Okoth Grace, Managing director, uganda
Okoth Grace comes from a Ugandan family of 14. He was born and raised in the rural community of Bujagali Falls Village where S.O.U.L. Foundation is based. Being one of 12 children and growing up in extreme poverty with parents who farmed for subsistence, he was denied the opportunities for education, food, health, parental love, and the care that a child needs.
"When S.O.U.L. Foundation was born, it was a dream come true because S.O.U.L. provided me and others the opportunities that we never had before. I often think about where I am today, and thank S.O.U.L. Foundation for having the commitment and dream to make Ugandans' lives better."
Oko has enjoyed watching S.O.U.L. Foundation continuously grow in the last seven years, and is very happy and honored to be a part of this life-changing organization. He is very excited about what is yet to come for the organization and the community.
Oko shares in the overall responsibility for strategically planning and implementing programming in Uganda, and spends his days developing and overseeing new innovative projects that will deliver immediate and lasting change to Ugandans.
Irene Muwanse, Volunteer and Field Coordinator
Irene Muwanse was born in Bugembe, Uganda in 1980, with one older brother and one younger sister. She has a 17 year old son she adores, Dezere Regan, who is currently excelling in school at Jinja SDA. Irene moved to Bujagali in 2007 and now lives with her mother, Narubega Mangarin, her son, and her nephew, Musheni Rickin. She loves Bujagali because it where she first purchased land and got her first job at S.O.U.L. Foundation. Now, she loves to call Bujagali her home. In addition to managing her Volunteer Coordinator duties, Irene helps with S.O.U.L.'s Mentorship and Chicken Development projects. These roles have allowed her to meet new people, improve on her English speaking skills, and continually learn about different behaviors and ideas that represent the different cultures of S.O.U.L. volunteers. When not working at S.O.U.L., Irene loves to relax, listen to live music and bands, get dressed up and dance, and enjoy church every Sunday with her family.
BASALIRWA TWAHA OR "SAALU", FIELD COORDINATOR
One of S.O.U.L.'s newest staff members is Basalirwa Twaha, commonly known as Saalu. He has been the chairperson for the Parents' Committee of S.O.U.L.'s Student Sponsorship Program for two years, a position that is appointed by S.O.U.L. to one of the best performing, most active parents.
Saalu finished school at the primary level, and joined Jinja S.S. for secondary education, but dropped out to become a peasant farmer. He went on to work for Rift Valley Railroad, and then for Karum Dam as a laborer before joining the S.O.U.L. staff. Saalu spends most of his days coordinating and mobilizing for the many S.O.U.L. programmes, paying school fees and negotiating partnerships between S.O.U.L. school and parents. Saalu adds a lot of experience and leadership to the existing team.
"Working for S.O.U.L. is an honor in my community and I am grateful for the work they have done for me and particularly my children, who now have hope for a better future. I have been involved in SO.U.L. since the early days as a beneficiary and this year I am very happy to have been added to the staff as a field coordinator." - Basalirwa Twaha
Asiah Sizomu, Groundskeeper
Asiah is a 24 year old village woman currently in charge of upkeep of S.O.U.L.'s campus. She has one daughter and six step-children whom she supports with profits from small scale farming and her S.O.U.L. salary, while her husband works hours away in Northern Uganda.
SOPHIE MUTESI, ANTENATAL EDUCATION CENTER INSTRUCTOR
Sophie was born in Buwongo Village in the Namutumba District, and she is currently living in Wanyange Village in the Jinja District. Her inspiration to become a midwife started in Primary 7 when she got into a science class. Her parents became excited and encouraged her to become a nurse, and they told her they would do whatever they could do help.
She started experiencing compassion whenever she saw suffering mothers in the village and she wished to take care of them. When she succeeded in helping them, she found that it was not enough because she could not teach all of them.
Sophie's mission became complete when she started antenatal education with S.O.U.L. Foundation because she can empower the community, build knowledge and skills, and give women confidence in their health at even the lowest level. She really feels great when a life is being saved. Her belief is that a person can have money, but if she lacks awareness she will still suffer. Therefore, Sophie's mission is to create awareness amongst the community members.
Hawa Nantege, Tailoring Instructor
Nantege Hawa joined the S.O.U.L. staff in April 2013 as one of S.O.U.L.’s tailoring instructors. She was born and raised in Kampala from a family of 15 children. Hawa finished her schooling at secondary 4 before having to stop due to the lack of available school fees. After getting married, she moved to Jinja in 2009. She studied tailoring for 1 year, trained for 4 months, and was then introduced to S.O.U.L. through her tailoring instructor.
