Visit to the Akilah Institute for Women Rwanda
January 4, 2011 · Print This Article
Muraho from Kigali!
Today I’m working from The Akilah Institute for Women in Kigali, Rwanda.
Akilah is a non-profit school that teaches hospitality, leadership, and entrepreneurship to women 18-25 here in Rwanda. Akilah was started in 2009 by Elizabeth Davis and Dave Hughes and now has fifteen full-time staff including twelve here in Rwanda and three in Tampa, Florida.
The school opened its doors in January 2010 with 50 students and will be expanding to 120 students at the end of this month in January 2011. Through the two-year program, the girls learn skills that enable them to get jobs in Rwanda’s burgeoning hotel and tourism industry that pay on average 10x more than the girls earned previously. Akilah graduates can expect to earn about $6,000 per year at an entry-level hotel position. Akilah received over 1500 applications for just 70 available spots for the class of 2012. It costs Akilah about $3,000 per student per year of education.
The Marriott, Hilton, and Radisson are currently constructing hotels here in Kigali that will open in 2012. These will be welcome additions to the current options in the city of the Hotel Milles des Collines (aka Hotel Rwanda), Manor Hotel, Serena, Top Tower, and Novotel.
More and more travelers are coming to Rwanda every year to conduct business, make investments, see the mountain gorillas in the Virungas in the Northwest, learn about the country’s extraordinary history, climb Mount Karisimbi, visit the Akagera National Park, or relax on Lake Kivu.
I met Elizabeth in October at the Opportunity Collaboration conference in Ixtapa, Mexico. In November I hosted a fundraiser for Akilah called “A Metropolitan Safari” at the iContact Offices in Raleigh at which Elizabeth and Akilah students Anita and Gisele gave a moving presentation. During the eight-city tour that included Tampa, New York, Providence, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C., and Raleigh, Elizabeth, Anita, and Gisele raised $185,000 for the organization, all going to girls scholarships.
Expansion Plans for Akilah
Akilah is currently raising funds for girls scholarships to enable them to get through 2011. You can learn more on their web site about donation options.
Akilah plans to expand from 120 students to 800 in the coming years. They have recently received rights to 40 acres of land from the Rwandan government to build their new campus thirty minutes south of Kigali in Bugesera at the site of an old Italian School that shut down in the 1990s.
Here is how the Akilah model works. Central to the model is the expectation and obligation that each young women who attends Akilah will eventually pay for another to go to school in the future, using a portion of the increase in income they now have.
What is Happening in Rwanda Today
It’s truly amazing what is happening here in Rwanda in 2011 after such a tumultuous history. Kagame has chosen to focus on building Rwanda into the tourism and IT hub of Africa and growing the country through private sector development. He says if Singapore and South Korea did it, why can’t Rwanda. The country is stable, developing rapidly, and extremely welcoming. Akilah is just one example of many of the wonderful things happening here!
More to come from Rwanda in the days ahead…