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For all the latest news about The Strongest Oak and our Oaks, please check out our Facebook page.

Gertrude Accepted at University

(August 2013)

Gertrude at university July 2013We are pleased to announce that Gertrude has been accepted at the Uganda Christian University in the Bachelor of Agricultural Science and Entrepreneurship program. Fellow Oak, Espoir, also attends Uganda Christian University and will provide her support and guidance throughout her degree.

Although, initially, Gertrude was considering taking the nursing program, she shifted her focus to agriculture. This change came after she researched the many job opportunities in the Ugandan agricultural-based economy. The program is well suited to Gertrude considering her ties to the Kulika Agricultural Centre and her late uncle Elijah, a well known agriculturalist. Congratulations Gertrude on a major accomplishment!

Pascal Begins Internship

(August 2013)

Pascal GreenhouseSupported by TSO’s partner, Fig Tree Foundation, Pascal recently began his internship at Forestry and Agricultural Investment Management Ltd. (FAIM). FAIM is a tissue culture (TC) and plant propagation company in Rwanda dedicated to commercial production of high-quality, disease-free plant materials for sale to farmers, government, co-operatives and industry. His position is in production, where he helps multiply high quality seeds for commercial sale.

Pascal's favourite aspect of the internship is that he is “gaining valuable skills, knowledge and experience in agriculture.” His supervisor reports that he is very pleased with Pascal’s work thus far and that Pascal has successfully completed his probationary period. Pascal has since been offered a full-time position with FAIM, thus achieving his original goal of securing a job in agribusiness. Congratulations Pascal for working hard on accomplishing your goal!

Espoir at the Cisco Network Academy

(August 2013)

Espoir at computer in Cisco course July 2013Espoir is currently enrolled at the Cisco Network Academy, where he is taking courses in Information and Communication Technology (ICT). Hands-on learning activities and network simulations are helping him develop practical skills that will prepare him for his future career in technology.

We are happy to report that Espoir has completed his first Cisco Module: LAN Switching and Wireless. Congratulations Espoir. Keep up the good work!

Welcome to our New Oaks

(July 2013)

We are pleased to introduce our two new Oaks: Delicia Mudahogora and Joseph Kabarisa. Delicia and Joseph are Rwandan genocide survivors who are both studying accounting at university. We thank the Fig Tree Foundation for providing funding for Delicia and Joseph's internships (employers will soon be identified by TSO).

JD Tuyisenge Wins SFU Community Service Award

(June 2013)

Advisory Board member (and former Oak), Jean de Dieu (JD) Tuyisenge, recently won the Simon Fraser University (SFU) Faculty of Health Science Award for Outstanding Community Service. JD won the award for his many volunteer activities with local organizations (SFU Women's Center, Engineers Without Borders, and Sustainable SFU), his motivational speaking across Canada and his outstanding work with EduAfrica, of which he is the founder.

Congratulations JD!

Steven Shyaka Awarded a Winston Fellowship

(May 2013)

Congratulations to TSO’s promising young Rwandan law student, Steven Shyaka, on having recently been awarded a Winston Fellowship to attend the Summer Peacebuilding Institute, hosted by Virginia-based Eastern Mennonite University (EMU).

Steven arrived in Virginia earlier this month, where he was welcomed and hosted by some kind friends of TSO. The trip marked Steven’s first-ever flight and the first time he has ever travelled outside of Rwanda. So far, Steven has participated in courses at EMU that are very relevant to his background and career aspirations, such as International Training in Restorative Justice and Psycho-Social Trauma Healing.

Despite travelling to a new place and being faced with a culture-change, Steven was able to take advantage of his trip to enrich his learning in Law and Health Policy, and he was very open to learning all about the American culture. As Steven explains, “I have removed a curtain from my eyes to see beyond my nose-bridge, and look at the panoramic view of opportunities available here and there!”

Thank you The Rotary Club of Calgary Centennial!

(May 2013)

TSO is very pleased to report that we recently received a very generous donation from The Rotary Club of Calgary Centennial. The funds will be used to sponsor the tuition, living expenses and internships of certain Rwandan and Ugandan Oaks during 2013 and 2014, ensuring their continued success.

Special thanks to Rotary Members Roger Frayne and Anil Jain for assisting TSO with this sponsorship. We look forward to a long and rewarding partnership with The Rotary Club of Calgary Centennial!

