Smiling image of CharlesCharles Degold Gomez, Gambia

A true champion is someone who doesn’t just break records and win awards. In my mind, a champion offers insight and advice and makes a difference in the   lives of others. I may be visually impaired but many things are very clear to me now. This was not always the case. Growing up as a partially sighted person in The Gambia, I had a very narrow view of what my life would be like. Discrimination and stereotypes severely limit options and paths for the disabled. Doors were never opened for   me, only closed. At kanthari I have felt not only welcomed and wanted, but like I actually have something of value and interest to contribute. I feel challenged, productive and capable. But kanthari is more than just a physical place. It is a process, a journey and a way of life that might begin here on campus, but it definitely will not end here. It will continue for the rest of my life. kanthari is a gift that continuously gives. kanthari has infused me with optimism and hope. I look forward to returning to The Gambia and becoming a champion for the blind. My project ‘Jump high!’, aims to create a social change in society. My vision is  to see A Gambia were it is normal that the president is blind. Watch the Dream Speech online: here

Smiling image of YaminYamin Ohnmar, Myanmar

As a visually impaired woman I am used to confronting prejudice. And while I’m the one who is blind, it often seems to me as if the world cannot see me. The social and cultural norms in my country, Myanmar, have determined that I am only capable of becoming a massage therapist. How do you change perceptions? When you want to change the way people think and behave, you need to challenge everything: culture, politics and sometimes religion. And this is why I came to kanthari: to learn how to effectively challenge mainstream thoughts and beliefs in my native Myanmar. For me, kanthari is like a bridge. It is giving me the practical skills to develop a training center, where visually impaired women will learn to become bakers and bakery owners. At kantahri I have learned management, technological, public speaking, critical thinking and fund raising skills. But kanthari is also a bridge in a deeper sense, as it will enable me to eliminate the gap in perceptions of what the visually impaired are capable of doing. kanthari will always be there for me, even after I have crossed the bridge back home so to speak.
watch Yamin’s Dream speech here

Smiling image of GwenTapiwa Gwenlisa Marange, Zimbabwe

I came to kanthari because I wish to change perceptions about albinism in my native Zimbabwe. I have never felt wholeheartedly accepted or included because, as an albino, I look different. But here at kanthari I fit in and feel understood. It is difficult to fully embrace new experiences and ways of thinking when you don’t feel truly comfortable. At kanthari it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you look like or if you have a disability, as long as you know where you want to go. As a result, I have been able to allow myself to fully receive and process the kanthari experience, which is less like a traditional school and more like a journey. Each day at kanthari is different yet full of engagement, energy and beauty. In many ways the experience of being at kanthari is like an exchange program, as participants and catalysts (leaders) from many different countries are constantly sharing, creating and challenging ideas, designs, attitudes and constructs. This is how and where the true beauty of kanthari is revealed. Thanks to kanthari I am no longer alone on my personal journey. Watch the Dream Speech: here

Smiling image of SaritaSarita Lamichhane, Nepal

I’m used to being told that I will fail. I’m used to being publicly harassed and humiliated. All because I am blind. This is not unusual in Nepal, where the visually impaired, women in particular, are discriminated against and virtually unemployable. I came to kanthari because I have the will and the energy to change my life and change the expectations that people have of me. I am not afraid of adversity because I have confronted it most of my life. I am not afraid of failure because I have nothing to lose. The framework at kanthari is that disability does not limit possibility. Rather it opens new and different doors. You just have to look hard for them. I look forward to being able to pass these messages of hope, confidence and creative thinking to the visually impaired women I wish to empower and educate. Watch Sarita’s Dream speech here

Smiling image of SamuelOdwar Samuel, Uganda

Everything changes when you have a child with a disability. You see the world and the people all around you differently. I thought that the torture and atrocity I suffered at the hands of the militant and extremist Lord’s Resistance Army qualified me as an expert for life in the meaning of inhumanity. But it wasn’t until years later when I saw how my disabled child was ridiculed that I really understood cruelty. I knew what I was meant to do: to represent and support disabled children and their families in their right to be treated equally and respectfully. I arrived at kanthari nervous about the experience ahead of me and overwhelmed by the scale of my mission. But upon arrival I was immediately put at ease by the warmth of the participants and catalysts and the beauty and serenity of the natural environment. The kanthari training is so thorough and has taught me how to effectively network and lobby, communicate with potential donors and NGOs, and even start a fundraising campaign. I am no longer nervous and overwhelmed. I am determined and prepared to change attitudes and opportunities for the disabled. Watch Samuel’s Dream Speech here

