Janvier Manirakiza, the founder and leader of Dreaming for Change, is a young Burundian social activist who fights for social justice and the dignity of human beings, especially marginalized children, women and youth living in seemingly forgotten rural areas. His work, life experience and compassion have made him a servant leader who makes a difference for others.

With his degree in communications and his technology skills, he could start a business and do quite well but Janvier had experienced poverty and violence as a child. He was aware that half the children in his country are malnourished, that children don’t begin school until they are seven or eight and that the schools they attend are overcrowded and many teachers are underqualified. He knew women often left school in their teens and had no skills to help support their families. 

His attitude of “nothing is impossible to accomplish” led him to quit a secure job and started the non-profit Dreaming for Change. The mission of Dreaming for Change is to enhance human dignity through education, economic development, job training, and sustainable agriculture by targeting the marginalized, low-income communities in Burundi.

Hi journey to community development began when he was approached by a desperate woman. Her husband had left her and their nine children with no money to pay for food, rent, or school fees. Janvier did not have money to give her, but he did have a cell phone which he sold to help this family survive. Janvier had made friends in the U.S. and called on them to help. The mother was able to pay the rent, feed her children, and keep them in school until she found a job. 

He was trained as a Young African Leader (YALI) at Kenyatta University in Nairobi, Kenya and was also selected as one of 1,000 Mandela Washington Fellows from sub-Saharan Africa to attend civic leadership training at Appalachian State University located in Boone, North Carolina sponsored by the U.S. Department of State.

Janvier is also part of the 2019 class of the Obama Foundation Leaders: Africa Program that seeks to build a growing network of innovative and ethical change makers who will drive positive change in their communities, the continent, and the world.

Meet the leadership team and staff of Dreaming for Change