TSO Receives Grant from Alberta Culture

(April 2013)

The Strongest Oak Foundation is pleased to announce we are the recipient of a generous grant from the Government of Alberta through its Community Initiatives Program (CIP), International Development program.  Proceeds will be used to fund internship stipends of certain Oaks, as well as to train and build capacity for our local Oak Leaders in Rwanda and Uganda.

CIP International Development Grants, administered by Alberta Culture, support small and medium-sized, Alberta-based NGOs that are managing humanitarian projects in developing countries and countries in transition.  Our sincere thanks to the Ministry of Culture and the Honourable Heather Klimchuk, Minister of Culture, as well as to the staff at CIP, International Development for their support.

Thank you The Rotary Club of Calgary Sarcee!

(April 2013)

We are very pleased to report that we recently received a very generous donation (our largest to date) from our long-standing partner, The Rotary Club of Calgary Sarcee. The funds will be used to sponsor the tuition, living expenses and internships of certain Oaks during 2013, ensuring their continued success.  
Sarcee Rotary helped sponsor Rwandan Oaks Steven and Jeanne last year and also introduced us to our former Oak Leader, Elijah Kyamuwendo, which led to our current partnership with Kulika Uganda.
We look forward to a long and rewarding partnership with The Rotary Club of Calgary Sarcee.

Welcome New Team Members

(April 2013)

We welcome our new Program Manager for East and Central Africa: Melissa Lorenzo. Melissa is passionate about youth development in Africa. She previously volunteered in Nicaragua and Uganda, where she participated in several educational initiatives and health and sanitation projects in rural communities. Melissa will be working closely with the Oak Leaders and the Oaks to ensure that they are supported in the areas of internship contracts, university registration and tuition payments, etc.

Regrettably (for us), Maya Moseley decided to move on from her volunteer role as Program Manager to begin a career. During her past year with TSO, Maya was highly effective in her role and was well respected by the Oaks, Oak Leaders, Mentors and Executive Team. We are thankful to have had the benefit of Maya's "on-the-ground" experience. We wish her the best of luck in her career and hope that our paths cross again in the future.

We also welcome a new member to our Board of Directors: Nick Foster. Nick has worked in the technology sector for thirty years, many of them in Senior Vice President positions with Softchoice. Mr. Foster became involved in corporate philanthropy following the Indian Ocean Tsunami in 2004. Since then, Nick has led more than a dozen international volunteer groups building houses, community projects and computer labs in Rwanda, Uganda, Kenya and other countries in the world.

Welcome Melissa and Nick!

2013: A Strong Start for Our Oaks

(January & February 2013)

It is just early February and already our Oaks have a string of successes.

  • Steven Shyaka's internship with the Kigali-based law firm Rwigamba & Rugango Associates & Advocates has been renewed for another year. Also, Steven has been awarded the Winston Fellowship award to attend the 2013 Summer Peacebuilding Institute at the Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, USA.
  • Jeanne Mutoni has secured full-time (paid) employment from her internship employer, Mareba Health Center. Jeanne will continue her studies in the evening.  
  • Sisters Zingire Namegabe and Neema Namegabe completed their internships and both received glowing reports from their respective employers. They gained valuable experience that we hope will lead to future employment.
  • Espoir Magendo passed his first semester in the Information Technology program at the Uganda Christian University.
  • Scola Sikitu arrived in Kigali, Rwanda to begin her university career. She was introduced to her new roommate (Delicia) by fellow Oak Steven Shyaka.
Scola and Delicia

 Congratualtions to all of our Oaks!

Introducing our New Oaks

(January 2013)

Welcome to our new Oaks: Gertrude Nanyonga (Uganda) and Pascal Dusabumuremyi (Rwanda). Pascal's internship is being funded by the Fig Tree Foundation (see below) and, as one of Elijah's Kids, Gertrude's funding for 3.5 years has been secured and will help her achieve a university degree in nursing and, hopefully, a full-time career in health care. Thank you to all our donors!

Over $25,000 Raised for Elijah's Kids

(January 2013)

On January 25th, The Strongest Oak Foundation (TSO) partnered with a group of Calgary Rotary Clubs to host a banquet and silent auction to raise money for Elijah’s Kids, a scholarship fund established to honor our former Ugandan Oak Leader, Elijah Kyamuwendo, who died last year of cancer. Almost $13,000 was raised at the event, plus another $12,000 was received from generous donors outside the event. TSO would especially like to thanks it main partners, the University of Calgary Rotaract, Rotaract Calgary and Rotary Club of Calgary (Sarcee), for a job well done. TSO would also like to thank the keynote speaker for the banquet, Mr. Nashir Samanani, for an inspiring presentation.

