New Ventures in Uganda for Y-Prize Winners

The winning team left to right: Spencer Anderson, Ryan Thomas, Dane Andersen, and Bronwen Dromey.

The winning team left to right: Spencer Anderson, Ryan Thomas, Dane Andersen, and Bronwen Dromey.

New Ventures in Uganda for Y-Prize Winners

Across Uganda, children commonly suffer from malnutrition, anemia and developmental disabilities — the effects of parasitic worms. The parasites that cause schistosomiasis can be eliminated by an inexpensive pill, but there is no established way to distribute the medicine to all those who need it.

Brigham Young University students took on the challenge in the Y-Prize competition, sponsored by the Marriott School of Management’s Ballard Center for Economic Self-Reliance. Teams created strategies for distributing the pills in Uganda, and the winning team — chosen out of 14 contenders — received $12,000 to go to Uganda and put their plans into motion.

“The winning team will go test their solution, learn from the results, create new processes and test them again,” says Todd Manwaring, director of the Ballard Center. “Y-Prize presents a societal problem with a known cure but without a way to get it to all of those who need help. It’s a distribution problem.”

Dane Andersen on a previous trip to Uganda

Dane Andersen on a previous trip to Uganda

Winning team members Spencer Anderson, a senior studying economics, and April 2014 graduates Ryan Thomas,  Bronwen Dromey and Dane Andersen left for Uganda last week to establish their nonprofit. Named Kuishi, which means “live well” in Swahili, their nonprofit will train Ugandan school teachers to distribute the life-saving pills. When the summer is over, the team will transition to managing the organization from the United States, hiring local managers to take their places.

“We want to empower teachers with resources and training so that the younger generation is able to attend school, work, and strengthen the economy,” Anderson says.

Children in Uganda frequently come in contact with the parasites through fresh water, causing rashes and fevers that lead to malnutrition and developmental issues over time. They are often unable to attend school, and many children receive no treatment to help them recover.

“If we’re able to get this model to work, this will impact thousands of lives,” Dromey says.

Y-Prize is a partnership between the Ballard Center’s Social Venture Academy and the D-Prize, a national competition that focuses on the distribution of health care and technological advances to address world problems. In addition to awarding Kuishi the Best Venture award, eight other teams were given prizes ranging from $100 to $900 to help them implement their ideas. Kuishi also has the opportunity to receive $12,000 more in funding if it reaches certain milestones in its efforts. Kuishi’s team members say the competition is a chance to change people’s lives through development and social entrepreneurship.

“I think it’s great that students at our age can be involved with this sort of project,” Dromey says. “We’re able to help people around the world overcome challenges and reach their potential.”