IOEE – Spreading our roots!

The IOEE’s roots may lie in the UK, but we spread our enterprising message far and wide. This month we are delighted to shine a spotlight on our very first Rwandan IOEE Member, the inspirational Ephaste Niyigena. As the ‘man on the ground’ for UK-based charity The Goboka Rwanda Trust, Ephaste manages multiple projects, from supporting young entrepreneurs to set up micro businesses, all the way to large-scale operations, such as installing drinking water supplies to villages in poor rural communities. Nominated by Phil Bramhall, one of the charity’s trustees, Ephaste has recently been awarded IOEE Member status, and this month we caught up with Phil to find out about Ephaste’s outstanding contribution to the field of enterprise and entrepreneurship in Rwanda.

Based in North Yorkshire, Phil Bramhall was instrumental in helping to establish The Goboka Rwanda Trust as a UK-registered charity, and he became an official trustee back in 2013. His passion for the Trust is evident, his energy and enthusiasm is infectious, and he is wholeheartedly devoted to his role of developing numerous fundraising initiatives for the Trust. Phil co-organised Ride for Rwanda, a charity ride for bikers to support the building of a health centre in the west of Rwanda, and he competed in the Isle of Man’s 85 Miles in 24 Hours walking challenge to raise funds for a youth community centre in Rukumbura, one of Rwanda’s most remote villages.             

However, despite being an influential member of The Goboka Rwanda Trust, Phil tells us that none of it would be possible without the hard work and commitment of Ephaste Niyigena, the ‘man on the ground where it matters’. Phil says: “The Goboka Rwanda Trust has the great fortune of having Ephaste Niyigena working as a Project Officer on the ground in Rwanda. The charity operates through raising money in this country, through various methods, and we then ask our Rwanda partner organisations where the money would best be spent. With us being based here in the UK, we’re simply not going to be the best people to understand what would be most impactful in Rwanda. Ephaste is our principal person out there, and his hands-on work and experience and understanding of the country enables him to accurately report back this information “Ephaste will assess which projects will have the biggest impact and he gives answers to those questions, such as whether the money would be best spent in small rural communities or in bigger city communities. We’re a small yet successful charity, but we don’t have huge amounts of money, so it’s important that every penny we spend is carefully considered. Ephaste monitors and manages the use of the Trust’s funds and support for enterprise and education projects in Rwanda to make sure the money makes a real difference.”

Ephaste’s admirable work with The Goboka Rwanda Trust is not the only reason that Phil wanted to nominate Ephaste for his accomplishments – he also wanted to commend him for his academic achievements, as Ephaste has recently gained both a Bachelor’s Degree and a Master’s Degree in Business Management. Phil says: “It can be very challenging to get an opportunity for secondary education in Rwanda, let alone tertiary education, so to see Ephaste develop his skills and his knowledge and his understanding of enterprise  in this way is incredible. Ephaste doesn’t only have academic qualifications in a Rwandan context, but he now has a degree and a Master’s that are recognised in an international context. It’s one of the reasons that I put forward an application for Ephaste to become an IOEE Member, because he is so deserving of recognition for both his ongoing efforts and his educational achievements.”

One of the current projects that Ephaste is leading with The Goboka Rwanda Trust is in a small and remote rural village, where the community has requested a grinding mill to grind sorghum grains to make into porridge. As well as it feeding a community with nutritious food, the grinding mill will also gainfully employ two or three people, thereby generating income into the village. Ephaste has conducted a detailed breakdown of such things as what the project will cost, what it will look like, how people will benefit, sustainability and community, and he is then going to take it from the trial phase and into the operational phase.

Phil says: “I’m very proud of our work and exceptionally proud of Ephaste, but our Trust also wants to acknowledge and celebrate other charities too. There are so many amazing organisations across Africa that are doing great work like this, and we recognise that we may be just one drop in the ocean – but we’re not an insignificant drop. This is work that really matters and makes a positive difference to daily life. “When we set up the charity we felt that it was demonstrating how a project can bring about much more than economic value – it has real social value too. These projects are bringing people together to do meaningful, purposeful and enjoyable work. There are benefits for physical health, mental health, emotional wellbeing, social bonds, teamwork, friendship; the list is endless. The Goboka Rwanda Trust brings people together to create possibility and long-term healing. We wouldn’t be where we are without Ephaste’s passion, devotion and integrity, and I’m delighted that he has been awarded his IOEE Member status.”