Smiling image of OdionOdion Margaret Anavhe, Nigeria

For me, kanthari is a world of dreams and hope. It shapes my every thought and gives reality to my imagination. Childbirth should be a survivable, joyful experience. Unfortunately in Nigeria too many women, like my sister, die in the process due to preventable complications. A little bit of health and hygiene education can go a long way in preventing unnecessary deaths. I came to kanthari because I want to educate rural women on measures to reduce the risk of pregnancy and childbirth complications. And kanthari has taught me how to take my idea and shape it into a cultural and social opportunity. The activities, workshops and exercises are designed to ensure that we get plenty of practical experience in setting up and running a social venture. And I am now equipped to put my training to good use when I return to Nigeria. I will become a voice for the thousands of children, who would grow up not knowing the warmth and love of their mothers. Watch her Dream Speech here

Smiling image of NagendraNagendra Prasad Rijal, Nepal

How do you go about changing minds, expectations and behaviors that have been around so long that they have become virtually institutionalized? This is the question I pondered for years in my homeland of Nepal, where values and norms sometimes have no logical or rational basis. I know this all too well, for my family rejected the woman I love because of her family’s social status. The emotional pain I suffered was compounded by my frustration with many Nepalese beliefs and traditions. It’s hard to be thoroughly proud of your country when it doesn’t necessarily reflect your personal values. I came to kanthari because I knew what I wanted to do but had no idea how to go about making it actually happen. kanthari has taught me that it is indeed possible to overcome social barriers and to turn challenges into possibilities. With a defined approach to social venture management and operations kanthari has given me the critical skills to launch an organization that will promote modern social and ethical values. I now look forward to being a part of Nepal’s changing social landscape – one that I will be proud to call my own. Watch Nagendra’s Dream Speech here

Smiling image of StevenWambi Steven Homison, Uganda

I left my inhibitions outside the door when I arrived at kanthari. There are no barriers here, so anything is possible. What is required is motivation, perseverance and a dream. My dream is to establish in Uganda a rehabilitation center for women, who have been victims of rape or sexual abuse, and provide them with medical treatment, psychological and legal counseling and self defense training. This all too common problem in Uganda is very close to my heart, as both my mother and my sister are rape victims. Being at kanthari is emotionally and intellectually enriching. Being surrounded by the world’s problem solvers is an intense experience. kanthari fills in the gaps that other educational institutions leave open through its practical, comprehensive and unique curriculum. I will be ready to face the challenges ahead of me with no inhibitions. I will return home to my community with enough spice in me to make a major difference in the lives of women in Uganda. Watch Steven’s Dream Speech here

Smiling image of SanojSanoj N T, India

Across the rail lines throughout India child poverty and hunger are a depressing and ever present reality. Many children live along the rail lines, spending their days begging for food instead of going to school. My dream is to set up mobile learning centers along the rail lines for these children. If they cannot get to school, then school will come to them. I came to kanthari because, despite the fact that I have a proper education and a masters degree in social work, I had no idea how to launch this type of project. I thought my previous travels and education had given me exposure and opportunity, but my experience at kanthari has offered far more. By giving me different lenses through which to view the world and sharpen my focus, kanthari has opened my eyes to new and creative ways of solving problems and is bringing me close to achieving my dream of improving and enriching the lives of impoverished children. Watch Sanoj’s Dream Speech here

Smiling image of SaisiNelson Saisi Milaho, Kenya

Life is all about overcoming adversity, but for orphans this is often impossible. Faced with so much uncertainty and misfortune, they often have no one to help guide them through life. My dream is to become an advocate for orphans in Kenya and to make sure that they have access to education, health services and nutritious food among other basic necessities. But most of all, I do not want any child to feel alone. How do you represent and serve as a voice for children, who can’t speak on their own behalf? That is why I came to kanthari: to learn how to empower, open doors for, and advance the lives of parent-less children. At kanthari I have learned how to define the problem I wish to address, create short and long term goals, effectively communicate, build and manage a team and raise sufficient funds. There are innovative ways to proceed through each phase of project development and management and kanthari has encouraged and challenged me to think out of the box at each stage. And it is this creativity and resourcefulness that will enable me to make a difference in the lives of Kenya’s orphans. Watch Nelson Saisi’s Dream speech here 