TSO Wins YMCA Peace Medal

(November 2012)

peace medalWe are pleased to announce that, on November 22nd, The Strongest Oak Foundation was awarded the Calgary YMCA 2012 Peace Medal award (International Category). We’ve come a long way in just a few short years and are extremely proud of our accomplishments. Please view this short video about The Strongest Oak, presented at the awards ceremony.

This exciting award belongs not only to us on the TSO Executive Team but also to our Board, Oak Leaders, donors, mentors and advisors for their countless hours of service. We’d especially like to thank our young Oaks themselves; without their hard work, resilience and commitment to our program, this award would not have been possible.

As we celebrate the recognition we have received for our peace work, our thoughts turn to our Oaks and Oak Leader (Pastor Samuel) in Bukavu, who are living in very uncertain times as a result of the current crisis in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). We hope and pray for their safety and for a peaceful end to this conflict.

Jean de Dieu (JD) Tuyisenge – a TSO success story!

(October 2012)

Our wish for all of our Strongest Oaks is for them to become independent, both financially self-sufficient and emotionally prepared to tackle the challenges of adulthood. Our Rwandan Oak Jean de Dieu (JD) Tuyisenge has not only met our expectations but has exceeded them.

We are so pleased to announce that JD is our first “graduate”! We have invited him to leave his Strongest Oak status behind in exchange for a position on The Strongest Oak Advisory Board. As a Rwandan genocide survivor and founder of EduAfrica, JD will provide insights only someone with first-hand experience can possibly offer. Over the past few years, JD has become a recognized panelist and speaker at a variety of events related to global poverty, migration and youth education in Rwanda, and he has been featured on news programs including CBC Radio. JD is currently completing his final year of studies at Simon Fraser University (Vancouver) where he will graduate with a degree in Community Rehabilitation and Disabilities Studies, before pursuing a career in that field.

Our heartfelt thanks go to all those who helped JD in his journey, most notably his mentor, Dennis Ekvall, and Dennis’ wife Shirley for their dedicated support of JD.

TSO Receives Fig Tree Foundation Grant

(October 2012)

We are very pleased to announce that the Fig Tree Foundation has awarded The Strongest Oak Foundation a grant of $10,000 to fund our internship programme in Rwanda.
Recognizing that there is a visible gap between education and meaningful employment in Africa, TSO developed an internship programme in which we recruit local employers to provide part-time, relevant work to our Strongest Oaks while the Oaks attend school at a local university or vocational college. The programme is a win-win situation: the employer receives talented labour at a subsidized cost while the Oak gains the practical work experience required to secure a job or launch a micro-venture after graduation.

The Fig Tree Foundation grant enables us to sponsor five new Oaks who, in exchange for their work for the employer, will receive a stipend to fund their living expenses. Employers will be required to contribute between 10-20% of the stipend cost, and the remaining cost will be in the form of a loan that is to be repaid by the Oak. Proceeds from the loan repayment (principal and interest) will circulate back into TSO and be pooled for investment in future Oak internships. The Oak’s educational expenses will be generously covered by scholarships from TSO's local partner, Survivors Fund (SURF).

We would like to thank the Fig Tree Foundation not only for their generous grant but also for the valuable recommendations they made to help us refine our internship programme.

The Fig Tree Foundation is a Calgary-based initiative that seeks to foster collaboration among people and organizations involved in International Aid and Development.

Survivor’s Fund (SURF) works with survivor’s organisations to develop and deliver, fundraise and advocate for, monitor and evaluate programmes to deliver justice, rebuild the lives and empower survivors of the Rwandan genocide.

Neema Begins Internship

(September 2012)

Neema has begun a one-year internship at a gift shop, the Likembe shop in Bukavu. In this job, she is learning entrepreneurial skills key to helping her eventually launch her career in selling woodworks (her primary goal). She's learning sales and customer service skills and works three days per week. This is her first job ever!

We extend our thanks to the employers at Likembe and Oak Leader Pastor Samuel for lining up this internship position.

The internship term runs until May 31, 2013.

Espoir Begins University

(August 2012)

Espoir has completed his university orientation and begun classes in Information Technology at the Uganda Christian University.

