Born one of 13 children, the young Keenese Katisenge treasured above all else time spent with family.
“We would gather around the fire and listen to stories and life lessons,” Keenese says. “Those were some of my favorite memories.”
Keenese, a 2019 Mandela Washington Fellow, went on to found Limitless Minds, a chess academy for people with special needs in Botswana.
“We use the game of chess to empower and develop young minds,” Keenese says. “Our programs include chess for the visually impaired and other marginalized groups. We also offer mentorship, workshops, and literature classes, all in service of creativity, innovation, and social inclusion.”
On the heels of the COVID-19 outbreak, Keenese began working with local organizations across Botswana to educate her peers about the increasing risk of domestic violence.
“We began a series of educational campaigns on social media, calling for the protection of women and girls from sexual harassment, assault, and abuse,” Keenese says.
For Keenese, one of the biggest challenges she’s faced has been acquiring the necessary funding to get her academy off the ground.
“I opted for alternatives like using Facebook while I waited to get my website up and running. I asked friends to offer graphic design or marketing support,” Keenese says. “With their help, we were able to attract partners and students.”
Keenese encourages others interested in social entrepreneurship to start with their passions, with whatever moves them to act.
“Work from the heart, because there will be times when the demands will be high, fatigue will set in, and you will have to sacrifice your time, but if you are working from the heart, it will all be worth it.”
As Keenese sees it, her work isn’t simply teaching young adults to play chess, it’s giving a voice to those marginalized and forgotten, allowing them to imagine new and brighter futures.
“We don’t only live for ourselves, but also for others,” Keenese says. “If we only focus on ourselves, the marginalized and people with disabilities will not have a voice.”
“I want to contribute to a more inclusive world,” Keenese says. “A world where people with disabilities and other marginalized communities are not treated as an afterthought.”
Keenese envisions a world where people with disabilities are treated with respect and are seen as valuable, not in spite of their disabilities, but irrespective of them.
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