Justus Uwayesu

2016 Cheng Fellow

Problem

Justus’s work stems from two core beliefs. The first is that education can offer an escape from generational poverty. The second is that young people can and should be agents of change in their communities. He focuses on tailoring solutions to individual incarnations of global problems. For example, he planted a crop of fruit trees in an impoverished rural village where the children often have too little to eat but the climate is well-suited to growing fruit. He works to assess concrete problems and to target interventions accordingly. He has made it possible for several street children to begin and stay in school, forever changing the trajectories of their lives.

Pathway

In 2008, Justus co-founded Seven United, a Rwandan youth network dedicated to helping children from poor families and those living on the streets access quality education and healthcare as basic human needs and rights. The organization mobilizes groups of young adults who launch projects ranging from building and repairing houses for orphans and widows to providing poor families with health insurance. Hundreds of members of Seven United in Rwanda engage in peer education and raising awareness about sensitive issues. They are supported by their partner 501(c)(3) organization Friends of Seven United, Inc. in the United States. All programs encourage youth to be the catalyst that educates and serves their communities, an effective and innovative approach.

Person

Justus graduated from Harvard College in May 2018 with a Bachelors of Arts in Economics. Justus received the chance to attend school for the first time at the age of nine. He recognized education was a gift and created Seven United as a way of giving back. Justus believes that education is truly a fundamental human right and an opportunity that everyone should be granted. He was named a 2018 Schwarzman Scholar, joining fellow Scholars from around the world in a prestigious Master’s Degree program in Global Affairs at Beijing’s Tsinghua University. He received Harvard’s Mack I. Davis Memorial Prize, an award given to one undergraduate student for commitment to diversity and community service, and IDEA4Africa’s first IDEA (Inspiring Development through Entrepreneurship and Action) Award, for his exemplary leadership abilities and commitment to bettering the quality of life in communities across Rwanda, particularly for children from low-income families. Additionally, his life story was profiled on the front page of The New York Times. He dreams of a world free of socio-economic inequality and is interested in the role of public-private partnerships in accelerating the growth of emerging economies. In his free time, Justus enjoys gardening, reading, and cooking.