Every afternoon, Hawa conducts tailoring classes for over 80 women. Her warm and patient persona light up the tailoring room as women from various villages come to her class. She loves to laugh and joke with the women and believes that if you teach while you are tough, the women won’t understand. Hawa is always smiling and brings so much energy to class each and every day. She wants the best for all of her students and hopes that one day, some of them will be teachers or have their own workshops. Hawa herself dreams of becoming a designer. Her role model is a famous Ugandan designer, Sylvia Awoli, and she hopes to one day continue school and start designing.
Jane Nabirye, Tailoring Instructor
Jane, also known as Mama Oko, was born in Kyabirwa Village where she has raised all of her children. She comes from family of 17 siblings. Her father was a plumber while her mother was a farmer. After Primary 7, she stopped attending school due to the lack of school fees. She then married and began her family. Mama Oko has 11 children, all of whom attend school.
Before S.O.U.L., she struggled so much. Now, her biggest challenge as a mother is getting enough money to take care of all of her children and pay their school fees. S.O.U.L. helps to sponsor her children and has provided her the opportunity to use her skills as a tailor. Mama Oko trained to be a tailor, and attended formal training sessions in Jinja. As one of S.O.U.L.'s tailoring instructors, Mama Oko spends the afternoon with other tailoring women. Her biggest goal is to help her children create better futures.
Basit Ibanda, Field Coordinator
Basit was born in Iganga where he lived with his parents, grandmother, and one older brother. His father is a driver and his mother is a business woman. When Basit's mother's shop was not doing well, she would get loans to make sure her children went to school. His older brother moved to Sudan to work at a shop while Basit moved to Jinja in 1999 for schooling.
In secondary school, Basit had dreams of becoming a doctor and a pro-footballer. Through much perseverance due to the difficulty of attaining school fees, Basit has recently completed his Bachelor’s in Business Studies with Education from Kyambogo University in Kampala. Basit first joined the S.O.U.L. team as our computer teacher. Now, he has joined the team of Field Coordinators and he is excited to work alongside the community and help groups achieve their goals. Basit realizes the importance of education and is eager to use his skills on the ground with S.O.U.L.
Muganda Muzamiru, Aquaculture / Agriculture and Food Security Coordinator
Muganda was born and raised in a polygamous family of 3 wives and 17 children in the village of Bujagali. From his mum's side, Muganda has 6 siblings, 3 boys and 3 girls. Muganda's childhood dream was to become a doctor; however, his passion changed when he started volunteering at the S.O.U.L. Foundation Fish Pond in its beginning stages. He became very curious about fish farming and always asked the Aquaculture specialists the same questions each time they came by. This inspired him to pursue a diploma in Fisheries Management and Technologies at Entebbe Fisheries Institude and became one of the lucky S.O.U.L. University Graduates.
Upon completion of college in June 2015, Muganda joined the S.O.U.L. staff full-time where he assumed his current position. He spends most of his day focusing on and strengthening the Livestock Program, the Agriculture Learning Center, S.O.U.L.'s Fishponds, and the Goat Cooperative. He hopes to use his skills from school and from S.O.U.L. to inspire Ugandans living in impoverished areas by teaching them the importance and the science of fish farming.
“This is a dream come true! I am happy to be working with S.O.U.L. Foundation which is in my community. I am involving myself in creating the change I want to see tomorrow.” - Muganda Muzamiru
Slyvia Tikakobayo, Administrative Assistant
Sylvia is 23 years old who lives in Buwenda Village located in the Jinja District. Sylvia was a participant in S.O.U.L. Foundation’s Student Sponsorship Program, starting at the Secondary School level and continued on to graduate from Vocational School with a diploma in Secretarial Studies. She is one of six siblings and one of the first in her family to graduate with a higher education.
After graduating from Vocational School, Sylvia still wanted to stay involved with S.O.U.L. Foundation so that she could better serve her community. Sylvia first started working at S.O.U.L. Foundation in 2014 as a Receptionist. She was promoted to Administrative Assistant in 2016. She hopes that this new position will help her learn additional skills to become a Secretary or Administrator. Sylvia is incredibly passionate about S.O.U.L. Foundation’s efforts to provide education for children, especially for girls, and empowering women through S.O.U.L. Foundation’s cooperative partnerships.
Joseph Were, Computer Instructor and Monitor & Evaluation Coordinator
Joseph is a highly motivated, innovative, and creative youth. He grew up in Jinja district, where he attended primary and secondary school. In early 2016, through the connection of his brother, Muhofa Issac, and seeing the overwhelming impact S.O.U.L Foundation was making in people’s lives, he began volunteering for S.O.U.L. Foundation in the Community Center Computer Lab.
