Shepparton man Declo Bisimwa has big plans as the winner of the Sampson Leadership Trust scholarship.ESTELLE GRIEPINK December 28, 2013 4:44am
Shepparton man Declo Bisimwa plans to set up a foundation to establish schools in Third World countries.
A prominent member of Shepparton’s Congolese community is embarking on his biggest charity venture yet — opening a series of schools in Third World countries.
Declo Bisimwa, 25, is the recipient of the Sampson Leadership Trust scholarship.
He has been granted funding to help turn his dream of spreading education into a reality.
‘‘My vision and passion is to help others through the setting up of a youth foundation that supports .
‘‘I believe I can do this!’’
Mr Bisimwa’s plan to help those less fortunate follows what some would call a life of leadership.
He was just eight years old when war broke out in the Congo, forcing him to flee with his mother, aunt and siblings.
But when his mother died in childbirth and his aunt ran off with the baby, Mr Bisimwa was left to look after his younger siblings.
He washed dishes and mopped floors to pay for the family’s food and education.
When he and his siblings moved to a refugee camp in Uganda, Mr Bisimwa took it upon himself to organise youth activities for the young boys.
He organised a soccer team and picnics at neighbouring refugee camps.
‘‘While personally I didn’t see it, this was the start of my leadership journey,’’ Mr Bisimwa said.
‘‘Because when people ask me to define leadership, I say that leadership is taking others with you.’’
Mr Bisimwa wasted no time when he resettled in Shepparton.
Grateful for what he called ‘‘his second chance’’, he immersed himself in study, finishing Years 11 and 12 at Notre Dame College in just two years despite English being his seventh language.
The school provided him with a free education, uniform and school shoes, as well as ongoing mentoring.
‘‘They spent time with me so I could improve. That touched me so much, I just thought, ‘Wow’,’’ he said.
Mr Bisimwa said he worked at VisyWadpack and HW Greenham and Sons abattoir, volunteered for St Vincent de Paul’s Meals on Wheels and soup kitchens, and was a youth leader and secretary at Goulburn Valley Congolese Association.
So it’s no surprise the young man has virtually no free time.
‘‘I have a lot of responsibility, with everything I have to do I only get about five hours’ sleep a night,’’ Mr Bisimwa admitted.
‘‘I help eight families in Africa. There are six children in secondary school that I pay school fees for and four people at university .
Mr Bisimwa credits Goulburn Murray Local Learning and Employment Network’s Building a New Generation Youth Leadership Program for his continued determination to make a difference.
‘‘They are like a second family to me. I am so grateful to my wonderful mentor Jennifer Hippisley,’’ he said.
With so many commitments in Shepparton, it will be no mean feat for Mr Bisimwa when he leaves the country to begin setting up his schools next year.
He will need to source teachers, books, writing materials and, most importantly, food to ensure children actually attend, and return to, class.
But Mr Bisimwa said he had a simple explanation for his determination to start his Masomo Mbele — Schools First — Foundation.
‘‘Sometimes, when you get the opportunity to get a second chance, you have to show how grateful you are,’’ he said.
‘‘I feel like I have to give something back, so I am trying my best to become a leader to make a difference.’’
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