Alumni Ventures Fund

The Alumni Ventures Fund offers graduates of our international Young Leaders Access Program a unique opportunity to turn their vision plans into concrete community-based projects with a start-up grant of up to $5,000 and a year of professional mentorship. With 13 recipients since the Fund’s founding in 2009, AVF has helped young leaders achieve their personal goals of being changemakers in their communities. Here they are!


Italo Alves, Brazil  (2018) 

Italo is one of the leaders of TODXS, a non-profit that aims to tackle the exclusion of the LGBTI community in Brazil, which has limited access to resources to empower their lives. Italo will use the AVF grant to continue his work with TODXS Ambassadors, aiming to identify, connect, and empower young LGBTI leaders to work toward more inclusive communities in the country.

“I am super excited about representing the MCW Young Leaders Program through the TODXS Ambassadors project. We are the first LGBTI project sponsored by the grant and also the first in Latin America. As a member of this historically marginalized community, it feels amazing to be able to have access to such an incredible opportunity.”

Kelvin Kiko Muuo, Kenya (2018)

Kiko established the startup Angaza Elimu in December 2016, aiming to tackle the education gap in Kenya by introducing digital technology to the teaching and learning experience.

Growing up in Kenya, Kiko knew firsthand about the inefficient classrooms and inadequate educational materials, which is what drove him to want to “elevate the classroom experience.”

To do this, he developed a digital platform that combines e-learning with a simple classroom setup that releases teachers from demanding administrative tasks and gives them the time to focus on teaching the curriculum.

Disrupt Africa, a news portal covering the continent’s tech startups, explains: “Schools utilizing Angaza Elimu receive a computer with its preinstalled e-learning software and a projector to allow the teacher to share material with the classroom. Multimedia content is used to reinforce the learning process and make it fun, with the solution strengthening, rather than replacing, the student-teacher relationship.”

Kiko says the Alumni Ventures Fund grant has helped make this possible.

“The AVF grant has been a gift to Kenyan students. We have been able to reach more schools and to achieve on our mission of elevating the classroom experience.”

The result has been transformative. Take a look.

Cody Jacobs, Long Island/Brooklyn, New York, USA (2017)

Cody’s project, CUBA: A Cooperative Future, aimed to bridge the gap between the USA and Cuba through the knowledge of cooperatives. Cody visited and spent time with Cuban cooperatives to create a photo essay and book. Her research led her to a strong belief in the power of cooperatives to uplift entire communities with a focus on how women are lead economic development around the world. She now works as a Program Manager, for Women Entrepreneurs NYC, WE NYC, the official initiative of the city of New York to support and empower women entrepreneurs.

“Through the years and especially through my experiences with MCW, I learned more and more about injustice and oppression around the world, but most importantly about our ability to make the world a better place. I am committed to using photography as a tool for change. With the AVF I finally had an opportunity to do just that: to document change as it is happening, and share it with the world.”

Learn more here:

Fredrick Meena, Mbeya, Tanzania (2017)

As part of the MCW Oral Health Care Program, Fredrick has continued to work on his project, Oral Hygiene Practices in the Community, which aims to educate about oral health and introduce basic care to prevent oral diseases in local communities in Tanzania. The AVF grant enabled him to expand his project to additional communities and to include disabled children.

Fredrick is currently preparing to return to the communities he first visited (orphan and disability centers) as part of his AVF project and provide free dental screening and oral health advice.

“AVF means a lot to me because it will help me reach the rural community and provide oral health hygiene education.”

Timurlan Alagushov, Bihskek, Kyrgyzstan (2017)

Timurlan used the award to create a new mobile platform for his organization, Let’s Dance. The organization’s mission is to provide dance education through people, technologies and events and to create an environment where young people can develop both as artists and professionals.

“Receiving such support as the AVF for the current period of my project development is like finding oasis in a desert. Let’s Dance will change the dance industry all around the world and will help to bring the most value of the art of dance to people, beginning from my local community to global.”


Hennie Kongsøre, Oslo, Norway (2016)

In 2014, Hennie founded a non-profit, RAFIKI, to raise money to support children in the Tanzanian town of Bagamoyo. Her vision was to create a safe and secure space where children could come after school to learn, be creative and find inspiration.

Having lived in Bagamoyo for several years, Hennie saw that many of the young people she met lacked the confidence and opportunity to advance their own dreams. As a dancer, she knew the power of art and creativity on an individual’s life, so she decided that she wanted to use them as tools to make a positive impact.

From that moment on, her mission was to build an arts center for children in Bagamoyo. Yet, the journey to achieve this mission has been a long and tough one.

Along the way, she raised start-up funds in Norway, built trust and understanding in the community, and opened up a center.

The AVF grant from MCW helped Rafiki’s future looked promising.

Unfortunately, despite the support she had gained along the way, Hennie lost everything she had built up due to a series of unexpected challenges and circumstances.

Still, she never lost sight of her goal. With the support of her dedicated board members, she eventually changed her strategy and brought all the experience and knowledge with her to a new phase of the project. Thanks to the AVF grant, RAFIKI was able to cover the first year of rent and construct a new dance stage.

On September 22, RAFIKI held its grand opening with almost 400 community members participating in the festival. Since then, children have been participating in RAFIKI’s dance, yoga, street dance, and fine art classes and the center has been fully active.

“It is hard to believe how far we have reached. I was so grateful when I received the AVF grant, but after seeing the actual result – the physical structure, our own space, and the development as an organization, I am more than humbled. MCW, you gave me so much more than just a grant. You believed in my vision, you mentored me through the ups and downs. I am forever grateful and humble for your support and to call you my family.”

Xolani Makhebe, Cape Town, South Africa (2016)

Xolani received a grant to help fund TUMO – The Unlimited Movement Organization. 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.”

Abdu Mohamed, Arusha, Tanzania (2015)

Established in 2013, Abdu’s  The Way Forward Foundation aimed to educate communities in Tanzania about United Nations Millennium Development Goals (UNMDGs), provide scholarships to disadvantaged children to pursue educational opportunities, and and to educate about life skills. With the AVF grant, The Way Forward purchased equipment and materials to support the pursuit of these goals, as well as to produce a song and video documentary. During the execution of Abdu’s project from 2015-2016,  3,000 students in six secondary schools and 500 youth, and 600 parents engaged in foundation programs. The foundation is no longer in operation.

“We have seen so much feedback with appreciation of our programs and we created cooperation with other organizations and the government.”

Dylan Howard, Maine, USA (2014)

Dylan received a 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. 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. AVF helped CHI build an amphitheater that will provide a public space for community events, and attract a year-round source of customers that will help fund CHI’s preservation.

Chris Bashinelli, Brooklyn, New York, USA (2012)

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. 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.”

Felix Nyakatale, Bagamoyo, Tanzania (2010)

Felix’s initial 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. This evolved into the opening of his restaurant, Poa Poa, which features a modern twist on Tanzanian cuisine. Today, Poa Poa is one of the most popular spots in Bagamoyo.

Amma Agyapon, New York, New York, USA (2009)

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. Watch the video Amma helped produce to aid her organization’s recruitment.

Shawn Crosby, Cleveland, Ohio, USA (2009)

Shawn grew his vision of a platform for teens to voice their opinions into a non-profit organization, the American Children’s Organization (TACO), which he set up in 2006. TACO is committed to inspiring young people from diverse backgrounds to be fully engaged in school and life so they have opportunity and choice to pursue their dreams.

“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. MCW helped me to organize my thoughts and make sense of the passion I had for youth and my community.”