Kuir Akech: Empowering Youth through Study-friendly Spaces
Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs.
Spiffy here! I’m back with the scoop on the entrepreneurial leaders of Planet Earth. As the only interplanetary journalist stationed on this blue planet, I’m thrilled to present this galactic exclusive with Kuir Akech, co-founder of Edupower Youth Foundation. Let’s see what he is doing to make a positive impact in the world.
Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Kuir! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your startup?
Kuir: Happy to be with you, Spiffy! I began by working on the Community Peace Initiative, which uses educational programs such as debates, workshops, radio programs, and writing competitions to bring about durable peace and stability in South Sudan. The Community Peace Initiative became my Rise Project too, part of a global initiative by Schmidt Futures. In 2021, my purpose expanded, and I started “Edupower Youth Foundation” and merged it with the Community Peace Initiative to serve my community at a broader scale. Its mission is to empower youth in education through the creation of study- and research-friendly spaces (like libraries) to promote shared learning, curiosity, and diversity among students and communities. Our initiatives include voluntary service, back-to-school programs, entrepreneurial leadership, and libraries.
Spiffy: Terrific! What motivated you to do it?
Kuir: I grew up in a village, and, back then, I had a small circle composed of family members and extended family. Education gave me the world: friends from communities other than my own and new skills. On the other hand, South Sudan has experienced long-term instability due to internal ethnic conflicts. I see education as the only tool to unite people in nation-building. I witnessed a horrible war at nine, and gunshots scare me. I am working toward a state where people cheer at the sounds of fireworks and do not scream in agony when guns are fired. To me, education is the tool to change the face of my community.
Spiffy: Tell us more about how you or your organization are working towards a more equitable world.
Kuir: Each year, Edupower embarks on an entrepreneurial leadership bootcamp for high school students in South Sudan, creating a space for them to gain entrepreneurial skills and connect with one another. This program brings together 25 students from different high schools each year, and the network has now grown to 70+ students. We also hold information sessions, both in-person and online, to expose students to global opportunities. Last year was a blast, and we reached about 500+ students across South Sudan, spreading information about Rise, the African Leadership Academy, and United World Colleges, among others. Each year is a growth opportunity, and I am currently planning for a leadership bootcamp in Bor, South Sudan.
Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your community or audience?
Kuir: At last year’s Rise Residential in Cape Town, I got inspiration from a youth organization running low-budget programs called “LangaForMen.” Returning home, I started a childhood education initiative that involved my team and me moving from one neighborhood to the other, educating kids between the ages of three and four. This initiative means that kids in my community will get exposed to school before enrolling in preschool. It will make them curious on their first day at school. And for my organization, it is a $0 project.
Spiffy: Congrats on that progress! Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?
Kuir: In 2020, I was a curious 16-year-old willing to apply to any program that came my way. The African Leadership Academy was my dream school back then, but I didn't make it through admissions. Although I was disappointed, I remained on their mailing list and, when Rise was launched, I received an email from them asking me to apply. It taught me a lesson: We shouldn’t let go of people who reject us as they may be there to redirect us to where we are needed. Just like ALA directed me to Rise.
Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Kuir—it’s been an honor!
Kuir Akech is a co-founder of Edupower. He also serves on the board of directors and as the director of programs. His work involves working with current high school students and fresh graduates in identifying potential global scholarships and supporting them through the application process. Before this role, he worked on the Community Peace Initiative and Smart Thinkers. He is an incoming student at UWC Pearson. He loves books, music, and photography. He hopes to study international relations. (Nominated by Rise of Schmidt Futures. First published on the Ladderworks website on May 4, 2023.)
The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.
© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by George Romar. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.