When our Oaks are first "adopted" by The Strongest Oak Foundation, they state a long-term objective. Espoir's objective was to "Graduate from high school and attend an English university in Uganda or Rwanda."  With his hard work and determination, Espoir has not only reached his goal but exceeded expectations by completing his English requirement (for university entrance) in record time. Congratulations Espoir!

We extend our thanks to those who helped Espoir reach this milestone:

  • Oak Leader, Pastor Samuel (who first recommended Espoir to The Strongest Oak), supported Espoir while he completed his high school in the DRC and helped with his move to Uganda; 
  • the Kulika team, including Ugandan Oak Leader Mathias , who facilitated Espoir's move to Uganda and helped him register in school and get settled in his new country;
  • fellow Oak in Uganda, Charles Mugabe, who helped Espoir get the medical attention he needed when he first moved to Uganda; and
  • Isabela Waglay, Espoir’s mentor, for providing guidance and support.

TSO Loses a Member of Our Family

(August 2012)

With sadness, we announce that The Strongest Oak has lost a valued member of our team. Elijah Kyamuwendo, Ugandan Oak leader and CEO of Kulika Uganda, died on August 7th from cancer at the age of 46. He is predeceased by his wife in 1999 and leaves behind two teenage sons, as well as another twenty-one children whom he supported.

Elijah's hard work at Kulika Uganda for over 15 years transformed many lives. He managed many educational scholarships to needy students and ran sustainable organic agriculture programs in  communities, which was his specialization.

We were very fortunate to have met Elijah when he visited Calgary in the spring. We were encouraged by his enthusiasm and looked forward to a long and rewarding working relationship with him.

We extend our heartfelt condolences to Elijah’s family and friends, his colleagues at the Kulika Foundation and the community he served so selflessly. No doubt, Elijah’s death is a great loss to many.

Espoir Accepted at University

(July 2012)

Espoir has been accepted into the Bachelor of Science in Information Technology program at the Uganda Christian University. He excelled in his English classes, exceeding all expectations and paving the way for this significant milestone in his life. Congratulations Espoir!

Jean de Dieu Interviewed by RCI

(May 2012)

Please listen to Radio Canada International's interview with Strongest Oak Jean de Dieu (JD) about the work his organization EduAfrica is doing in Rwanda.

Welcome to our New Oak Leaders

(April 2012)

We are pleased to welcome two new Oak Leaders to The Strongest Oak Foundation (Uganda): Elijah Kyamuwendo and Mathias Kiryowa.

Charles Mugabe in the News!

(March 2012)

Check out this Huffington Post article written by Simon Adams (Executive Director of the Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect in New York) in which he recalls his meeting with Charles and their discussion about the Rwandan genocide.

Oaks Helping Oaks

(March 2012)

Further to our last update about Espoir moving to Uganda, Pastor Samuel and the Kulika team assisted Espoir in getting settled in his new country and at his new English training school.  Unfortunately, shortly after he was all set up and ready to begin, Espoir fell ill.  

Espoir, Mathias, Charles and Sam at Kulika office

Fellow Oak in Uganda, Charles Mugabe, really shined and came to the ‘rescue’ of his Strongest Oak brother. Along with Mathias from Kulika (our Uganda Oak Leader), Charles arranged transport for Espoir to the hospital and obtained the necessary antibiotics required for Espoir’s speedy recovery.  They also followed up with the doctors to ensure that Espoir’s health was no longer in danger.  Charles even funded some of the medical bills out of his own pocket to be sure that treatment was delivered to Espoir in a timely manner (TSO  reimbursed him later for this unexpected expense.)  Charles certainly exemplifies the “kind” in humankind.

Thank you Charles and Mathias for your readiness to get Espoir the care he needed!

Espoir begins his new life in Uganda

(February 2012)

Our youngest Strongest Oak, Espoir Magendo, is enrolled full-time in the Language, Culture and Communication Solutions school in Kampala, Uganda to study English for three months to prepare him for attendance at a university in the fall, where he will pursue a degree in IT.

Pastor Samuel escorted Espoir on his long bus journey from Bukavu, through Rwanda and then to Kampala, Uganda. Then, with help from our Ugandan Oak Leaders, Elijah and Mathias (plus several other friends), Pastor Samuel managed to settle Espoir into a hostel, purchase household supplies, open a bank account and buy a cellphone. Espoir's new Netbook was stolen along the way but, thanks to the assistance of Rwandan Oak Leader, Serge Kamari, we managed to ship Espoir another.

