By Carol Kimari - YGAP Country Director, Kenya
With all of the studies available regarding Africa and Kenya in particular, one would think there is absolutely no hope of alleviating poverty and its related social ills. However, this is not the case. In the midst of bitter resentment, complaints and darkness portrayed by a misinformed, self-serving media, there are pockets of justice and good being propagated by individuals who refuse to live a world devoid of hope. These are the everyday heroes we should look to celebrate as they work tirelessly to bring Kenya out of dire straights.
Having been a social entrepreneur, I have experienced the many hurdles anyone working in business faces when trying to tackle poverty-related issues. It is a long, lonely road. Anyone willing to invest time, energy or resources into a business wants to see a significant return within three to five years. But this is not necessarily the case, or the target, for entrepreneurs seeking change in their communities. Rather than a return, they may be looking to provide employment for youth, alleviate disease, improve access to healthcare services or provide better living conditions in low socio-economic areas.
These are the reasons I have dedicated my life to helping my fellow Kenyans, through any means possible. It is not common for people looking to change lives to do so while also making money. Changing lives has always been associated with non-profit and NGO organisations. I believed otherwise, but I didn’t know how to go about it. Luckily, I came across Spark - who later merged with YGAP - and together, we are showing hundreds of passionate social entrepreneurs that they don’t have to die trying to save the world.
What does this mean for the economy? Suddenly, youth who were unemployed can find work and avoid spiralling into a life of crime, people are economically empowered and disease is radically reduced.
When some of these passionate entrepreneurs decide to tackle education-related injustices, be it female genital mutilation, a lack of sanitary education, or shortage of teachers, libraries or books, they work from the ground up. By improving access to education, they create sustainable ways of raising our children to become powerful levers for change.
We always say Kenya has a rich farming background, yet farmers remain some of our poorest members of society. Why? Because they lack markets, information and even the knowledge to produce globally acceptable crops. When our farmers are supported, we see phenomenal growth. Not only can they grow world-class crops, they can send their children to school and create jobs for the unemployed.
It is a well-rounded trip, the support of Social entrepreneurs and our dedication to supporting this group of powerful people will yield tangible results. In the end, people will realise it is the most effective way to alleviate poverty, over and above the standard, vanilla and socially accepted methods.