Each month the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Newark donates half of its total offerings to a different organization. Organizations must apply to to the UUFN Social Justice Committee be considered. The main criteria to apply is that the organization must be local and that the donations given will make a difference for the organization. For the month of September 2017, UUFN will “Share The Plate” with Water is Life Kenya.
Water is Life Kenya is a small local nonprofit making a large difference in Kenya. Newark native Joyce Tannian founded Water is Life Kenya (WILK) 10 years ago to help the Maasai people in Kenya solve their water problems. WILK works in partnership with villages needing clean water. To date, WILK has installed 16 clean water projects — which have transformed the lives of 45,000 people and their livestock. All of these projects are still operational. Instead of walking hours each day to get water, women now have time to start a business, enroll in adult literacy classes, or care for their young children. Girls now have time to go to school. Health is improved – both for humans and livestock.
Village water supply is sustainable when people have reliable income. To help improve family income, we developed our “Livestock as a Business Program” in partnership with the Kenyan Ministry of Livestock. This program trains livestock keeper groups to manage their largest asset (livestock) in a more profitable way. The program has a microloan component and 99% of all loans have been repaid. On average, the groups have earned a 30% profit. Most importantly, group members become change agents in their families and communities.
Last year, we had 6 all-women livestock keeper groups. These women were initially scorned by the men – who didn’t believe women could run profitable livestock groups. Despite the women’s illiteracy, making it impossible for them to make the calculations themselves, all groups made a profit. The women were very proud of their success.
WILK has also created a beaded handicraft business, to diversify our sources of income (instead of just relying on donations and grants). The handicraft business generates 10% of our income and employs local people in creative and well-paying jobs. We recycle paper into beads and turn them into upscale jewelry. We are now Fair Trade certified and we sell our jewelry to wholesale buyers and online. Recycling paper into beautiful beaded jewelry EQUALS raising money to bring clean, accessible water to communities in Southern Kenya.
Water is Life Kenya’s circle of blessing is: our beads bring beauty to you, hope for the future to the artisans that make them, and clean water to thousands.