Founding Nukoko

Founding Nukoko: Director Kanika Gupta reflects on how the organization came to be

In a Togolese dialect, ‚”nukoko”‚ means smile‚ and the organization was started with a similar spirit of hope, innocence, and curiosity that is often found when we see children smile. I am so proud that many years into our work, Nukoko still holds true to its roots of youth-led grassroots change in the developing world.

One of the keys to Nukoko’s success has been its incredible partnership with the well-respected Togolese-based organization REJED. The collaboration between our organizations has grown organically and stems from my time working in Togo.

In 2007, I had the privilege of going to Togo to work on a micro-finance project through Association Internationale des Étudiants en Sciences Économiques et Commerciales.  While there, I crossed paths with REJED.  I was inspired by how this entirely volunteer-led, youth-run organization was able to self-organize a variety of community development projects across their country.  I spent a considerable amount of time with them and contributed to their work where I could.  With a member of REJED, I had the chance to travel the interiors of the country to visit their projects.  Through the experience, I was able to better understand the realities of individuals living in poverty outside of urban centres.  While in the village of Namaré, I learned that less than 30% of girls attended primary school.  I decided at that point that something needed to change.

I founded Nukoko, and with REJED, laid the ground-work for the Education4All project.   Nukoko is not something I sought out, rather timing and the opportunity lined up in perfect harmony for us to embark on this journey.  We didn’t really know what we were getting ourselves into.  Nor did we have a master plan.  The collaboration and the work of Nukoko has evolved naturally, and our passion about the issues of access to education has helped us figure out the rest as we continue to go forward.  We have come a long way, learning as much from our setbacks as we have from our successes.

Looking to the future, I hope Nukoko carries out its programs and public interactions with the same guiding principles and values that have defined it since inception. As the team grows, it will undoubtedly shape the organization, but I do hope that it continues to operate with ideals of inclusiveness, facilitating local capacity building, youth development and empowerment.

I hope Nukoko continues to promote a positive image of international development filled with optimism, hope, and resiliency. I’m excited to see the evolution of our programming and the changes that happen (as change is healthy and necessary).

Also, I hope our partnerships stay strong, and our stakeholders and sponsors continue to see value in the work we do.  It is through their support that we are enabling change to happen from the ground-up.

Nukoko is an organization that was built with the optimism that the world can be a better place through incremental actions.  We live in one world, and I believe it is all of our responsibilities to work collectively together to achieve our desires of a better, more unified place for everyone.