Smiling image of TijanaTijana Kaitović, Serbia

I want to empower the youth of Serbia to become active participants in society, to be productive citizens who help shape the development of our emerging nation. Young people should be interested and involved in every aspect of society. They should be engaged and excited to have a voice and influence on political, social and economic issues. But how do I inspire and motivate them? At kanthari I am learning how to mobilize and become an effective change maker and leader. I am learning how to represent myself, my interests and dreams. I have gained so much more than the practical and theoretical training. I now have an internationally diverse group of friends that have become my kanthari family. My experience has been largely shaped by their presence here with me and they will continue to inspire me when I’m back home in Serbia. Watch Tijana’s Dream Speech here

Smiling image of LillianAero Lillian Olok, Uganda

“My name is Aero Lillian Olok, I was born to and raised by a single mother, who struggled financially and socially to support us. After being raped and getting pregnant, my siblings gave me the opportunity to going back to school. And I proved those whose did not believe that I will make it through school before I get pregnant again. I made it up to the University now I am a graduate. And with this background I had to come to kanthari. I want my daughter and all women to not only be accepted, but be valued, educated and encouraged as well.  Therefore i established a center where single women, victims of domestic violence and rape, and even widows and pregnant women receive both a practical and formal education.
I have been advocating for the teenage mothers to stay in school even if they are pregnant or after birth. In Uganda we have had a challenge of girls being indefinitely expelled from school once they are found pregnant. Through the work of my organization ‘generate for generations’, in April 2018 the government, through the ministry of Education and Ministry of Gender, labor and social development has now implemented a law that gives girls who have been found pregnant the opportunity to nurse their babies for one year after schools have to admit them again to complete their studies. Watch Lilian’s Dream Speech here

Smiling image of Gram TinasheGram Tinashe Makwarimba, Zimbabwe

In my opinion and experience, kanthari is a dream factory. My dream is to improve the lives of widows and single mothers in my homeland of Zimbabwe, where they are often discriminated and marginalized. After the death of my father when I was a child, I found myself yet again saddened by the social and economic deprivation that my family suffered. I grew up hoping that someday I would be able to change and improve opportunities for single women and mothers. I just didn’t know how I would go about doing this – until I went to kanthari that is. At kanthari I l learned how to transform my ideas into realities. The kanthari training is comprehensive and relevant and there is no end to what participants can learn. I am no longer just a dreamer. I am an activist and an agent of change. Watch Gram’s Dream Speech here

Smiling image of NanaNana Adjoa Sifa Amponsah, Ghana

Images of elderly women carrying loads of firewood on their heads and stooped figures weeding distant fields – these are the mental snapshots of my life growing up in rural Ghana. Weeding the garden was an actual punishment for poor behavior at my school. It’s not surprising that, like most youth, I viewed farm work with disdain and dread. It was certainly not something to aspire to – it was something to avoid. As a result, young people in Ghana have gravitated to and sought white collar jobs, which are unfortunately few and far between. Unemployment is an increasing problem. Like many of my peers upon university graduation, I was eager for a desk job. But I too had few options. My travels outside Ghana opened my eyes though to the fact that farming is not just back breaking physical labor in the fields. It takes business and technological savvy, the use of innovative equipment and interpersonal skills to be successful. How would I encourage young, educated people to even consider farming as a viable and rewarding career? How would I change social perceptions among my peers and the youth of Ghana, where access to land is much easier to come by than a corporate career? This task seemed enormous and impossible. For me, kanthari has been a roadmap – to approaching and following my goals until they lead me precisely where I want to be. And that is back to Ghana, where young people, women in particular, will embrace farming as a respectable, profitable and sustainable means of employment and where the economy will expand and thrive via exports and increased employment and income. I have my map. I know I will arrive at my destination. Watch Nana’s Dream Speech here

