Justin Zoradi, These Numbers Have Faces
Nine years ago Justin Zoradi made a promise that changed his life and subsequently the lives of hundreds of students across Africa. It was the summer of 2006, and Justin was in Capetown, South Africa, building houses with Habitat for Humanity and playing soccer in his free time. It was on these South African soccer fields that Justin met many talented high school students wishing to go to college. However, they were faced with the grim reality that the cost of a university education was out of their reach.
According to Justin...
When it was time for him to return home, Justin told a local soccer coach and some new friends that he wouldn’t forget them, he would do something. Keeping his promise, Justin founded the organization These Numbers Have Faces.
He chose the name These Number Have Faces because he was “sick of what I was reading in the news about Africa. They weren’t bar graphs, pie charts, or data sets. They were people, they were my friends.”
From its early days in the living room of Justin’s apartment and later a dilapidated house in Portland, Justin and a committed group of volunteers worked hard to keep Justin’s promise alive, selling t-shirts to raise money.
Now, less than 10 years later and with the help of over 20 partners, These Numbers is a thriving non-profit with programs in South Africa, Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. It focuses on 4 main goals:
- Education: Provides social impact loans for students to attend top African universities. Upon graduation, nearly 80% of the loan is forgiven, the remainder is paid-off monthly to reinvest in another student -- creating a culture of community and support (i.e. alumni network).
- Leadership: Students participate in extensive leadership training and are required to serve in their communities.
- Women’s Empowerment: According to These Numbers, “educating a woman is the greatest social investment in the world today, yet only 2% of African women complete university. We aim to change this.”
- Entrepreneurship: Through it’s new Accelerate Academy program, These Numbers Have Faces will provide training, mentoring, and access to capital for aspiring entrepreneurs.
In 2015 alone, it has granted 79 loans. And to date, These Numbers has helped nearly 350 students. These students, 59% of whom are female, have logged over 5,000 community service hours.
One of its most compelling stories started in the Gihembe Refugee Camp in northern Rwanda, where 14,000 refugees from the Democratic Republic of Congo are living. It was there that These Numbers found Jean Paul Mugisha: a young refugee who had been living in the camp for 17 years after his family was forced to flee. Despite the lack of modern facilities and textbooks at the camp, Jean Paul did the impossible: he got 100% on the Rwandan National Exam -- seemingly qualifying for a Presidential scholarship and a chance to study in the United States. However, he was denied the scholarship because he was not a Rwandan. And his parents, as refugees, could not afford to send him to a Rwandan university. With his hopes for a higher education dashed, Jean Paul began teaching school. It was there that These Numbers Have Faces found Jean Paul and 11 other talented refugees. Through the support of These Numbers Have Faces, all 12 are currently enrolled in a university. Amazing.
I just want to thank Justin and his team for their work! If you’re interested in learning more about These Numbers Have Faces, Jean Paul and hundreds of other students, please visit its website here.