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One Love Project Builds Community in Kenya

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By Denis Katana Karisa (YES 2019-2020, Kenya, placed with AYA in Lincoln, NE)

I am currently a high school student and an older sibling to my only sister. At a very young age, I discovered that I admire people who give back to the community. I love coming up with new and innovative ideas. I once suggested to my school that we should have a career-building class, but it did not get much support. I am happy to say that I failed a lot of times when I was young, which made me into the person I am today. My ambition and my purpose are to improve myself and the people around me.  

During my YES year, I had the opportunity to volunteer in my host community. I saw unity and togetherness around other volunteers. I also joined a speech and debate clubm which helped me build my confidence. I would say that the most important thing that I learned during my YES year is that we are better and stronger together. That is why I came up with the One Love Project. 

In my home community, I was seeing a rise in the number of street children and noted that orphanages were the most engaged in helping them. However, I also observed that the orphanages sometimes didn’t have an adequate supply of food for the street children they took in, and that most orphanages are totally dependent on donations.  So I started the One Love project to help the orphanages in my community. Luckily, our community is blessed by people who are willing to help and volunteer.  

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The great thing about the One Love project is that we don’t just go to the orphanages to provide food;  we also take time to connect with and mentor the children. Transportation is provided by one of our volunteers. So far, the One Love project has been well received by the community and, from the very beginning, we have been getting encouragement from different orphanages. After pitching the One Love Project idea to local youth, they found it interesting and signed up to volunteer. We also conduct community fundraising drives. 

So far, our project has helped more than 300 children. It has also inspired a lot of youth to abstain from drugs and bad behaviors by providing them with the opportunity to volunteer, which gives them hope, motivation, and self-confidence that they can also give back to the community. 

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Most recently, our volunteer team spent New Year's with the children at the Lea Mwana Children's Home, spreading holiday cheer. We also donated cooking flour, soap, masks, and clothes. Check out our video:

I hope at some point in the near future to see the One Love Project expanding and conducting workshops to teach youth skills such as farming. To make sure that the orphanages are growing and benefiting from this project, we will conduct surveys with the staff and youth. 

I’d like to give special thanks to my local AFS Kenya chapter in Malindi, Lennox, Gift, Fatma Khalfan (YES 2017-2018), Joyner Irene (YES 2016-2017), Emmanuel, Caroline, and many other wonderful people who have supported this project. When you look at the bigger picture, this project is nothing without them. I am also so grateful to the YES program and the U.S. Department of State. 


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