#Twaweza: We Can Change Lives When We Come Together As A Community

“Community is a sign that love is possible in a materialistic world where people so often either ignore or fight each other. It is a sign that we don’t need a lot of money to be happy–in fact, the opposite.” – Jean Vanier

Africa has always been known for its sense of community. A great part of our past, present and future is linked to the fact that we achieve more when we do things together. It is through the work done, the knowledge shared and the strides taken together as a people that make us who we are; a great nation with the immense potential for transformation.

We can do great things when we work together and Safaricom is harnessing that power of community for its projects. It is impacting lives by looking at the needs of the community and looking at unique ways to solve the issues that the communities face. The Safaricom Foundation founded by Safaricom Limited has seen the great potential in our sense of community and has so far invested over Kshs 1.8 billion in empowering communities to move to the next level. Safaricom takes its role as part of the community seriously. As one of the largest corporate Foundations in Kenya, the foundation has injected its resources into sectors like education, health, economic empowerment, the environment, arts and culture, music and sports. In addition, it has also responded to disasters and humanitarian emergencies.

For development to effectively take place, we must work together.

Take a case of environmental conservation. The most effective work done in conserving the environment happens when people are involved at the grass root level.  Last month, the local community, various private companies, public sector players and NGOs came together to plant thousands of tree seedlings on degraded land along the North-Eastern Boundary of the South West Mau Forest Complex as part of a forest protection and livelihoods improvement program.

In an effort to protect and conserve over 60,000 hectares of South West Main Forest by 2030, the Foundation together with other private and public partners and the efforts of the community under the initiative Sustainable Landscapes Kenya (ISLA Kenya), aim to ensure innovative and sustainable solutions to deforestation.

What impresses me the most is the fact that they take their time to teach the local residents on the importance of conserving the environment. For far too long, corporates have been indulging in CSR projects like tree planting or clean ups without sensitizing the community on the urgent need to do it. The relay of information to the people at the grass root level is what maintains and grows the work even after it’s already done.

The same goes for the residents of Kathonzweni in Makueni County. Near the vast Chyulu Hills lies Kathonzweni, an area which is usually faced with extended periods of scarce water; and it is here where the girls even drop out of school because of the number of days missed in class due to such issues rising. Hundreds of girls either get left behind or have to drop out because of the extensive time taken in searching for water. This has however changed thanks to the partnership of ActionAid Kenya and Safaricom Foundation to address this perennial water crisis of the area, Kshs 25 million was injected by the Foundation while ActionAid committed Kshs 4 million into projects that diversified the livelihoods of the communities living in that area. These young girls can now go to school without the worry of missing out on the chance to get clean water at home thanks to the Mukameni and Kitise water projects.

Closer home, over 100,000 residents of the sprawling Kibera informal settlement have also benefited from the Safaricom Foundation through the Shining Hope for Communities (SHOFCO), a local development organization funded by the Foundation for the residents to enjoy access to clean water following the commissioning of an innovative potable water distribution system. Walking through the shanty community, there is the desperate need for clean water. 90% of homes there lack a basic sewerage system, so they buy their water from vendors and let the waste water run freely. This, however, is not entirely by choice. The informal settlement which is the largest in Africa houses residents who live under a dollar a day and clean water is already a scarce commodity to find in the city.

 

SHOFCO is changing the community through its programs. Mothers can breathe easily knowing that the rate at which their children will get sick from communicable diseases has been drastically reduced through the provision of clean water. Kennedy Odede who started SHOFCO in 2004 realized the need to bring change to the community; change that could only start from within where the people were involved.

SHOFCO has also changed the lives of hundreds of girls who can get wholesome education without the fear of the once deep gender inequality that cut across the slums a few years back. These girls can now live in a world where they are free to dream and work hard to become who they have always desired to become; change agents in the society.

 

Girls playing – at the SHOFCO school. Image via http://www.livedndy.com/travel

Crossing over to Korogocho slums is yet another inspiring story of the next generation of upcoming musicians in the Kenyan industry, the inspiring kids from Ghetto Classics. The kids from there make beautiful music, music that at first wouldn’t be thought to have come from a place of such hardship and strife. However, through the growing numbers of people attending the annual Safaricom Jazz Festivals, Safaricom has now been able to give over Kshs 17 million to the growth and the sustenance of the project. From the story of the kids of Ghetto Classics, it only shows how much anything is possible if you just believe and work to achieve your dreams.

 

For most of them, they only looked towards surviving the hardship of the slums. The music education that they now get at the Ghetto Classic programme doesn’t just add value to their music skills, they also have a new sense of responsibility. They have been equipped with life skills that tech them to become more focused, more discipline and more inclined to achieving their dreams. They are thriving and getting not just a music education, but they get their fees paid by the program. They have had the privilege of playing with both local and international musicians, and not only that they have been able to perform for the President and the Pope. Talk about music transforming lives, some of these kids will be performing on the international stage playing jazz or classical music in the next few years.

M-Kopa Solar is another great initiative that boasts of the power of community. It is estimated that 80 percent of M-Kopa customers live on less than $2 a day. Most of them live in the rural areas, where your next door neighbor is a couple of hundred metres away with three-quarters of them rely on small-scale farming as their primary or secondary source of income; the rest run small businesses.

A woman using M-Kopa solar lighting. Image from https://blog.usaid.gov/2015/07/solar-lamps-shed-light-in-rural-communities/

With most of these rural poor having little to no access to power, M-Kopa came in as an answered dream to majority of the country’s population. The M-Kopa’s solar systems provide clean, renewable and affordable power solution to millions of customers for whom reasonable electricity has remained out of reach. Communities can now own their futures in their hands with M-Kopa. Why? Because they control their destiny. They aren’t ruled by power interruptions because they have the power in their hands and it is theirs forever.

As children, we were always taught the value of earning your own money. That included working hard to earn that cash, being disciplined enough to save it and being wise enough to invest it in the right areas. M-Shwari revolutionized the way we save, borrow and use our money. Through the partnership of the Safaricom Foundation and CBA Group, the micro-savings product has taught the youth to save more, especially through the 52 week savings challenge and has also filled a critical gap in the financial industry in the country. Check out this post on Finances: Tools To Enable You To Save More This Year.

The M-Pesa Foundation Academy has also been a key project from the Safaricom Foundation where economically disadvantaged students from all over the country who possess and demonstrate great leadership potential are selected to be injected into the inclusive learning center. The academy also places a great amount of emphasis not just in academics but also in the arts, technology, music, sports, community service, all which are fundamental in the overall holistic development of the learners.

Through these and many other projects which can be viewed here, we can attest to how thousands of lives have forever been changed, generations transformed and the vision to thrive as a country continues to become even brighter thanks to the power of community and the efforts and work done by Safaricom.

So, what are you doing to change your community?

Featured image via ilaw.co.ke.

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