Erica MATASI GATEKA is currently studying at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. While in Burundi, after her bachelor’s studies at the International Leadership University of Burundi in 2015, she came up with an idea of implementing a social enterprise for the betterment of the Burundian communities and youth. In August 2019, with some of her former classmates, she created Love and Hands Burundi.
Love and Hands comes from a passion of seeing change in Burundi, seeing young Burundians take ownership and take the change they want to see
Akeza.net: Who is Erica MATASI GATEKA?
Erica MATASI GATEKA: My name is Erica MATASI GATEKA. I am a social entrepreneur and co-founder of a social enterprise called Love and Hands Burundi. I graduated in Business Administration from the International Leadership University of Burundi in 2015. Since September 2019, I am currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Development Practice at the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom. I am passionate about asset based development and learning for Development Practice.
Akeza.net: Tell us about your company Love and Hands Burundi
Erica MATASI GATEKA: Love and Hands is a social enterprise working to change the way community development is done. We enable communities and individuals to improve their well-being, drive their own development and take action through connecting challenges to existing assets. We believe that for development to be sustainable, it should be driven by the people for which it is intended.
Akeza.net: How and why did you come with the idea of creating Love Hands Burundi?
Erica MATASI GATEKA: Basically, Love and Hands comes from a passion of seeing change in Burundi, seeing young Burundians take ownership and take the change they want to see. Therefore, when I finished my studies at the International Leadership University in 2015, I had projects but no resources to fund them. Eventually I struggled to find a job. I had got a diploma and hoped to get a good job. I realized that the best way to start anything is to start with what you have. As I had been studying in English since kindergarten, I was able to teach English. Then, I started teaching children how to read and write in the veranda of their houses. Afterwards, I started working with the communities, the marginalized.
Though I was doing a good thing, I realized that I was simultaneously doing a bad one by not allowing the community to take action in solving their own problems. After feeling very frustrated, I came across an approach of teaching people to use what they have. I wanted communities to get rid of this mentality of saying, “I don’t have money” and say, “what do I have that I can be using this time to develop myself and develop my community”. So, I started using the parents of the 25 children I was teaching. That’s even how we started working as a community. Those parents of the children started by then their own businesses. From there, we realized that this project is very sustainable. When I started Love and Hands, I worked on my own for six months and then other young Burundian joined me. They were my former classmates. That’s how we grew as a group.
Akeza.net: What are domains and sectors of intervention of your company?
Erica MATASI GATEKA: We work in different sectors with agricultural projects, entrepreneurship or self-reliance, climate change… To that, because it’s an approach, we can add anything that is connected to community change.
Currently we have mostly worked with women in empowerment projects, youth empowerment and employment projects. We have worked with universities on leadership programs because we offer this program to universities, and in sectors of agriculture, in sectors of savings and social programs, and entrepreneurship, education …
Our second intervention is going to be forwarded in youth empowerment programs where we are going to put together young who have been graduated from the university and who are still unemployed in Bujumbura and in different parts of Burundi, to start asset based businesses basically by teaching them to start with what they have, an entrepreneurship training for young Burundians who have graduated from Burundi.
Akeza.net: As a student, is it easy to take part in activities of your company?
Erica MATASI GATEKA: Actually, at first, I thought I will not be able to contribute because of school matters. But, now I realized that, as I am working with a team, I will be helping with writing projects and whatever doesn’t require my physical presence. So, I have to manage my time.
Akeza.net: Tell us about your company’s recent virtual workshop in the Diaspora
Erica MATASI GATEKA: We realized that many young people around the world have great ideas with a great potential to contribute in changing the communities in which they live as well as contribute to the development of Burundi. But quite often, they lack support and mentorship to bring those ideas to life. Therefore, through the « Ideas to action » virtual workshops, we used the asset-based community development approach to help them bring their ideas to life. The virtual workshop was hence about bringing together their ideas so as to put together what we call assets solutions to the challenges they have identified so that we can put it together. We ran a four weeks’ training. We were ten young Burundians in the Diaspora from different countries including China, Belgium, Sweden, United Kingdom, United States, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Iraq.
Akeza.net: What are your next projects?
Erica MATASI GATEKA: We are continuing to consult with the organizations which are working in diverse communities development views. Our second intervention is going to be forwarded in youth empowerment programs where we are going to put together young who have been graduated from the university and who are still unemployed in Bujumbura and in different parts of Burundi, to start asset based businesses basically by teaching them to start with what they have, an entrepreneurship training for young Burundians who have graduated from Burundi.
We hope to reach about 500 young people by the end of 2021. But on the top of that, we would like to build research, start research on what works in Burundi basically to stamp out the outdated habit of saying “what is from our homeland is not good”. We want to prove that there are plenty of things from Burundi that can support the development thanks to research, strategies and solutions.
Interview by Melchisédeck BOSHIRWA