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Eric Glustrom was an ordinary kid with a typical penchant for “testing the limits,” he says. In order to convince his parents to let him go to Uganda for over the summer before his senior year of high school, he had to be on his best behavior for an entire year.
Just before his trip, he got the permission he craved, and went to Uganda to film a documentary that he now modestly calls “more of a home movie.”
While there, he met and filmed the story of Benson Olivier, who was a refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). Benson and his friends became an inspiration for Eric. At one point, he asked them, what can I do for your country? Benson’s response was simple and clear: educate me, and I will help my country.
Even before leaving Uganda, 17-year-old Eric Glustrom launched what has become Educate! Educate! is a not-for-profit organization that seeks to do four things:
Long term mentorship
Education using a curriculum focused on leadership and entrepreneurship
Create a network of peers
Provide access to capital and other opportunities
Now ten years old, the program led by a seasoned social entrepreneur of just 27 years is having a huge impact in a country that desperately needs it. Already 3,600 students have completed their program and the Ugandan government recently adopted the open-source curriculum for 25,000 additional students in public schools.
Benson Wereje, another one of the early students, has now graduated from the university and is among the best educated people in in the DRC. He and other friends who completed Educate! training in the first class have launched a program the called Coburwas (Congo Burundi Uganda Rwanda and Sudan) that enables “young leaders to transform their communities by starting social innovative ventures to solve problems of tribalism, unemployment, poverty, lack of access to education, violence to women, corruption and environment degradation.”
Last week, I told you about Nathaniel Houghton, the founder of the Congo Leadership Initiative. He built his program in the poorest country on earth, inspired by and modeled on the Educate! model. Both have made their curricula open source, allowing anyone who chooses to use it to educate youth as leaders–and tens of thousands of kids in the developing world are now being educated with their materials.
As the ripples of success expand from the stone that Eric dropped in Uganda ten years ago, it is clear that what he’s created are tidal waves that will wear away at and eventually topple “poverty, disease, violence, and environmental degradation” not only in Uganda but throughout the region.
I don’t know about you, but I’d call that a “mark on the world.” Where’s yours?