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Daring to Change the World

By Aaron Kirunda

Through my University days, I was intrigued by Frantz Fanon’s idea that every generation must, out of relative obscurity, discover its mission, fulfill it, or betray it. This kept me thinking a lot about what I could do to make a mark on my generation, to contribute positively to making life better.

Young and un-focused, I swung into action, doing everything from environmental advocacy to peace and conflict resolution. With friends, we organized GuluWalks in Kampala to raise awareness for the children in Northern Uganda and lobbied Parliament to take action; we reached out to schools and talked about HIV/AIDS prevention and engaged other young people in leadership development. I became a counselor, activist, advocate, minister, mobilizer, youth leader and social entrepreneur. I shared what I knew and I sought for more. I attended conferences and networked with everyone, piling for myself thousands of business cards I would never use – for I never really knew the owners. All this never seemed fruitful. I knew there was something more I needed to do.

After going through the LSE Programme for African Leadership, inaugural class in 2012, I was energized. I got an epiphany and I wrote a concept to run a Youth Parliament in Uganda. I thought about details, laid out a clear program on how it would involve many people. The whole idea was to develop among the youth a desire to provide leadership that matters, to have the values of accountability, integrity and become the new breed that would change the state of things in their country and I started looking for funding. It was all-promising. Then I thought, how much impact can I really create by working and targeting young adults. I knew that the biggest challenges in my country were foundational. I thought again. I live in one of the youngest country’s in the world. According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics 52% of our population is below the age of 15. It is an opportunity in crisis. 71% of our children who joined primary one in 2006 never finished primary seven in 2012. This is disheartening. I had to think better. I had to act better. I had to dare to believe in the possibilities. I had to dare to change things in my world – to change the world.

Spelling Bee is the idea. It is done in several countries for English comprehension. We had to design one that does more. That would enable our children learn words, their meanings and how to use them in sentences, develop key life skills like confidence and critical thinking, exercise their brains and involve parents and teachers.

We talked, we retreated, we scribbled, we read, we researched, and we talked again. The idea was crystalizing into something real. We plugged into the psychology of understanding and action, we explored the science of brain development and the art of decision making. It all came together. There was one way to change the world – WORDS. Jim Collins led us to this discovery when he said that there are two ways to change the world, the pen and the sword. Those who choose the sword were however inspired by those who write. Those who write, write words, so "Words Change the World."

We became deliberate. We started putting together words. Positive words. So our children would spell positive words that would instill in them a positive attitude and the values of Character, Responsibility, Excellence, Empathy and Discipline (CREED). We designed it in such away that our children will be able to develop key life skills as well as improve their academic performance. The children will become more competent and will be able to pass exams and their confidence will go up. In turn, they will stay in school longer – reducing on the high drop out rate and they will become more successful. In the long run our work ethic will improve and so will be our productivity. Corruption will drastically fall and our leaders both in business and the public sphere will provide leadership that matters, taking responsibility, striving for excellent service provision and being empathetic, considering the people they serve more than themselves. These will change our world – the whole world in a way. We hope.

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