A Portland nonprofit is helping African students gain access to education and internship opportunities in Hillsboro and the Silicon Valley.
The organization, These Numbers Have Faces, aims to help Africa’s brightest students create positive change in their countries. In order to do so, the nonprofit gives loans to talented, economically-disadvantaged students so that they can attend Africa’s top universities. If the students graduate from college, 25 percent of the loan is forgiven. Additionally, another 25 percent of the loan is forgiven if the students graduate in the top 10 percent of their class.
Currently, the organization serves 78 students and has already made a big difference in their lives. One student, Jean Paul Mugisha, 21, credits the nonprofit for his education. “There is no other way I’d go to school,” he said about These Numbers Have Faces.
Mugisha and his family fled violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo and relocated at a Rwandan refugee camp. While there, Mugisha’s family lived on 24 cents per day and without electricity.
Mugisha was a bright student; he achieved perfect scores on national physics, chemistry, and math exams. However, as a refugee, Mugisha was denied access to a college education.
This is where These Numbers Have Faces stepped in. Mugisha received a “leadership loan,” through the organization which made it possible for him to enroll at the National University of Rwanda where he studied electrical engineering. The nonprofit connected Mugisha to an internship at Allion USA, an engineering services company in Hillsboro. Mugisha is interning there this summer, learning the skills he hopes to use to bring electricity to his refugee camp in Rwanda and his home village in Congo.
These Numbers Have Faces has made it possible for two other students from Rwanda to intern in the U.S. this summer. Jean d’Arc Mukakagame, 22, and Arnold Kamanzi, 23, have internships at Amazon’s Lab126 in the Silicon Valley. The lab makes Amazon’s Kindle tablet.
Both Mukakagame and Kamanzi studied computer science. Mukakagame hopes to use her degree to help people in Rwanda purchase bus tickets using their phones. Kamanzi plans to use online tools to provide educational materials to Rwandan students.
Taylor Smith, the organization’s community engagement advocate, spoke of the students’ aspirations, “These guys have really awesome visions, and that comes from talking about what their dreams and passions are.”
Mugisha appreciates the efforts of These Numbers Have Faces, “Everybody here, they are doing a great job. It’s really changing people’s lives.”