YID-Alumni Spotlight – John Fatoye, Ilorin, Nigeria

In 2006, four thousand workers at the Nigeria Telecommunication (NITEL) lost their jobs. John Fatoye’s father was one of them. At the time, John was in his second year of junior school. It didn’t take long before he began to feel the impact of financial hardship on his family – Food portions and the frequency of meals reduced. He also turned into a fee defaulter. John had to learn early to contribute to family income. He was almost a part of the statistic of out-of-school children with his dreams of becoming a medical doctor in jeopardy. It was at this point that he saw the light in the tunnel. John participated in a state-level debate competition and won a scholarship that helped him complete his senior secondary education and all four years of his first degree at the tertiary level.

In 2018, as a second-year medical student (in his second bachelor’s degree), he knew it was time to pay it forward. He started the Yattiyr Scholarship initiative with no prior experience in non-profit, alongside seven friends, to proffer innovative solutions to the inaccessibility to quality education through advocacy, sponsorship and mentorship. His organization connected sponsors with children who needed financial aid to remain in school. The organization was doing well enough – 50 students got a full scholarship for their secondary education (8 of which are now graduates), 18 senior students received WASSCE Exam support. About 150 teachers got trained on digital skills. However, for people like John, “well enough” wasn’t enough. He identified his knowledge gap and wrote it as his list of goals for the year 2020.

One of my 2020 targets was to attend a high profile fellowship that would help me attain my next level of social impact growth,” John said

A friend recommended the Youth-in-Development (YID) Bootcamp & Fellowship program to him, and he sent in his application.

“The Bootcamp was exactly what I was looking for! The YID radicalized my understanding and experience of social entrepreneurship. The session on ‘Human-centered design thinking’ by Bukky Shonibare was an eye-opener for me! I realized that my approach to solution-creation was all wrong!!” he said.

After attending the 4-day Bootcamp in Abuja (an 8-hour road trip from his state of residence, Kwara state), he performed the obligatory step-down training. His successful implementation and exceptional performance at the interview stage got him selected for the fellowship program.

The grant writing classes and pitching exercises at the YID fellowship helped me secure full scholarship sponsorship for students at YSI! With this sponsorship, 50 students will get to complete their primary and secondary education.“.

After the boot camp, John and his team optimized YSI’s fundraising process by setting up the ‘Sponsor a kid initiative’ on their website to attract both local and international sponsors; launched a teenagers Bootcamp (the REYL Bootcamp), and a learning hub where students can access learning resources to boost their academic performance.

Our program design and implementation process of REYL Bootcamp was very different from the old processes we used for previous programs. We have run two cohorts of the REYL, which has received a lot of emotional feedback from facilitators, beneficiaries and parents of beneficiaries”.

Moving forward, John is looking to scale up the work at YSI, which involves doubling the number of beneficiaries, hosting regional teacher’s digital skills training and teens Bootcamp for north-central Nigeria. When it comes to paying it forward, John Fatoye is doing some impressive work indeed.

Help encourage john Fatoye, share kind words and commendations using the comment box below.

SAFE Academy Alumni Spotlight – Ali Ajagbe

Alli Ajagbe is a 2017 Alumni of the Sozo Networks SAFE Academy. He is a Tech enthusiast passionate about finding spaces to utilize his tech skills for community development. He is keenly interested in Computer Science and politics. Alli sees himself becoming the president of Nigeria by 2047. Below is his testimony about the SAFE Academy

I heard about Sozo Networks in 2017 while attending after-school classes at Jumpstart Academy, and attending the Securing Africa’s Future through Education (SAFE) Academy played a significant role in helping me decide what I wanted to spend my time and energy doing.

SAFE Academy increased my exposure, and my passion for tech was born during its digital skills training. The SAFE Academy opened the doors to all the opportunities that I have enjoyed. The Academy specifically trained us to be ready for unexpected opportunities. On a typical day in class, a facilitator would throw a random topic at us and ask us to talk about it; we also did many elevator pitches, which helped me introduce myself properly in conferences and networking events.

