Ozioma Paul (left) on a panel at Carnegie Mellon University – Africa in Rwanda.

How Mastercard Foundation Scholars are Giving Back Amid COVID-19

The first of four in a series.

Globally, the lives of hundreds of millions of students were upended as school closures, travel restrictions, and other safety measures were implemented in response to COVID-19.  Over 15,000 Mastercard Foundation Scholars were among those affected. The Foundation acted quickly to meet Scholars mental, physical, and academic needs. With these met, and as Scholars have adjusted to their temporary new normal, they’ve turned their attention outwards to the needs of their peers, families, communities, and countries.

In this series, we’re sharing just a few stories of current and past Mastercard Foundation Scholars who are giving back amid COVID-19. 

The Hope Campaign

The Hope Campaign was launched by two Scholars: Jobe Wuyeh and Ozioma Paul. Both are 25-year-old Masters of Information Technology students at CMU-Africa in Rwanda. Jobe comes from Ganjur, a coastal town in the western part of Gambia. Ozioma comes from Lagos, Nigeria.

The two were planning to launch a story-telling and blood donation initiative as part of their “give back” project—a requirement of the Scholars program. Then, COVID-19 hit.

“When COVID happened we lost hope,” said Wuyeh. “But Sandra (the Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, Program Manager at CMU) encouraged us to brainstorm with other Scholars ideas around the pandemic.”

Together they launched the HOPE campaign in partnership with Solid’Africa, an NGO that helps vulnerable patients in public hospitals by providing them with meals, hygienic products and other services to accelerate patient recovery. Solid’Africa is in four public hospitals, serving 800 patients a day with three meals, producing 2400 meals a day.

Under the Hope Campaign, Jobe and Ozioma aimed to raise USD 1,500 to support Solid’Africa. “We had a concern about collecting the money ourselves because of the restrictions of the lockdown that we were not exempted from. We wanted to provide help at the time of the pandemic for those who couldn’t do basic things like those in hospitals and refugees,” said Ozioma.  “Knowing Solid’Africa has a good reputation and the means to function during the lockdown, we decided to partner with them. We knew the funds would go to the right place as they had the ability to organize this outreach.

Together, Jobe and Ozioma researched crowdfunding platforms, created a video, and launched the campaign. Within three days they  reached their goal—12 days earlier than they’d anticipated. The “whole community was involved and some people outside of CMU donated and supported the cause.”

While the Hope Campaign was driven by the urgent needs created by COVID-19, Jobe and Ozioma also see a silver lining for Africa amid this crisis.  “The corona virus is leading to transformation. “I was really impressed that when I went to the market a couple of weeks ago. There were locally made mask being made. People can make solutions, not just the production of local masks but the scientific innovation and discoveries, it makes me have hope in Africa. If we can focus on what we can do for ourselves, we can make more impact.”

We’re sharing just a few stories of current and past Mastercard Foundation Scholars who are giving back amid COVID-19.  This is the first of four stories. Read the other stories.

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