2009 and spent two years working as a teacher in London before moving to Nairobi in 2011 to become CEO of Xavier Project. Today, Xavier Project supports the education of thousands of children and adult refugees across Kenya and Uganda through new learning programs and community based partnerships.
I spoke with Edmund Page recently regarding Xavier Project and what he is doing to shape his future.
You founded Xavier Project as a result of your experience of volunteering at a school in Uganda. What inspired you to leave the UK to volunteer in Uganda for the first time?
Edmund Page: I was 22 and trying to work out what I wanted to do as a career. I was given an opportunity to travel to Uganda and volunteer in the school. I had already spent time in Tanzania doing something similar and I knew that my time in Tanzania had helped me make focus and recognize my strengths and weaknesses.
As it was when in Uganda I met Congolese refugees who were out of school and I realized I could do more to help them receive an education. Through this, I also ended up settling on my chosen profession – teaching. I’m still proud of being a teacher, though I spend less time in the classroom than I would like.
What principles guide your life and career?
E. P. : I am an optimist. I believe in taking risks and putting to good use resources and energies available today, rather than holding them back for an unpredictable future. I do not believe that all the good ideas have been thought of and believe that anyone creative can find an outlet for that creativity.
There is nowhere better to feel this than in East Africa. I believe that education is of intrinsic benefit to everyone and should be a lifelong human right, for reasons that go beyond the economic or protection benefits a good education can achieve for the individual. I do not believe that people should have reduced rights, protection and opportunities just because they happen to have been born in a different country, especially if they have fled their country of origin.
I believe that on balance refugees can and do contribute positively to their hosting communities and societies. I believe in people and I believe that we will see better futures.
What is Xavier Project working on at the moment? What are you optimistic about?
E. P. : At Xavier Project, we build comprehensive partnerships with refugee founded community-based organizations (or CBOs) and support them in delivering education and scaling enterprise in their communities. Currently, we have six CBO partners in six locations with whom we have a comprehensive partnership and six other associate partners.
The CBOs reach 12,000 participants directly through their work every year. It is vital that the CBOs feel full ownership over their work and that ultimately they have the last word in decision making. We play the role of facilitators in helping the CBOs achieve their own vision.
This approach is effective and the most appropriate: it enables refugees and the populations hosting them to shape a more fulfilling future together. This achieves a sense of dignity for a population whose dignity and rights have been suppressed through the experience of forced displacement.
Clearly, your experience volunteering in Uganda had an immense impact on you. What are the best ways for young people today to get involved in Xavier Project?
E. P. : Refugees and hosting community young people can get involved with Xavier Project by actively participating in activities run by CBOs in their communities in Kakuma, Nairobi, Kitengela, Kampala, Imvepi and Rwamwanja. For young people interested in volunteering or interning with our team, in either Uganda or Kenya we have around 30 interns or volunteers every year and many roles and responsibilities that need filling. Go to the “Get Involved” tab on our website for more information.
In regard to our Shape Your Future video series, I would like to ask you one more question: “How do you shape your future?”
EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com.