By Anne Ndegwa (YES 2010-2011, hosted by PAX in Tuscaloosa, AL), Brian Bright (YES 2011-2012, hosted by PAX in Cheboygan, MI) and Ibrahim Mohamed (YES 2009-2010, hosted by PAX in Nashua, NH)
The three of us have been friends for quite some time now. The thing that really made our friendship grow is our passion to give back to society, a passion that was cultivated during our YES exchange year in the States. We have taken part in a number of YES alumni community service activities since returning home to Kenya, but we wanted to take it to the next level by initiating and carrying out our own community service project together. All three of us were fortunate to get the opportunity to attend the ASHOKA Changemaker’s workshop in Alexandria, VA, where we learned a great deal about project planning and implementation.
In late 2016, we started brainstorming project ideas based on the impact they would have in our community as well as their sustainability. We challenged each other to read and conduct research, and in no time, the idea of a water harvesting project was born. At the time, many areas in Kenya were experiencing serious water shortages and long periods of drought. Simply put, water is life here. Most parts of the country face water shortages, and even the upper middle class experiences the hardship of foregoing water, so we could only imagine how hard it was for marginalized communities who face additional economic challenges as well. The process of finding an ideal location and partner for our project was important as we wanted a partner who is also committed to serving others. Finally, we settled on the Global Hope Rescue and Rehabilitation Center in Ngong, Kenya.
Global Hope, for short, is home to about eighty smart and vibrant boys, who are rescued from homelessness and reside at the facility for rehabilitation. The center is sustained only by community member’s donations and goodwill. Among the many problems the center faces is centered on lack of water. The Center was at the mercy of water officials, who would often disconnect their water supply due to accruing huge water bills it was at times unable to pay. The kind of hazard that could arise from eighty boys sharing facilities without a steady supply of water can only be imagined.
Our team of three was awarded a 2017 YES Alumni Grant to install a water tank and a purification system at the Center so that they can collect rain water and make it potable. Implementation of the project was a whole new experience for us! We had a lot of construction technicalities to learn, but it was wonderful to see it all work out perfectly. The boys at the center were so helpful and wanted to help the laborers wherever they could.
Being fellows of the ASHOKA Youth Venture, we were inspired to add a social entrepreneurship aspect and encouraged the Center to start a water kiosk, where they can sell water to those around them and generate income that could cover some of the Center’s bills. Since completion of the project, we’ve had regular rains and our friends at Global Hope could not be more excited to be able to harvest the rains with their new tank.
Seeing each small piece of our dream puzzle fit together perfectly has brought so much joy to our hearts and water in the cups of those most in need. The project has turned out exactly as we’d hoped, and we cannot be more thankful for this wonderful chance we were given to change the lives of Kenyans in our community. The contentment, appreciation, joy, and smiles that we saw on the faces of everyone at Global Hope were heartwarming.
We remain eternally grateful to the YES program, which has been one of our greatest sources of joy and pride. We are thankful to American Councils, the U.S. Department of State, and the American people at large for making our dream come true. It is true that YES only begins when alumni return home. We are also very grateful to AFS in Kenya and America for believing in us and for the enormous support you give us.
Asanteni Sana! (Thank you very much!)