Ray Youssef has always dreamt of building schools, especially for those who need it the most.
For him, Bitcoin for social good is a game changer.
As the CEO of Paxful, a peer-to-peer Bitcoin marketplace that connects buyers with sellers, the platform’s #BuiltWithBitcoin initiative means a lot to him. Teaming up with Zam Zam Water, the team have already built two schools in Rwanda, funded by Bitcoin.
“Education is essential in the sustenance of a community,” said Youssef, in an interview with Crypto Briefing. “We see our #BuiltWithBitcoin campaign as a way of giving back to the communities that need it the most to showcase how the power of a peer-to-peer currency like Bitcoin can reach people that need financial assistance.”
The first two schools have been built in the Kasebigege Village in Rwanda, next to each other. The decision to build here followed after the team found a partner on the ground who explained how the residents in the village were rebuilding their lives after the Rwandan genocide in the 90s.
“Rwanda is the heart of Africa and the people’s resilience showed how forgiveness can heal a community,” Youssef said. “These people need to be given an opportunity more than anything. And they embrace the chance to have the exact change that they need.”
The first school is a nursery school for children between the ages of three to six. It has three classrooms, a portable irrigation system with four toilets, and a 15,000 liter water system. There is also a farm to encourage sustainable agriculture for the whole village.
The second school is a primary school for children between six to 15 years of age. It has six classrooms, a cafeteria, bathroom stalls, solar panels, and a 35,000 liter water system.
“We provided books, uniforms, health insurance, and the educators also now get a proper salary,” said Youssef. “Of course, the villagers help tremendously in keeping these facilities alive, they are the heart of these people and without them, we can never sustain it.”
The goal, Youssef said, is to build 100 schools in Africa that are fully funded by cryptocurrency.
“With two down, I’m more than excited to get to work on the next 98,” he added, with the hope of building two or three more this year.
Plans are already underway to get school number three built as they finalize the location and talk with partners. The anticipated start of construction could be as soon as the next quarter, with Bitcoin coming from people who donate through their marketing campaigns. The platform then matches each donation in order to finish construction.
Colombia, Ghana, Kenya, and Uganda are all candidates for the next school, according to Youssef. A team currently located in Kenya for a possible build put the country at the top of the list; however, Youssef clarified that no decision has yet been made.
At the moment, he’s in Ghana, mostly to attend a networking event with BitHub Africa to meet young entrepreneurs and local crypto and blockchain enthusiasts, but also to meet people on the ground and understand the market better.
“Ghana is in our top five markets, so it’s about time to see first-hand and hear from locals how Bitcoin and Paxful have helped them and how we can improve the product,” he said.
Combating Homelessness and Financial Strain
Coming from humble beginnings that showed him the importance of maintaining control and access to finance, Youssef knows what it’s like to face financial hardships. During the early days of Paxful he was homeless in New York City, when he couldn’t find a place to bunk down for the night.
Founded in 2015, Paxful has since grown to become a P2P site that offers over 300 ways to pay for bitcoins. The most popular choices include using gift cards such as iTunes and Amazon, but other options are PayPal, Google Pay, Apple Pay, WeChat, and bank transfers.
“If there is a way for anyone from anywhere around the world to take control of their finances without banking interference or fees, they can have the opportunity to lift themselves up and rise from the pit that the traditional financial system dug for them,” said Youssef.
Paxful is aiding this by providing its users with a platform that gives them access to finances their way, he added. As a global platform that includes the unbanked and underbanked into a financial ecosystem, “they don’t have to worry about banks, fees or anyone else controlling their finances – they are in control of how they send and spend their money,” Youssef continued.
The impact it’s producing on Africa’s continent is evident. In 2018, Paxful saw its transaction volume increase by 130%, driven by a rise in the number of African users. Ghana, for instance, tripled its user base with the opening of 41,243 accounts whereas Nigeria doubled its own to 321,476.
With the team focusing on Africa to continue building more schools, Paxful are set on changing how the continent’s people access finance and education – what so many of us take for granted each day – one school at a time.
The author is invested in Bitcoin, which is mentioned in this article.