Alumni Venture Fund

The Alumni Ventures Fund offers graduates of the Young Leaders Program a unique opportunity to turn their vision plans into concrete projects with a start-up grant of up to $5,000 and a year of mentorship. With a total of eight recipients since the Fund’s founding in 2009, the AVF has helped young leaders from the United States, Tanzania, Norway, and South Africa achieve their goals of being changemakers in the communities.

Past AVF Recipients

2016 AVF Recipient
Hennie Kongsøre, 23, Oslo, Norway

In 2014, Hennie founded a non-profit organization Rafiki NGO to raise money to rebuild a community center in Bagamoyo, Tanzania. The original center had been demolished due to a lack of funding and non-ownership of the land, and after seeing the positive impact the center had had on children and youth, she wanted to do all she could to help the community continue to help youth develop skills and build confidence.

After fundraising in Norway, Rafiki helped fund the purchase of land and reconstruction. Now with help from a $5,000 grant from the AVF, construction will finally be completed and the center will soon open for classes and projects; Hennie estimates this can be as soon as late summer. She will also be living in Bagamoyo during this time, helping to oversee the final construction and the startup of classes. The center will empower youth through dance and the arts, as well as provide classes in English, mathematics, and health.

“I am so grateful for being chosen to receive the AVF grant and most of all to get a whole year of professional mentorship,” Hennie says. “I can truly see a bright future for my project and a positive change in the community in Bagamoyo.”

2016 AVF Recipient
Xolani Makhebe, 25, Cape Town, South Africa

Xolani is from Cape Town, South Africa, and attended his first Young Leaders Program retreat in 2015.

Along with a year of mentorship to provide guidance on further developing his project, Xolani will receive a grant a $2,337 to help fund his vision TUMO – The Unlimited Movement Organization. 2mo. Xolani first had the idea for TUMO when he donated a brand new school uniform to a boy in need in 2013. From this, Xolani founded TUMO with a vision to make sustainable changes in people’s lives by empowering them through career guidance, education, and tutoring. Recognizing the burden education fees place on young students without financial resources, TUMO plans to cover the costs of university registration fees for the most-improved students it tutors.

“This is not just a fund for me, this is a gift from people who care about me and what I do,” says Xolani. “It will make a huge difference to TUMO. It’s an amazing feeling to know that TUMO will have its first resources.”

2015 AVF Recipient
Abdu Mohamed, 26, Arusha, Tanzania

Abdu’s The Way Forward Foundation aims to educate communities in Tanzania about United Nations Millennium Development Goals, provide scholarships to impoverished children so that they can pursue education, and to train youth about life skills. With the AVF funds, The Way Forward was able to purchase equipment and materials to further implement this vision, including producing a song and video documentary. So far they have trained about 3,000 students in six secondary schools, 500 youth from Tanzanian communities, and 600 parents. “We have seen so much feedback of appreciation on our programs and we have created cooperation with other organizations and government… are we moving forward,” says Abdu. Lean more about The Way Forward Foundation.

2014 AVF Recipient
Dylan Howard, 23, Maine, USA

Dylan received his grant to support his work with the Caterpillar Hill Initiative (CHI), a non-profit in Maine that helped to turn a piece of property on the coast into a space for the arts, for which Dylan has served as President since 2012. With a vision of not only preserving the beautiful piece of land, CHI is committed to “connecting people to the natural world through art” and hosts an on-site art gallery to showcase the works of local artists, while also serving as a space for the community to host workshops, retreats, and conferences. The grant provided by the AVF helped CHI with construction of an amphitheater that will provide a public space for these community events, and attract a year-round source of customers that will provide funding to maintain CHI’s preservation goals.

2012 AVF Recipient
Chris Bashinelli, 24, Brooklyn, New York

Chris’s vision when applying for the AVF was to return to the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota so that he could screen a rough cut of the documentary he had previously filmed there. The project, called Bridge the Gap, explores life on the reservation and promotes crosscultural understanding; the screening allowed the community to provide feedback to ensure the final version of Bridge the Gap accurately portrayed the culture of and life in Pine Ridge. Chris has gained significant audience and continued the Bridge the Gap series since his visit to South Dakota, expanding the series to include Haiti, Uganda, and Mongolia; all four episodes are now airing on the National Geographic Channel International. “I hold MCW to be profoundly impactful in my professional and personal life,” says Chris. “After being a part of the 2009 retreat I made friendships and connections that changed my life forever. I’m unbelievably grateful and look forward to paying it forward in some way.”

2010 AVF Recipient
Felix Nyakatale, 30, Bagamoyo, Tanzania

Felix’s vision was to establish a School of Tanzanian Cuisines in Bagamoyo and help students gain the skills necessary to obtain jobs in the hospitality and hotel industry. The restaurant he established, called Poa Poa, features a modern twist on Tanzanian cuisine and has become one of the must-see spots in the center of old Bagamoyo town. In 2015, Felix has expanded Poa Poa restaurant to include an Inn.

2009 AVF Recipient
Amma Agyapon, 27, New York, NY

Amma’s vision was to organize a multi-media event in her community to raise awareness of Lukumi culture and religion, as well as the rites of passage programs sponsored by Egbe Iwa Odo Kunrin/Binrin (The Society of Young Men and Women). Amma’s event, Egbe Iwa Day, included the production of a music video to celebrate the organization, and helped recruit new members to join the organization, serve as mentors, and lead workshops to teach adolescents tools for adulthood. Since the original Egbe Iwa Day, Amma’s vision has continued: the event has been repeated three times since first implemented in 2010, and the song Amma recorded has continued to be used in recruitment efforts for the organization. Amma was “especially excited about receiving a year’s worth of mentorship. Since all of us are volunteers, we will definitely appreciate help with event planning,” she said. Watch the video Amma helped produce to aid her organization’s recruitment.

2009 AVF Recipient
Shawn Crosby, 19, Cleveland, OH

Shawn grew his vision of a platform for teens to voice their opinions into a fully functioning non-profit, the American Children’s Organization (TACO), which he originally founded in 2006. According to Shawn, the AVF grant “was seed money that helped us get our initial incorporation [as a non-profit] and start funding our programming.” Today, TACO helps keep high school students in the Atlanta area on track towards preparing for college. Additionally, the organization uses an after-school program to inspire elementary and middle school students to think about their futures and possible career paths. Shawn says, “MCW helped me to organize my thoughts and make sense of the passion I had for youth and my community.”