MIT Public Service Center

Helping women produce charcoal using recycled local resources

Kakamega, Kenya.
Kakamega is located about one hour north of Lake Victoria in the Western Province of Kenya. The Uganda border is 20 miles west of here. While the town of Kakamega is a commercial center, Western Province is a rural area with most residents relying on subsistence farming for daily food needs.

www.justoneperson.org

Background

Just One Person works with high school girls and women to empower them academically and economically.

Girls in rural Kenya aren’t exposed to alternatives that are available to them after high school graduation and don’t possess the skills they need to pursue these opportunities. Our core mission is providing workshops and seminars to high school girls using a 3 year life skills curriculum that teaches them those skills. Girls also participate in JOP for one year after graduation when they are placed in internships with small businesses and income generating projects that turn theory into practice.

We are also striving to develop financial sustainability in Kenya for our JOP girls’ programs by working with local women’s groups to establish small businesses. We provide loans from a revolving fund and assist the group with skills training, administrative duties, business consulting and marketing. In return, the women’s groups donate a small portion of their profits to help support JOP program operations. While empowering women in the community to establish economic independence, our work with women’s groups also engages the local community in the education of the next generation of Kenyan women.

Currently, women’s groups have established a tree nursery, mushroom project, soap making project, bead project and an embroidering handicraft project. The charcoal project would be an addition project for one of our women’s groups.

The Challenge

Kakamega is located on the edge of the Kakamega National Forest, one of the last remaining rain forests in Africa. While the forest is protected, out of the need for cooking fuel, people continue to cut trees in the forest to make charcoal. There is a huge demand for a cheap source of charcoal made with alternative local resources. The project will be directed in Kenya by the co-founder of JOP, Emma Sisia, who will assume the responsibility for engaging community members to assist and to provide the necessary resources.

Qualifications, Preferences, and Assets

People skills are extremely important in any project undertaken in Kenya. English and Kiswahili are the two national languages and most people speak English. However, due to cultural differences, volunteers need to be willing to learn and be sensitive to a different style of communication and methods of working on and implementing projects in Kenya.
Our co-founder, Emma Sisia, having worked with Americans previously, is well suited for helping students integrate into the community.
Other skills recommended are flexibility, resourcefulness, a sense of humor and sense of adventure.

Time constraints

It is most likely that within a minimum of 6-8 weeks, the project could be designed and the early stages implemented. Time in addition to 8 weeks would ensure that the project is established and running smoothly. Just One Person welcomes volunteers at any time of the year. Because Kakamega is located almost at the equator, there are no seasonal changes to contend with.

Contacts

Annette L. Russ,
-Note- Currently in Kenya until March 20th.
Can be contacted until then by email at annettelillyruss@yahoo.com.
After March 20th, my cell number is 530 680-9318.

Emma Sisia (in Kenya) - emmasisia@yahoo.com.

PSC Support

MIT students who develop projects around these ideas may apply for support from the Public Service Center's Fellowships and Internships programs. Please check the program descriptions and deadlines and talk to program staff to determine which is most appropriate for your needs and project.

If you want to volunteer or you have funding from outside the PSC that enables you to work on this project, that's great! However, please do let us know if you work on a project you saw advertised here, even if you don't use our funds. And remember, the PSC staff are happy to advise on service projects even if we are not funding them ourselves.

 
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