A year after I graduated from the SAFE Academy, I started my social enterprise called DesignIT after I pitched the Beyond School Challenge organized by the Mandela Washington Fellowship in Abuja. I caught wind of this opportunity because of my alumni privileges at the SAFE Academy, and the lessons I had learnt in the previous year prepared me for this moment. I started DesignIT with 2 other alumni of the SAFE Academy– Bolaji Oladejo and Deborah Benjamin. Our unique value proposition was to, and still is, to provide entrepreneurial and leadership skills to secondary school students so that they can utilize their tech skills for societal development in their respective communities. One of our beneficiaries is now using her skills to volunteer with education and leadership non-profit. Another has set up his graphic design business to help him raise extra income while he is in school.

We raised capital to launch DesignIT in December 2018, and we have impacted young scholars from secondary schools in different countries with tech skills. Our first-class had only 12 students, but now, we have reached over 500 teenagers from across Nigeria, South Africa & Asia, and partnered with 16 organizations like the House of Arts in Ibadan, Teens World Lagos, Save a Girl Africa, Saraj Foundation in India amongst others. Our training courses include Social media marketing, Search Engine Optimization, Search Engine Marketing, Graphics design and Leadership. Our goal is that our alumni can use their tech skills to accelerate social causes that they are passionate about, be it climate change or agriculture.

As a result of my work at DesignIT, I was recently recognized by the iKapture centre for development as one of the 25 under 25 game-changers in Africa. That recognition opened the door to others through the Opportunity Desk and Blankpaperz. Last year, also, I was the winner of two major logo competitions, one of which was for the Bezos Scholars program.

I’m currently studying at the African Leadership Academy in South Africa, where I get to learn more about the continent, entrepreneurship & leadership in addition to my core subjects of Mathematics, Physics and Computer science. Being selected into this prestigious institution results from the experiences I built early on due to the exposure from the Sozo Networks’ SAFE Academy and starting a digital training startup.


  • An Interview conducted by Lauretta Malaka.

SAFE Academy Alumni Spotlight – Dennis Udochukwu

Growing up in a rural community, the only future Dennis could imagine was becoming a taxi driver, bus conductor or tout. His life trajectory changed when a friend invited him to attend the SAFE Academy. The Sozo Networks’ Securing Africa’s Future through Education (SAFE) Academy helps bridge the Nation’s education system gap by providing low-income teenagers with life, leadership, and entrepreneurship skills.

SAFE Academy’s teaching pedagogy includes videos and a lot of practical sessions. “One of the videos that changed my life was “Akeelah and The Bee.” The movies we watched made me realize that I am capable of becoming the best version of myself. At first, I couldn’t comprehend the foreign movies because of their accent, but my communication skills improved over time”, Dennis says.

The SAFE academy curriculum helps develop soft skills such as leadership, networking, communication, problem-solving. It also includes entrepreneurship and digital skills. The academy matched students with carefully selected mentors who shared their experiences and guided them towards making a better life and career decisions.

Five years after he first walked into the SAFE Academy, Dennis is now a final year student of Agriculture at the Anambra State University in the Southeastern part of Nigeria. He organizes leadership programs, personal development teachings and community outreaches for teenagers in underserved regions of Anambra state, where he schools.

Dennis grew up in a community where most young people engaged in drugs, smoking and no sense of direction. Today, he has become a positive example to teenagers growing up in the same environment, coaching and mentoring them to make the most out of life.

  • Written by Lauretta Malaka

Sozo Networks 2019 Strategy Boot Camp Alumni, Adejoke Lasisi’s Planet 3R wins 2020 National MSME Awards

One of our amazing 2019 Social Impact Strategy Boot Camp Alumni – Adejoke Lasisi, announced the winner of the National MSME of the Year 2020 during an award ceremony presided over by the Vice President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo and the award was sponsored by Access Bank Plc.