Smiling image of NelsonOwoicho Apochi Nelson, Nigeria

I came to kanthari because I care about children and believe that every child deserves a good education. This is not always possible in Nigeria, where significant fees often prevent students from continuing their education. My goal is to create a training center that would offer these students, who were forced to drop out of school for financial reasons, the practical skills, training and life lessons to become employable and successful young adults. At kanthari I have received an education that would be impossible to get at any university. The incredible diversity among participants as well as the experts leading the workshops creates an energy that keeps everyone engaged and committed to the process. The perspectives and possibilities that emerge on a daily basis remind us that challenges should be embraced rather than feared. kanthari is the ultimate fusion of ambition, open-mindedness, perseverance and passion.
Watch his Dream Speech: here

Smiling image of FelixIziomoh Bidemi Felix, Nigeria

Iziomoh Bidemi Felix, Nigeria
It is unfortunately an all too common reality for quite many young people in Nigeria to have been involved with some sort of cyber crime. With a little bit of technological know how and absolutely no guidance it’s not difficult to head down a criminal path.
At kanthari I was able to rediscover and redefine myself: my interests, my talents and my potential. There are not many places in the world where you can learn how to reinvent yourself: how to combine your gifts and your challenges and your constraints and your environment to work for you and not against you. I am helping to make the internet safer and more secure for everyone by raising awareness on online safety issues and now looking forward to working with cyber crime convicts to help them channel their skills and energy for legitimate purposes. kanthari offers a tremendous amount of technical skills, personalized guidance and most importantly hope. I am excited about my goal, and I have the skills and the faith in myself to accomplish it. I am a proud kanthari. I will become a leader and a mentor back in Nigeria. I will help others to change their lives. Watch Felix’ Dream Speech here More about Felix's work at here

Smiling image of MiniMini.M.R, India

I suffered from relentless discrimination as a school child solely because I was born into a tribal community. The treatment I faced was so severe that I ultimately dropped out of school. A future with a limited education seemed better than continued emotional abuse. But dropping out does not necessarily mean giving up. I arrived at kanthari a quiet and timid woman, but nonetheless a woman with a dream. A dream to open an alternate education school for tribal students like me: students, who deserve to feel safe and accepted and worthy. My kanthari training has restored my confidence and taught me the practical skills I will need to launch my dream project. Learning and working along-side incredible participants from other regions has inspired me, made me laugh and smile, and reminded me of the innate goodness in people. It is this magical combination of kanthari catalysts and kanthari participants that makes the experience so interesting and valuable. kanthari has opened my eyes and opened doors for me. I will never give up on my dreams and goals. Watch Mini’s Dream Speech here

Smiling image of ErickErick Inghatt Matsanza, Kenya

kanthari is a place where you are limited only by your vision and your passion. I came to kanthari because I was extremely frustrated by the lack of equal educational and professional opportunities for women in western Kenya. I desperately wanted to be able to improve the unfair circumstances of women in my country by creating an organization that will offer them technical and critical thinking skills. But I felt paralyzed and overwhelmed by the magnitude of this task. By forcing me to look at the world and myself through a very different lens, kanthari has taught me how to embrace challenges, trust my passions and have confidence in my abilities. At kanthari I have learned how to take a goal that might seem broad and abstract and break it down into realistic and achievable steps. The kanthari approach is holistic and highly individualized. And being surrounded by such inspirational and unique individuals makes kanthari such a special and transformative experience. My vision and passion will never limit me – they will work in my favor and help me to achieve all of my goals.

Smiling image of TraceyTracey Clare Tendai Musindo, Zimbabwe

How do you help those who have spent their childhoods helping others? How do you thank the many children, who have sacrificed what should have been their care-free youth to keep their families together and to be the responsible household head when no adult could? I was one of these children, who never got to pursue my passions because I was struggling to take care of my family. I arrived at kanthari from Zimbabwe knowing that I wanted to do something to help these young people but I had no idea how. But it all comes together at kanthari, where there is a major focus on practical skills like developing long and short term objectives, working with the media, and presenting ideas in clear and straightforward ways. kanthari has given me many opportunities to fail and learn from my mistakes in the safety of its supportive environment. The kanthari program has exposed me to many potential hurdles to ensure that I am prepared to implement and run my social project which is named Runako; The beauty from Within. Watch Tracey’s Dream Speech here