It really does take a village! Our sincere thanks go to the many people who made Espoir's transition possible:

  • Espoir’s donors, Izabela and Glenn, for making this possible;
  • Oak Leader, Pastor Samuel, for all his hard work in getting Espoir settled, and overcoming many obstacles along the journey; and
  • Charles, Elijah, Mathias, Margaret and the team at Kulika Foundation for helping Espoir in his transition.

Espoir on his journey by bus


Espoir consulting with a teacher to set his schedule

Zingere begins her internship

(February 2012)

Congolese Strongest Oak Zingire Namegabe has begun the exciting next step toward her ultimate goal of launching her own business: an internship in advertising and sales at a bottled water manufacturer and distributor called Mugote (in Bukavu). Zingire will gain valuable, practical business experience, building sales and marketing skills. This opportunity not only paves the way to Zingire's future but also stabilizes her current situation by giving her a steady wage for one year, helping her support her daughter Ashuza in school and giving her enough money for a safe place to live and adequate food.

Thank you to the kind people who helped Zingire reach this important milestone:

  • Zingire's two anonymous Canadian donors who continue to support her by sponsoring the stipend cost of the internship;
  • Pastor Samuel for organizing the internship and securing a safe place to live for Zingire and her daughter; and
  • Dayla Maisey, Zingire's mentor, who continues to guide and support Zingire.


TSO Oaks give back to their community

(December 2011)

Despite the political uncertainty surrounding the recent 2011 Congolese elections, TSO volunteers made the holiday season a bit brighter for impoverished youth in Bukavu, Eastern Congo. Oak Leader, Pastor Samuel Muderhwa and his wife, Faida, hosted a Christmas dinner in Bukavu, DR Congo for over 360 underprivileged youth – including several orphans. The event included a series of inspirational plays, poems and songs – mostly around social themes relevant to Bukavu including rape, tribal discrimination, child labour, and the destructive impact of foreign rebels (Interhamwe) – performed by some of the older youth. TSO volunteer, Maya Moseley, along with Oaks Espoir, Zingire, and Scola (and several "Oaks-in-waiting"), helped entertain the children, served a hot meal and beverages, and led a fun drawing exercise for the kids.  Congrats to the whole TSO team on a terrific effort!

Special thanks go to the (Stace) Wills family, the (Mark) McLenahan family, Maya Moseley and her colleagues and Pastor Samuel and Faida for their generous donations that made this event possible.

A full house of over 360 youth


Activities included a
drawing exercise

The volunteers who made the party happen, including Pastor Samuel, Faida, Maya Moseley
and Strongest Oaks Zingire, Espoir and Scola

Rice and beans being prepared

Pastor Samuel shares a meal
with the children


Steven and Jeanne begin internships

(December 2011)

In addition to a formal education, work experience is an essential part of building a career. To this end, Steven Shyaka and his sister Jeanne Mutoni have obtained internships in their respective fields. Steven is working as a legal assistant in the Kigali-based law firm Rwigamba & Rugango Associates & Advocates, under the direction of Arthur Rugango and Molly Rwigamba. Jeanne is working as a accounting assistant for a rural health centre, Mareba Health Center, near Nyamata (her home village).

Steven and Jeanne receive a stipend for their internship work, helping them support themselves as they complete their studies. They are being temporarily sponsored by a member of the TSO Executive, however, we expect to soon secure long-term funding from an outside source.

A special thanks goes to Mr. Gabo Wilson of SURF (Rwanda) for his efforts in helping coordinate Steven’s internship.

Jeanne (right) at the health centre


Steven at the law office

Mentor Dayla Maisey publishes her new book

(December 2011)

We extend our congratulations to Dayla Maisey (mentor and supporter to Oaks Zingire and Neema) on her new book, The Never Ending Journey – The Intensive Care Unit (Volume 1). It’s a must read for anyone who has been touched by brain injury: survivors, family members, or friends. It also offers tremendous insight into the inner workings of the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) – an indispensable guide for family members or friends forced to deal with the serious trauma or injury of a loved one.

