“The YouthMap internship has groomed me to be a competent professional,” says Richard Mpagi, age 28, who is excelling in his newly obtained internship with the Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Youth Affairs (UPFYA). Under the supervision of Youth MP Gerald Karuhanga, Richard has undertaken critical duties in research, coordination, and outreach for the organization. He credits the YouthMap Internship Program with exposing him to a new profession, skills, and networks that previously he could never have imagined. Certainly, when Richard was growing up in a poor rural village in Kampala, he did not expect to find himself rubbing shoulders with parliamentarians.

The eighth of 22 children, Richard excelled in school, and dreamed of one day becoming a lawyer. Determined to get ahead, he borrowed money to attend Makerere University in Kampala and succeeded in becoming the first one in his family to hold a degree. Yet while academically accomplished, Richard was not able to secure a job in Uganda's competitive job market, where it is particularly challenging for young people without experience to be employed. Like many of his peers, Richard returned to his village after graduation, unsure where his life would take him. Now he is much more positive about his future. In April 2013, Richard was selected from 4,500 applicants to join the first cohort of 50 youth interns for the YouthMap Internship Program, an initiative which trains young Ugandans and places them with organizations in the public, private, and non-profit sectors. Richard went through a rigorous training process, which he describes as "a very big eye-opener." He says the training has made him more professional, more organized, and a better communicator. Richard's supervisor, Gerald Karuhanga, in addition to being a youth parliamentarian, is also a member of the Advisory Board for the YouthMap Internship Program, which he has found to be a valuable learning experience, particularly interacting with other colleagues on the board. He praises Richard’s contributions at UPFYA, stating that “he is helping me be more effective.” Mr. Karahanga also says Richard is more focused and efficient.

Richard will complete his internship in November, at which point he will utilize the mentoring networks, professional experience, and financial planning skills that the YouthMap program provides to secure a full time job. His work at the UPFYA has developed an interest in government and a zeal for research and analysis to find the gaps where he can have the greatest impact. “I have managed to identify with what actually happens in these communities, which has helped me see gaps where I can personally intervene.” He has always had an interest in youth issues, and speaks passionately about how youth start-up companies do not survive in Uganda due to lack of funding and support. With his new-found skills and experience combined with his innate intelligence and compassion, there is no doubt Richard will be a genuinely positive influence on his community and his peers throughout Uganda.