Adejoke is an African fabric designer and environmentalist. She is the founder of Planet 3R and Jokelinks Weaving School. Adejoke holds a bachelor’s degree in Economics from Obafemi Awolowo University Ile-Ife and a certificate in Entrepreneurial Management from Enterprise Development Center Lagos, Nigeria. Adejoke also saves the planet using her weaving skills by converting textile and plastic wastes into innovative products.

Managing nonprofit organizations or a social enterprise in Nigeria to carry out a sustainable change agenda requires more commitment and skills than ever before.

Sozo Networks Social Impact Strategy Boot Camp is an intensive and personalized program that empowers social entrepreneurs, nonprofit founders and their core teams with essential skills, insights, and tools needed to understand and navigate the social sector as well as develop critical strategies required to maximize impact, visibility, and income.

At Sozo Networks, as we continue to promote the participation of young people in civic leadership and social entrepreneurship in Nigeria, our goal is that all our programs Alumni continue to make great impacts across the world.

Congratulations Adejoke!!

Alumni Spotlight – Hammed Kayode Alabi – How Sozo Networks Positioned Me for Career Opportunities in the Development Sector

  • Name: Hammed Kayode Alabi
  • Organization or Project: Kayode Alabi Leadership and Career Initiative 
  • Occupation:  Social Entrepreneur/ Regional Manager – Peace First 

Tell us in 50 words what you or your organization does? 

I am the Founding Executive Director of Kayode Alabi Leadership and Career Initiative (KLCI). We help children in rural communities develop life and 21st-century skills needed for the workforce and future economy. We empower youth educators toward empowering secondary school students in rural communities in Nigeria through activity-based workshops and boot camps. 

Why did you start this work? 

I have lived in 3 different slums/rural communities in Lagos, Nigeria. I lost my mum at 7, and my dad became unemployed at the same time. I also stayed out of school for a whole academic term. This sparked my interest at age 15 to teach basic literacy and numeracy skills in a low-income private school in Igbogbo, Lagos. I strongly believe that children in rural communities are solutions to the problems they are facing if they have access to quality education, skills, and opportunities. I believe they can be solutions to my dad’s unemployment, and I also believe that they are not learning some key skills in school, such as creativity needed for the workforce. This is a huge gap as they might become unemployable when they graduate. So this is how we birth KLCI to empower children in rural communities to solve their own problems and develop key career readiness, life and 21st-century skills. 

How did you come across Sozo Networks?

I heard a lot of work about Sozo Networks in 2017, and I am really inspired by how they were preparing teenagers with life and essential skills before turning 18. So I started following the founder, and when I saw an opening to volunteer for the Before I turn 18 projects in Ajegunle, I gave my shot and later fully applied to join the main team. I later became the Director of the Volunteers Program. 

How has the Sozo Networks Impacted you, your career or your work?

Sozo came as a great blessing to me. It allowed me to learn how to build a volunteer-led based initiative. Currently, we have over 60 volunteers leading our work in my initiatives. More so, as a volunteer, I got a Scholarship to attend the Sozo-Appalachian State University Grant Writing Masterclass, where I developed key competencies in Grant writing. I won Peace First mini-grant and went ahead to work with Peace First and managing grant applications in more than 30 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. Sozo Networks positioned me for an opportunity such as this. I also got into the Carrington Fellowship and got a $5000 grant to create Teaching Edge NG, the first learning management system for teachers in Nigeria and empowering teachers with contemporary pedagogies and innovative teaching methodologies. Sozo allowed me to take leadership roles that deepened my knowledge in the non-profit space.

What are your achievements so far? 

Through KLCI, we have been able to train over 60 volunteer trainers and empowered over 3057 students in three states in Nigeria in the 21st century, Global Citizenship and leadership skills, our Skill2Rural boot camp has been able to empower 150 students, 15 teachers from over 20 schools in Olambe, Matogun Community Nigeria. 99% of our beneficiaries now see themselves as problem solvers.