At the end of 2016, Joseph was hired to be the full time Computer Instructor and Monitoring & Evaluation Coordinator. In addition, to working for S.O.U.L. he is a student at Saipali Institute of Technology and Management, where he is studying software engineering. Previous to working with S.O.U.L. he volunteered as a peer educator, during which he gained skills in HIV prevention strategies and data collection.
“There is no greater joy felt more than that when you make others smile” I’m so glad to be contributing on community needs as their computer instructor at S.O.U.L foundation. I’m really enjoying working with a great team at S.O.U.L and together we shall drastically increase the quality of life in communities.” - Joseph Were
Brooke Stern, Co-Founder/CEO
Brooke was born and raised in Suffern, New York. Her passion for S.O.U.L. Foundation stems from her belief that every human being has a right to the most basic necessities and opportunities in life. Influenced by her mother, who has dedicated her career to saving the lives of medically fragile children, and her father, who has an unwavering passion for travel in developing countries and cultural awareness, she developed a sense of responsibility and a passion for improving the lives of our global community at a young age.
Brooke studied Integrative Physiology at the University of Colorado at Boulder and completed her studies at the Denver School of Nursing with a Bachelor’s in Science and Nursing. She went on to work with Einstein Medical Center for the Global Diabetes Initiative Research Program in Uganda. Brooke co-founded S.O.U.L. Foundation in 2009 after visiting Uganda while backpacking with her father on a volunteer trip.
“I understood that by emphasizing education and self sufficiency in the community, we have the ability to drastically increase their quality of life.” - Brooke Stern
Read about Brooke's amazing March 1, 2012 experience > Brooke is currently the full-time CEO for S.O.U.L. Foundation and transitions between Uganda and the United States.
REBECCA YOUNT, DIRECTOR OF OPERATIONS
Born and raised in Oklahoma, Rebecca has traveled and lived around the world. From assisting with the business plan of a community health clinic in rural Nicaragua, to building relationship in Siberian Russia, to HIV and AIDS work in sub-Saharan Africa, to teaching english and leadership skills in the mountains of Southern Brazil, people and justice are her passions.
She brings over a decade of experience working with international development organizations to S.O.U.L. Foundation. She holds a Master of Arts in Social Change, a Bachelor in Business Administration and a Bachelor in Religion, with aspirations to work on a PhD one day. Outside of pursuing her passions, Rebecca loves to laugh, spend time with family and friends, and be outside in the Colorado sunshine. She is ecstatic to join the S.O.U.L team as the Director of Operations and is very much looking forward to the further impact the organization will make.
KATY KUTZNER, DEVELOPMENT DIRECTOR
Katy hails from Pennsylvania and brings a strong passion for women’s empowerment with experience in program management and design, grant writing, and monitoring and evaluation. Her international experience began as a Peace Corps volunteer in Malawi and she has since spent time working with international nonprofits focused on issues such as improving livelihoods, environmental conservation, and gender empowerment. Katy earned her M.A. in International Development from the University of Denver as well as a B.S. in Business Administration.
Katy is thrilled to join S.O.U.L.'s team as the Director of Development and looks forward to helping the organization expand its impact and reach in Uganda. She will be responsible for identifying and cultivating new funding opportunities as well as fostering relationships with global citizens, foundations, and the private sector to further S.O.U.L.'s mission. Aside from work, Katy loves hiking, beekeeping, traveling with her tiny trailer, and being outside.
VIVIAN LIN, COMMUNICATIONS AND OPERATIONS MANAGER
Vivian is originally from the northwest suburbs of Chicago and studied at the University of Iowa with a B.A. in Studio Arts before she moved to Denver in the summer of 2014. Her experience lies in graphic design, illustration, social media marketing and brand development.
Vivian first became involved with S.O.U.L. Foundation in the fall of 2015 when she had the opportunity to be a Graphic Design and Marketing Intern for a year. She is incredibly excited and passionate about working for S.O.U.L. Foundation full time. Her major projects will be focused on strengthening S.O.U.L. Foundation's core mission and creating a speaking platform for Ugandan students, women, and communities through original visual content.
Esra Sonmez, Operations Intern
Esra is originally from Turkey. She moved to Colorado in 2015. She holds a Bachelor of Science in International Relations and is currently pursuing her Master’s in Social Sciences with a focus on Women and Gender Studies at the University of Colorado Denver.
Coming from a completely different background and country, seeing and reading about different countries is making her more aware of the diversity in the world. Before coming to the US, she participated in community development and education projects with both local and international organizations in Turkey. She is very excited to be a part of S.O.U.L Foundation as an intern and is passionate about working with the team.