Check it out! The Never Ending Journey: The Intensive Care Unit (Volume 1)

Zingire and Neema graduate

(November 2011)

Our Strongest Oak sisters, Zingire Namegabe and Neema Namegabe, have completed their leather (Zingire) and wood (Neema) crafts programs at the CAPA, Centre d'Apprentissage Professional et Artisnal (Professional and Vocational Learning Centre). Stace and Dan got an opportunity to tour the CAPA in Bukavu DRC and were very impressed with the school. This is a huge step for Zingire and Neema. We will continue to support them as they look into starting their own business.

A big thank you to the kind people who helped the sisters reach their first major goal:

  • two anonymous donors from Canada who sponsored the sisters and their children by providing funding for school tuition and supplies and new clothes for both mothers and children;
  • Pastor Samuel who has provided his ongoing support as Oak Leader; and
  • Dayla Maisey, Zingire's and Neema's mentor, who has provided her guidance and support.
Zingire, Pastor Samuel, Neema
Neema, school principal Magadju, Zingire

Jeanne Mutoni begins university

(November 2011)

We don't normally get to witness important milestones of our Strongest Oaks first-hand, so it was a great honour for Stace and Dan to be with Jeanne Mutoni on her first day of university. Jeanne is registered in the Faculty of Business at Kigali Independent University and plans to get a degree in accounting.

We would like to thank Jeanne's supporters:

  • Jeanne's brother and fellow Strongest Oak, Steven Shyaka (acting in his capacity of Interim Oak Leader), for helping Jeanne with the logistics of registering for classes and moving to Kigali;
  • Glenn Assheton-Smith, one of Jeanne's donors;
  • an anonymous donor from Calgary; and
  • Irene Herremans, Jeanne's mentor and donor, for providing her guidance and support.
Steven, Jeanne & Stace at the gates of the Kigali Independent University


Brotherly love!

EduAfrica gets Charitable Status!

(October 2011)

Strongest Oak Jean de Dieu (JD) Tuyisenge has obtained charitable status for his organization EduAfrica. As we are learning, this is a very long and involved process so congratulations are certainly in order. Way to go JD!


$3,400 Raised for EduAfrica

(August 2011)

Dennis Ekvall and his wife Shirley clearly have no problem rolling up their sleeves to support Dennis' Strongest Oak Jean de Dieu (JD) Tuyisenge. JD's goal is to raise donations for his organization EduAfrica to fund scholarships for economically-challenged Rwandans. To that end, Dennis brought JD to Calgary (from his home in Vancouver) to hold a fund-raising garage sale. Also, as part of the fundraising effort, JD gave an enlightening presentation of his personal journey to the Rotary Club of Sarcee (Calgary, Canada), which resulted in further donations to EduAfrica from Rotary club members.

Between a very successful garage sale and cash donations, JD and Dennis were able to raise $3,400 − more than enough to pay the full cost for a year of schooling for three exceptional and needy Rwandan students!

Dennis and Jean de Dieu, on behalf of EduAfrica and the scholarship students in Rwanda, would like to thank all who contributed for their generous donations and hard work at the sale.

JD with hosts, Dennis (mentor) and Shirley Ekvall


JD celebrating his birthday

JD getting ready for the garage sale at the Ekvall home in Calgary

Collaborate for Good Contest

(August 2011)

As an organization whose executive team, mentors, supporters and clients (our Strongest Oaks) span four continents, having a robust and feature-rich collaboration tool is essential to our successful operation. We are very grateful to Blackboard for selecting us as a winner of a 50-seat Blackboard Collaborate Web Conferencing room through the Collaborate for Good contest.

Check out a list of all contest winners on the the Collaborate for Good contest website.You can find our submission under the heading Virtual Mentorship for Traumatized Youth in Africa.



Espoir graduates from high school

(July 2011)

We have a graduate! Our youngest Strongest Oak, Espoir Magendo, has passed his final exams at Fadhili High School (Bukavu, DRC) with flying colours. The significance of his accomplishment cannot be overstated: as the youngest of seven children, Espoir will soon be the only one to complete high school. He and his family live in extreme poverty in an Eastern Congo neighbourhood where education is a luxury. Sadly, Espoir’s siblings all had to leave school because of a lack of funding. In January of 2011, Espoir himself was forced to drop out of school, until TSO financed his past tuition debt and final two semesters.

We are proud that we could help Espoir achieve this first phase of his objective and look forward to helping him complete the next phase: enrolling in an ICT program at an English university in Uganda or Burundi.