Rejoice Otitoloju is one of our success stories. Rejoice at age 15, created the Say No To Girl child abuse initiative to empower young people in her community life skills and sex education. More so, one of the projects, “Project Ilera Mobile Clinic emerging from our Skill2Rural Boot camp made it to the semi-final of the Mandela Washington Fellowship Alumni Nigeria Beyond the School Challenge. 

Individually, I was 1 of the 20 who joined the Carrington Youth Fellowship Initiative in 2018 and won the US Consular General Awards. I won the Keenista Africa Youth Essay Competition Award (Top 2 -7). I was one of the 7 to join the Global Team of the Peace First Fellows-in-Residence, where I support youth social innovation projects in more than 30 Sub-Saharan Africa Countries. I have spoken in the Middle East and Africa on youth social change. 

How many of these achievements were after you participate in a Sozo Networks Program?

I got into the Carrington Fellowship Initiative after volunteering for Before I turn 18 Ajegunle. I also got the Peace First Microgrant to organize Skill2Rural Boot camp after participating in the Grant writing training and finally working with Peace First as a Fellow-in-Residence and Regional Manager for Sub-Saharan Africa! 

My plan for the future is to create and build an education design hub for children in rural communities to co-create solutions to the biggest problems in rural communities and have access to mentors. More so, deepening my educational policy and development knowledge and work with development agencies to increase funding for education in poor communities in Africa and Nigeria. 

In what other ways can the Sozo Networks help or support your work?

Connecting me to think tanks and mentors who will help me continue making a profound impact in my life and work.

Distance is NO Barrier to Development – Sozo Networks YID Fellow, Blessing Ashi Testifies

Chinese Philosopher, Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.

The Sozo Networks experience of Blessing Ashi began earlier in the year when she was selected as a Sozo Networks Youth In Development Fellow. Like many other Fellows, she says the journey has been great and affords her the opportunity to learn the rudiments necessary to becoming a better leader. While the program would be wrapped up soon, the leadership of the network has deemed it fit to bring young world change-makers every weekend to share their stories of how they started and how they overcame some obstacles.

According to Blessing, something very profound she has learnt thus far is that everyone has a story. Last week, in a bid to keep its YID Fellows motivated, Sozo Networks hosted the Executive Director of OneAfricanChild, Victoria Ibiwoye who shared her journey to the developmental space. At a young age, Victoria currently sits as a Board Member for several organizations and was also appointed as the youth representative for the SDG Education Steering Committee in UNESCO and a 2019 MWF Fellow. During her session, it became so obvious that you would succeed where your passion lies. Sozo Networks YID Fellow, Blessing Ashi says as she highlights her take home from the online training:

1. The journey to success has a lot of hurdles but the determination to finish strong would keep you in the game. 2. If you keep at the great work, you would be celebrated even when you are not there  3. If you have the opportunity to attend a stakeholders meeting, maximize the tea break (Engage leaders because a lot happens over a cup of coffee) 4. While others are clamouring to get signed autographs from renowned individuals, get to know them better and learn what keeps them going 5. You don’t have to fall to become better, learn from people’s failure and run with it 6. Opportunities don’t come dressed in Agbada (Lol) opportunities come for the prepared 7. Keep at it even if you failed initially 8. For every time you get a rejection mail, you should always strive to learn what you could have done better preparing for next time instead of giving up 9. You need the God factor to survive. God can take you to any height regardless of your age 10. Learn to negotiate. People would always offer you what they deem fit, but you have a right to negotiate based on your capabilities. Never settle for less.

Sozo Networks is committed to raising world-class leaders. With excitement, having gained the first-hand experience, Blessing urges youths to embrace any opportunity from Sozo Networks, grab it with both hands because, with Sozo Networks, there would never be any regret. Blessing looks forward to meeting more leaders in the next few weeks. It is important to note that the YID Fellows are young Nigerians located in different states. Sozo Networks is maximizing online platforms to extend training opportunities to young social change makers.

Can you identify with Blessing Ashi?

Leave us a comment or share your Sozo Networks experience with us via safeprojectnigeria@gmail.com or visit our website www.sozonetworks.com



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