Vital Nsengiyumva & Chris Haroun

Where it takes a village

Teaching and learning change things. When the course ends, that’s where possibilities begin. Sometimes it’s a change in a career, sometimes in a company, and still other times the change is in a community. That’s the story of Vital Nsengiyumva and Chris Haroun. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here.

Chris had spent years working in the private equity sector, and it had its rewards, but they weren’t particularly fulfilling. So he started teaching business skills online to learners around the globe with Udemy. One of those learners was Vital in Rwanda.

Following the Rwandan genocide in 1994, the country was ravaged and left without basic infrastructure, including a functioning educational system. Vital’s own father was one of 800,000 Tutsis killed in those 100 days of violence. Yet through scholarships, Vital was able to follow his desire to learn — from primary school in Rwanda to engineering studies in Germany. But he wasn’t done learning yet.

Chris and Vital communicated online and ultimately met in person at a Udemy event in Berlin. That’s where Chris asked Vital the question that would change everything for both of them: “If you were given time — what would you do? What are you passionate about?”

Vital’s answer became Project Magu, an internet-enabled school and computer science building in his remote Rawandan village, Magu. Vital and Chris raised funds — partially through a course that they co-taught on Udemy — and, after many rounds of planning and fundraising, they broke ground and built the school. While they expected 25 students on the school’s opening day, around 100 people showed up between the ages of 8 and 70. Project Magu hopes to open 1,000 schools in Rwanda over the coming years. Already, at the time of this writing, an additional school is planned in Melelo, Kenya, where land has already been secured.

“I grew up in that village,” Vital says of Magu. “I love to give back to that village and my country in general.” Thanks to Vital and Chris’s work with Project Magu, learners of all ages can learn skills to transform their lives, and the lives of those in their community.

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"What would you do? What are you passionate about?"

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