It is important to acknowledge the kind people who have helped Espoir get this far:

  • Oak Leader, Pastor Samuel, who helped facilitate TSO’s sponsorship; and
  • Peter Bullen, Espoir’s mentor, for providing guidance and support.

Espoir in classroom


Espoir (middle) with mother, sister and brothers.

Dayla Maisey (Mentor)

(June 2011)

Being a mentor to our Strongest Oaks requires a significant level of commitment – our Oaks’ futures depend upon it. And then, sometimes, their lives depend upon it! TSO Mentor, Dayla Maisey went far beyond the call of duty on behalf of her Strongest Oak, Zingire Namegabe.

Last month Zingire became extremely ill with a bacterial infection (resulting from poor nutrition) and required emergency treatment at Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Eastern Congo. Through email from her home in Calgary, Canada, Dayla found the hospital, secured Zingire’s admittance, provided the necessary information and even paid for the medical bill. During this process, TSO discovered that Zingire’s mother and father also required immediate medical attention, and so they were treated at the same time.

Situations like this also remind us of the important role played by our local Oak Leaders. 
Pastor Samuel transported Zingire and her parents to and from the hospital and his wife, Faida, purchased food for Zingire and her family and is developing a nutrition plan for them so this doesn’t happen again.

We are so grateful to have dedicated volunteers like Dayla Maisey, Pastor Samuel and Faida! A special mention also goes out to Catherine Howell at Panzi Hospital for the tremendous care and service she provided to Zingire and her parents.

Zingire (middle) with mother (right) and
Catherine Howell of Panzi Hospital (left)

Namegabe Sisters begin school

(April 2011)

Our Strongest Oak sisters, Zingire Namegabe and Neema Namegabe, are taking their first steps toward achieving their entrepreneurial goals: attending a vocational school in Bukavu called CAPA. They are currently learning to make handicrafts for sale.

We have learned that, to truly support the goals of our Strongest Oaks, we must also help those who depend upon them. Through generous sponsorship by two Canadian individuals, Zingire's daughter Ashuza (age 4) is now attending kindergarten at Complexe Scolaire Olame Ndame and Neema's son Jordan (age 6) has begun school at Groupe Scholaire Dani.

We would like to thank the kind people who helped them get this far:

  • two anonymous donors from Canada who sponsored the sisters and their children by providing funding for school tuition and supplies and new clothes for both mothers and children;
  • Oak Leader, Pastor Samuel, who facilitated the registration of both mothers and children in school and helped them buy clothes and school supplies; and
  • Dayla Maisey, Zingire's and Neema's mentor, for providing her guidance and support.
Zingere making a purse
at vocational school


Neema making a map of Africa
at vocational school

Ashuza (standing with teacher) on
first day at kindergarten


Jordan (with Pastor Samuel)
on first day of school


Steven Shyaka begins university

(February 2011)

We are pleased to announce that our Rwandan Strongest Oak, Steven Shyaka, has begun his Law studies at Kigali Independent University. We would like to thank the kind people who helped him get there:

  • EduAfrica for providing the scholarship for tuition and books;
  • Change Lives Foundation for temporarily funding Steven's living expenses;
  • Peace Ruzage who helped Steven shop for a new school wardrobe; and
  • Ron Murch, Steven's mentor, for providing his guidance and support.
Steven cooking with his friend Brendah


Steven outside of the gates at Kigali Independent University
Steven's new home in Kigali

Charles Mugabe begins university

(December 2010)

We are pleased to announce that our Rwandan Strongest Oak, Charles Mugabe, joined the Faculty of Social Sciences at Kampala University to study Social Work. We would like to thank the kind people who helped him get there:

  • Survivors Fund for providing the funds for tuition;
  • a private Swiss donor for paying Charles' living expenses at the university dormitory;
  • Change Lives Foundation for paying for Charles' books and supplies; and
  • Deepak Karandikar, Charles' mentor, for providing his guidance and support.


Jules Ouedraogo


TSO Director, Jules Ouedraogo was awarded a $50,000 AGFUND International Prize 2010 in recognition of his work in the Burkina Faso Malaria Distance Training Project  in which he facilitated the use of ICT to develop rural and remote areas of Africa.  See the news release and watch the video.

Congratulations to TSO’s promising young Rwandan law student, Steven Shyaka, on having recently been awarded
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Success Stories

Many of our Oaks have come a long way since we met them. We would like to celebrate their successes in feature articles. Read about our next featured Oak, Gertrude Nanyonga.

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