Interview Dorian Cosijnse

Can you introduce yourself?

My name is Dorian Cosijnse. I was born in Arnhem, the Netherlands, in 1993. I love being outdoors in nature and I love adventures. I studied human geography and international development in Utrecht. During and after my student-life, I spend every free minute in the refugee shelter in Utrecht, organizing leisure activities for children and youth. I loved the atmosphere and the mix of cultures. Besides that, I study French, read a lot, enjoy cooking and sharing dinner with friends.

How did you end up in Africa?

I have always had a fascination for other countries and cultures, most especially Africa! When I was young, I dreamed about working as a doctor in Africa. I later realized the medical field did not suit me, but Africa did.

For my master’s thesis, I analyzed the violent conflicts between different tribes (farmers and pastoralists) in Burkina Faso. It felt as if this experience further awakened my passion. I fell in love with Africa. It didn’t come as a surprise for my friends and family when I told them about my new job in Uganda in 2017.

Why did you start CCA?

In 2017, I started working for an NGO in Amudat, a remote and marginalized district in Eastern Uganda. I soon realized that too many children were growing up in poverty and without opportunities to improve their future prospects. The local Pokot girls are circumcised and married off at an early age, while boys are forced to look after the animals. What I saw were missed opportunities, for the children themselves, but also for their families and the community at large.

I had a dream to start an NGO and to improve the rights and opportunities of children and youth in Africa. To end child abuse, female genital mutilation and child marriage and to give children an opportunity to complete their education and to develop themselves. CCA can’t change the world alone, but we can make the worlds of these children a little better and brighter.

What makes CCA unique?

CCA has a tangible impact, by training local organizations and volunteers and to work together to improve the lives of vulnerable children, their families and their communities. We pay attention to the specific needs of the children and their households. Our approach is not one-size-fits-all.

What do you do for CCA?

As the co-founder and director of CCA, I live in Africa and I’m involved in all aspects; from fundraising to the selection, training and mentoring of our local partners. I know the communities, the local leaders, our partners, the sponsored children and their families well and I always aim to offer all necessary help where it is most needed.

CCA works together with local partners. How are they selected?

We normally have some regions and countries in mind where we would love to work. I usually visit those areas and map the local initiatives, looking at their intrinsic motivation and knowledge of the local context and challenges affecting the population.

Dorian talks to a CCA visitor

Obviously, all local partners should share our child-focused vision and mission and not discriminate based on religion, gender, age, ethnicity, etc. We gladly receive advice from people in the community, local and religious leaders and the government of the country or region we want to work in. Experience is less important to us; with the right training and mentoring, we can start a quality programme together.

What drives you?

The children. Every child has the right to a bright future. It is unacceptable that there are still children growing up in extreme poverty. That orphans are unable to access education and forced to beg for a meal. That girls are forced to marry at a young age, often to a much older man. It is heartbreaking to see that children with physical or mental disabilities are being abandoned. Their stories make me want to work harder every day.

Can you imagine every having to let go of CCA or the children?

Honestly? No. I have a close connection to the people in the communities where we work. They are my African family. I always carry the children in my heart. I do believe it is important to take a few steps back and to ensure the local staffs are carrying out the project independently. I am really looking forward to the graduation ceremony of our first child, hopefully in a few years. I will be sitting front row!

What touches your heart most?

The stories of the children. And the stories of mothers, who often dream of a better future for their children, but feel helpless. We wish the world for them, but we are limited in our finances and sometimes hampered by cultural barriers. But I also try to focus on the positive impact we have. It is incredible to see that vulnerable and traumatized children are starting to dream and see a bright future ahead!