Rawan Galaidos came up with the idea to sell streetwear to fund malaria prevention and education in Ethiopia when she learned that humans are intrinsically communal in a UCLA sociology lecture.
“I thought to myself that if humans are innately good and willing to work together, all that’s needed is a way to act,” she said.
Galaidos, who graduated from UCLA in 2015, started the Ubuntu Project, which sells African-styled streetwear to raise funding for malaria prevention efforts and for schools in Ethiopia. The Schwarzman Scholars program recognized her work in December by making her one of the first UCLA recipients of its scholarship.
The Schwarzman Scholars program, which launched in 2016, provides graduates with the opportunity to study in China for one year and network with experts in different fields. Galaidos is one of 142 students selected from a pool of more than 4,000 graduates from 39 countries and 97 universities across the globe.
Nina Ruben, a senior associate for public affairs and marketing at the Schwarzman Scholars program, said the program aims to provide training in public affairs, international relations and business.
“(The Schwarzman Scholars program) is for someone who wants to make an impact and someone who wants to do that through leadership,” Ruben said.
Galaidos said the Ubuntu Project encourages individuals in the U.S. and Canada to contribute to charitable causes through fashion and design.
When buying Ubuntu Project clothes online, customers can choose what cause they want to fund with their purchase, she said. The project sells hoodies, long-sleeved T-shirts and bags with African-themed decorations.
Galaidos said she draws from her own African heritage when designing her clothes and hopes she can use her business to empower people who live in the communities her ancestors came from. The Ubuntu Project also follows the philosophy of Ubuntu, a South African philosophy that attests a universal bond of sharing connects all of humanity.
Students in the Schwarzman program will also spend one year at Tsinghua University in Beijing, earning a master’s in global affairs.
Galaidos said she hopes her experience in China will help her develop skills to be a better businesswoman and entrepreneur.
“China has been innovating at a rapid pace,” Galaidos said. “Through the Schwarzman Scholars program, I can immerse myself in this culture of innovation and be able to take those skills to Africa through the Ubuntu Project.”
Rebecca Blustein, student affairs officer at the UCLA Scholarship Resource Center, said the program emphasizes student leadership and aims to recruit a diverse cohort from the United States, China and the rest of the world.
“That means that students gain a truly international perspective and make connections that will be valuable for the rest of their lives,” she said.
Galaidos said she hopes to build an international network of supporters to grow her business by participating in the program.
“The way that the world is becoming increasingly globalized, there’s this growing need to understand one another,” she said.