When creating Hope Fuse, Manasseh Kambaki took into account his own childhood, and the needs of kids he knew who grew up without strong role models or mentors. He always wanted to give back to the community by opening up a center for children and teens, he says -- and Rochester was the perfect place to begin.

Hope Fuse pairs mentors with mentees from the Rochester community to work on a variety of skills and behaviors -- academics, training, and morals. Those young people from low-income houses, minority groups, and fractured households face barriers to education and income later in life. Hope Fuse tries to provide leadership, training, and social support to mitigate the effects of those inequalities. It’s not just for at-risk youth, though -- Kambaki thinks any child can benefit from mentorship, and hopes to expand to serve kindergarten students through age 21 in 2022.

Like any nonprofit, Hope Fuse was hit hard by the pandemic -- they have a long waiting list at the moment, and downsized the number of mentors and mentees to account for social distancing requirements. However, Kambaki hopes for a strong comeback over the summer of 2021.

Keep an eye on the Hope Fuse social media pages and newsletter for news about upcoming events -- like a Kickball event and annual fishing trip with the Rochester Police Department this summer.

Why did you choose to found Hope Fuse here?

Newsletter signup for email alerts

I think this is a perfect place to work with individuals of all backgrounds. Just to help them be successful. Rochester being the third-largest city in Minnesota, it was fitting with Mayo Clinic and all the other large companies and organizations in this town. It’s a large community, about 110,000 people, and it’s going to continue to grow over the next five years. I chose Rochester specifically because a lot of people that are living in the smaller communities, especially people of color, migrate to Rochester, the Twin Cities, or they just end up leaving overall. If we can open up doors at an earlier age and let the mentees know that they’re part of the community, I think we can have them stay in the community and create more jobs for our people. … We’re hoping we can open those doors for our kids.

How does mentorship help prepare them for success later in life?

Just having the consistent adult in your life, it helps you. It shapes you. You are who you see yourself around. When I was growing up, my friends, grandmothers, their parents, my father and other influential people in my life always (told) me -- “show me your friends and I’ll show you your future.” We’re trying to create that in our organization, where we keep a positive environment, it’s consistently learning, consistently tapping into our mentees aspirations, their goals, so we can help them become who they really want to be instead of letting mishaps or misslips lead them down the wrong path. And also helping the students understand who they are by taking some of the core curriculum in our program -- assessment, writing down their goals, and then having our staff follow up to make sure the students are actually doing what they need to do. There’s a structure and a foundation that holds the whole program together.

Manasseh Kambaki (contributed photo)
Manasseh Kambaki (contributed photo)

What have you learned from being a mentor for kids yourself?

I’ve learned that seeing is believing. What I mean by that is if you see someone that looks like you doing something that’s not ordinary for those particular people, that gives you hope. The hope that we give them, day in and day out.

What do you hope to see from the young people and families you work with?

When parents are taken aback by the progress they see in their students in a short period of time -- that’s a credit to our core values, that goes to give credit to our staff … and also, accountability. We hold the students accountable, I hold the staff accountable, and I also hold myself accountable for the services we provide. We see change in a very short time -- whether it’s students being more positive about themselves, (or) holding each other accountable. I’d say a big change is when students start to treat each other with respect, (compared) to when they’d just entered the program. When they know the rules. They know they can’t use certain words when they’re in the program. That’s got to be my top two.