Village Cooperative Accomplishments!

With generous donations from The Village Experience, past travelers, and community supporters, The Village Cooperative was able to accomplish so much in 2010. I am so proud of our partners in Mbita, Nakuru, and Eldoret for their tireless effort to uplift the communities surrounding them…many with little or no compensation. I wanted to take the time to highlight a few big accomplishments from last year now that I am settled back in the states from 6 weeks in East Africa.

First Stop: Kenya

We opened our first nursery school in the village of Geera, outside of Mbita. This school has admitted over 150 students and plan for another classroom are under way. We reached out to the Live Long Widows Group to sew the student’s school uniforms and we had the Heart to Heart Women’s Cooperative in Nakuru create tshirts for everyone through their tshirt screen printing company. We celebrated the opening with a party in Geera complete with tea, chapati, balloons, games, and garland! The children of this new academy and the primary school in town are recipients of our daily feeding program ensuring top level attendance rates.

We have helped the widows of Live Long start their own party rental company complete with a large scale tent, tables, and chairs. The widows thought long and hard about what kind of business would be most beneficial for them to operate and this made perfect sense. The widows are offering their products and services at rates below those offered in town and focus on schools, churches, and private functions such as weddings and birthday parties. TVC can’t wait to see their continued success through 2011.

The men in Mbita were given the task of running the new “boda-boda” taxi service. Once we realized the amount of money that could be generated from each motorbike, we quickly expanded to three motorbikes. These motorbikes provide 3 men with jobs, provide transportation for the widows above when needed, and provide funding for the teacher’s salaries at the two schools we support. TVC is looking forward to expanding this project to generate as much funding as possible in hopes of raising the standard of living for everyone in the community.

Over in Nakuru, renovations on the new medical clinic at the former IDP Camp are fast underway. This clinic is slated to be completed by the end of the summer and will serve over 120,000 people in the community. TVC is so proud of how quickly the people in the village responded to the call for help with labor, organization, and resources. You would never recognize the former IDP Camp if you saw it today.  Through hard work and essential partnerships, this once desperate, temporary settlement has transformed into a lively, permanent, and happy village.

Child Discovery Center went above and beyond in the implementation of their first income-generating project. The tilapia fish pond is a sight to see! Over 3,000 fish fill this pond and all the children played an integral role in setting up the pond, maintaining it, and soon to come, distributing the goods (can’t wait to try one myself!). The new girl’s dorm is almost open and we have plans to get a tree nursery and organic garden in place this summer.

TVC’s community tourism project with the women of Mwariki Heart to Heart Cooperative is officially off the ground. Come to Nakuru and purchase a community tour and play a role in responsible tourism. You can enjoy a horseback safari through the National Park or Mwariki Village. You can overnight in the village under the stars and enjoy a meal prepared by the women. You can learn about fair trade and try your hand at creating recycled paper jewelry or spinning wool the old fashioned way. Great job Beth and Heart to Heart.

Up in Eldoret, TVC was given a behind the scenes look at Tumaini Street Children’s Drop In Center. We visited the soccer fields and the local trash dumps in an effort to befriend the young boys and girls, we distributed nutritious food, and we worked on a plan to expand the vocational skills training programs at the center. We are excited to see this project develop and hope to help in any way we can.

Second Stop: Uganda

Throughout our travels in Uganda, TVC was able to explore and develop plans to expand our projects into communities throughout the country. We visited with several community  groups including Papercraft, Bead for Life, Beijjo, Good African Coffee, Boomu Women’s Cooperative, Lord’s Meade Vocational College, and Lake Bunyonyi Women’s Group. There is a lot of potential to begin income-generating projects in Uganda, and we decided to start in the Lake Bunyonyi area in partnership with Bunyonyi Safari’s Resort and Foundation. Our first test project was to fund-raise enough money for 32 sets of piglets that an orphans and guardians project could raise and generate income from. Within 3 days, our facebook campaign had secured all the funding required! Now the families are preparing for the pigs and the project will begin in a few months.  Our partnership with Bunyonyi Safari’s Resort and Foundation will mirror the partnership we have with The Lake Nakuru Lodge in Kenya to leverage as much impact in the community as possible.

Third Stop: Rwanda

Since Lake Bunyonyi is only 2 hours from the border with Rwanda, we decided to cross over and visit community projects to see about expanding our reach and also our community tourism program. We spent time with the Director of Volcano’s National Park to see conservation efforts and the partnership the park has developed with the surrounding villages. The buffalo wall project was tremendous! We then visited several women’s groups focusing on growing oyster mushrooms, making soap for the local market, creating handbags from traditional fabrics, and of course weaving the ever popular Rwandan baskets. TVC sees lots of potential to work with communities in Rwanda and looks forward to partnering with groups here in the future.

TVC could never accomplish all of the above (and much more!) without help from all of our supporters, and of course, from The Village Experience and all of its wonderful travelers. Consider connecting your classroom, work colleagues, family and friends, or social groups to The Village Cooperative and help get another small business off the ground in East Africa! Email for more information.