How Mastercard Foundation Scholars are Giving Back Amid COVID-19

Third in a series of four stories.

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 quickly acted 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.


Providing Essentials to Vulnerable Families

Norman Mushiga‘s passion for helping others started when he was very young. “I always feel  bad when people are in bad conditions. I was raised from a humble background. I know what it is like not having a day without food.”

When COVID -19 pandemic led to social isolation and the closing of businesses in Rwanda, this 25-year-old  agricultural studies graduate felt compelled to act. He knew that many around him were shut out from selling their goods at the markets and would struggle to feed their families.

A month earlier Norman, had returned to Rwanda from Beijing, taking a break from his masters studies in global affairs as part of the Schwarzman Scholars program at Tsinghua University in Beijing. He’d returned home to work on a venture he created last year, the Young African Business Booster (YAAB). YAAB is a non-profit organization based in Rwanda that incentivizes and trains youths by providing them with an entrepreneurial toolbox that helps them create their own agribusinesses. Norman’s goal in launching the YAAB was to create employment opportunities in Sub-Saharan Africa and stem migration. YABB has already impacted over 500 youth in Rwanda supporting them as they create their own jobs in agriculture, 52 percent have already started their own businesses as a result of YABB training and 48 percent are in the process of developing their ideas.

Norman, wearing personal protective gear, preps the food for delivery.

Norman recalls being at home when a lady knocked on the door for food. The knocks only grew louder. “There were many people who cannot access basic needs.”

He felt compelled to act to provide food relief in his community. “I started small in my village with eight families. Together with local leaders we bought food for them that they could cook at home.”

The local government helped Norman identify the families most in need. “They are well organized at the sector level at identifying families who are vulnerable.”

When Norman’s friends learned about his efforts, they were eager to support as were his instructors and classmates living abroad. Working with five volunteers who assist with logistics and deliveries, he has now supported 250 vulnerable families, including 50 women who are survivors of the 1994 genocide.

“We go buy food and deliver it to specific communities. We provide food types for the families: sugar, rice, maize flour, beans, cooking oil, salt and soap,” said Norman. “We provide them with enough to last for more than week.”

Food prepped and ready for delivery.

Norman and his friends will continue this work. He sees this effort as an extension of his work through YABB.

“I created (the YABB) to empower young people, so people don’t have to have the same challenges as I did. I don’t want to see people not be able to access food because they are poor. I’ve been blessed and privileged to study abroad and I have an obligation to give back. I feel that will my contribution in the world. If I can hold someone’s hand and give them hope that tomorrow will be better than today.”

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