By Shannon Reres, Marketing Associate
Building up student leaders
In 2009, the Jenzabar Foundation inaugurated a grant series called the Student Leadership Awards (SLA). The mission? To recognize outstanding service work in student groups, across our country and world. Eight years later, the Jenzabar Foundation has given more than 50 of these awards, totaling over $250,000.
Ranging from student governments to international aid campaigns, the recipients have done outstanding work and made lasting impacts in both their communities and their world. A shining example of one of these recipients is Brin Enterkin, recently recognized by Forbes as one of 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs for her work with The African SOUP, a nonprofit dedicated to providing quality, hands-on education in rural Uganda.
The seeds for the SOUP were sewn in 2009 when Brin Enterkin, a sophomore at Berry College, traveled to Iganga, Uganda for an internship in microfinance. On the trip, she befriended Michael Kaidhiwa, who introduced her to Nabikabala Village—the rural community in which he’d grown up.
“It was a unique experience,” remembers Enterkin, “seeing what rural communities looked like.” While the children seemed happy, they were not attending any formal education.
Kaidhiwa asked if Enterkin would be interested in working with him to help his community. While she was enthusiastic, she was unsure what that would entail. “Let’s come up with a list of priorities that you think the community needs and wants,” she remembers telling him. “And then we can work together to develop out a solution.”
Innovating through community collaboration
So that’s exactly what Enterkin and Kaidhiwa did. Taking meticulous measures to involve the community in every part of the development process, they made a list of priorities. They bought land. They built a school.
In 2010, the Jenzabar Foundation gave the SOUP one of its first substantial grants. “It was one of the first formal gifts towards the SOUP,” Enterkin says. “It was transformative … giving us the legs to do the first formal steps in building.”
The SOUP draws its name from the Stone Soup fable. In the story, as retold by Enterkin, the soup begins as a humble broth but, because everyone in the community brings something to contribute, it becomes a rich and hearty soup—a soup that can feed the entire community. Like its namesake, the SOUP is a product of the community’s collaborative and pioneering spirit.
Taking a holistic approach
It’s this community-centric approach to which Enterkin credits so much of the SOUP’s success. Today, eight years after its start, the SOUP offers a host of educational opportunities—serving over 600 children in rural Uganda. Their facilities are expansive, including a nursery, preschool, primary school, and boarding services. But it doesn’t stop there. Education is but one piece to the SOUP’s multidimensional approach, which includes community outreach programs, sustainability projects, a bio gas kitchen, sprawling gardens, and housing for teachers.
The SOUP’s multidimensional and holistic approach is evident in everything they do—be it in the classroom, community, or world—and vital to their success. This is perhaps most apparent in their innovative method of teaching. “In Uganda, there’s a huge focus on rote memorization,” says Enterkin. After observing classes, she realized there were students who were struggling to engage with the current model. Together, the SOUP team curated and piloted a method of teaching, grounded in active learning. “It is based on what actually works in communities,” says Enterkin. “Not something that’s developed in the ivory towers.”
The results speak for themselves. Ranked second out of 200 schools in the district and advancing one hundred percent of secondary students to the next grade level, the SOUP is thriving.
The SOUP is a testament to the power of teamwork and community. Through their unswerving collaborative and innovative spirit, the SOUP has made an indelible impact, making the world a better place. Jenzabar is thrilled to bear witness to their growth and success—we know this is just the beginning.