By Donah Mbabazi
23-year-old Willy Shema has a vision to create a generation of young people capable of leading themselves, their communities and their continent.
As a God-fearing, energetic and young visionary leader, Shema says he is driven by an endearing heart of helping, mentoring and nurturing fellow youth to become their best, and to make the world a better place.
In a way to embark on fulfilling this dream, he established Ishema Foundation. And through this platform, he works to raise the spirit of self-leadership in young people, and promote their talents with a purpose of playing their role in resolving problems within their communities.
This is done through the organisation of forums and trainings that aim to equip members with skills in areas such as leadership and entrepreneurship. They also have access to counselling services and platforms for co-curricular activities such as music, poetry and theatre. As a foundation based on charity and humanitarian works, focus is put on showing love and care, especially to the needy.
With this, Shema hopes to set pace for positive change with unconventional influence by embracing and igniting character, virtue, integrity among the youth.
His work is based on his belief in humility, diligence, passion, commitment and team work because with it, lies great achievement for society as a whole, he says.
“Transforming the mind-set of the youth is crucial. With it, they can play a big role in the development of their communities and rise into a generation of diligent people, as well as turn into change-makers in the world,” he adds.
Birth of the idea
Seven years ago, Shema’s long-time friend ended up abusing drugs, something he says broke his heart, and pushed him into thinking that something should be done and that he had to take the lead.
He started off by visiting some youth who came back from Iwawa Rehabilitation Centre (a rehabilitation centre for drug addicts) with the intent of knowing what pushes them into using drugs.
“I found out that most of them didn’t know or understand their purpose for living, others lacked guidance, love and affection. I can say that poor parental guidance is one of the root causes of the challenges society faces today. Parents should know that their kids need them more than what they provide,” he says.
This was his reason to set up this foundation, he wanted to address challenges caused by a lack of hope, family conflicts and lack of responsibility among the youth, he says.
As an uprising organisation, Ishema has been able to perform different engagements to help the community.
On top of the trainings, they also have a scholarship programme where they currently have children in primary school. They pay their school fees and provide school materials.
The foundation’s yearly event ‘Re-birth of a thousand hills’ has been a platform where the youth have a chance to reflect on the rebirth of their country.
“We have different themes related to the country’s development to discuss. The aim of this event is to remind the youth that though our parents are responsible for the re-birth of our country, we also have a role to play,” Shema says.
The foundation also organises Kwibuka events during the commemoration period. During this time, the partakers aim to inspire and remind the youth of their part in the development of the country, and with this, they have also used the platform to assume responsibility by helping a number of survivors of the 1994 Genocide against the Tutsi by providing them with basic necessities in their lives.
Shema goes on to hail the impact of this platform, especially with trainings and discussions, which he says has offered a platform of independence for the youth.
“The foundation organises a monthly discussion programme. Each discussion has a different theme, and there is an open mic for everybody to discuss what they think about the topic. These discussions help the youth to reflect on their habits and decide if they are really helping them reach the level of growth our country wants,” he reveals.
Shema plans on starting programmes that address mental health as one of the issues most youth are facing.
“We are also thinking of opening a centre specifically for this and also continue to look at how we can improve what we are doing and create a bigger impact in society.”