“I didn’t have much money but I knew my friends would come.”
Four years later over 60 people have been to Kenya, all stemming from the original six. In addition, over 600 people are supporting this area in varied projects running the gamut from school sponsorships to water projects. (More on this later) Five of the original six people are still actively involved in Kenya and their ideas and efforts aren’t anywhere near identical. Don and his wife Mary started an organization called SOAR-Kenya and help with projects from piping water to sponsoring school fees. Steve works with Rotary, matching grants on water and sanitation while his wife Pat coordinates her friends in the Freedom for Girls project which distributes sanitary pads and underwear to thousands of local school girls. Joanne works closely with a self help group (SHG) to train locals on profit making skills such as sewing. Matt is doing everything he can to go back and is dead set on working in emerging economies, which is his full time passion. Phill has stuck with the idea of bringing more people to help.
The idea is if we can have the efforts of a billion people rather than only the efforts of one person with a billion dollars, the world would be a better place. Each of the people who still continue to work in Kenya, the others who have came since, and the peripheral people in the supporting roles often do not agree. They do not agree on principles, on projects, and on decisions; however, they do agree on helping their Kenyan friends. Each of them uses their own skills, experiences, and support to complete projects and empower Kenyans. As each strengthens relationships, grows their support, and completes projects, everyone moves forward, learning from each other and improving lives.
Imagine a network of places around the globe where everyday people could travel and immerse themselves in an authentic experience in a sustainable way. We call these International Villages. International Villages (IV) is a five acre prototype in Nakuru, Kenya. Operated by local people, they grow most of the food tourists eat and
develop relationships that last. Tourists see the sites that a Kenyan visitor should not miss and work on projects like that of Connor, Ann, and Mike.
In the summer of 2010, Connor, 17, of Wisconsin and Ann, 17, of North Carolina traveled to the IV for a total of 30 days. During that time they had fun, went on safari, and created life-long relationships. One of the groups they met is called Burgei. Burgei is a SHG that are trying to create profitable businesses in a rural slum that is
very dry. Previous projects had helped Burgei pipe water to their community land plot and fence it, which is what opened the door for Connor and Ann. “When we heard Burgei wanted to raise fish for profit and food and that they had already taken steps for a fish pond – we knew we could help.” Two 17 year old high school juniors gave the boost that helped a group of 20 families raise approximately $50/month in sustainable profit for months to come.
Mike, 22 and a college senior, went on the same trip and fell in love with hundreds of elementary school students who nicknamed him Twiga, giraffe in Swahili, because Mike is 6’4” and a red-head. Through Mike’s many talks with the students on their way to and from school and in discussions with the headmaster, he learned that the only water this government school had was from rain water harvesting. Many times, because of the dry area, there was simply no water at the school. Mike quickly went to work talking with other Kenyan friends to find an answer and figured out that for $300 USD, water could permanently be piped in. Upon being told this, the headmaster thought it was a great idea and pledged 1/3 of the costs from the parent group. Mike sent an email home that night, posted it on Facebook, and 24 hours later he told the headmaster that the parents could keep their money.