Helping Ugandan women create revenue with handcrafts
Starting where you are, with what you have
“Start where you are, with what you have.” This is advice Paul Tinkaman often gives to youth he meets in his work through his youth-led development agency, Tinkasoft International.
Paul knows the wisdom of this idea. Originally from a village in Kamuli District, Paul graduated from university and realized finding a job in the city was not easy. He applied for many jobs and volunteered, but was discouraged when nothing led to employment.
“Many children and youth have dreams of leaving their homes… with the aim of going to big cities to start good life. But to their surprise, life in the city is completely different,” Paul says. “I was able to witness such scenarios when I finished school and I was jobless. I thought of selling off my cows and go in the city, but the experience of those who had gone in the city was not encouraging.”
Discouraged and unsure what to do next, Paul received an invitation from Ali Kaviri, one of his friends and a DOT facilitator, to participate in a DOT Uganda program. Though he was initially skeptical, he went from his village to Kampala to attend the program.
“This started my life-changing journey,” says Paul. “The friendly youthful atmosphere made it easier to learn, not stressful and quite engaging. I received a lifetime’s worth of training from DOT in just a few months.”
Paul learned important business skills, such as how to develop a vision, map resources, identify opportunities, and much more. The DOT program also helped Paul clarify what he wanted to do: help children and youth. He realized he didn’t need to find a job to do it.
“I remember Ali telling me, ‘I know you can do it,’” Paul says. “Ali’s encouragement sparked a new wave of confidence in me.”
When he conducted a market survey, Paul found the best starting point for him was his village. There was an opportunity for him to transform the lives of children and youth in Kamuli District, and he seized it.
Paul had started a development agency a few years earlier. Invigorated by his DOT training, he re-launched Tinkasoft International with new enthusiasm.
Tinkasoft works to bring an end to extreme poverty in Uganda by empowering children with the skills and knowledge to lead a positive and happy life. It helps children develop the skills they need for a purposeful and fulfilling life; skills such as teamwork, social responsibility, critical thinking, and budgeting and saving. It also relies heavily on mentorship, providing children with trusted mentors to guide and support them.
“I like working with children and youth because they have the energy, have new ideas and they are always willing to learn. All they need is someone to mentor them,” says Paul.
Since Paul launched Tinkasoft International in his home district, Tinkasoft has reached thousands of children. Strong partnerships with schools and organizations including Peace Corps Uganda and Educate! Uganda have made it possible for Tinkasoft to transform many communities beyond Kamuli. Tinkasoft participants have won national business competitions and have launched startups. In 2014, Paul was awarded a Tumaini Award for his work in children’s education.
Paul views technology as the backbone of Tinkasoft International. “Without technology we cannot exist.” Tinkasoft relies on digital tools to reach those who need its services, and Paul teaches youth and Tinkasoft volunteers how to use their smartphones and laptops as mobile offices.
His experience at DOT was critical in giving him the digital skills he needed to run Tinkasoft, just as it was important in helping him cultivate the knowledge and networks to get the organization off the ground.
“I am beyond grateful to the DOT team, truly encouraging young people” says Paul.
DOT has truly encouraged Paul to think big. He plans to expand Tinkasoft to all regions of Uganda, and wants to work with more NGOs in the future.
Paul started where he was, with what he had. From that strategy, he has built an incredible organization supporting so many children all around Uganda. Paul jokes, “My future’s so bright that you all will need sunglasses to watch me.”
“I like working with children and youth because they have the energy, have new ideas and they are always willing to learn. All they need is someone to mentor them.”
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