By Angela Serednicki
After working in Dago, Kenya for three years, Enactus Ryerson will pass the reins of Project Dago to the residents of the village.
The student-run organization, which creates and implements business ideas to sustain positive change in the world, will send nine students to Dago in July. The students will ensure that residents are able to sustain five initiatives created by Ryerson. These include a financial literacy workshop, a microloan program, a beekeeping cooperation, a cyber café and solar panels.
The project’s co-manager, Heather Norris, said the trip will focus on implementing a plan to ensure community members can take over the programs Enactus created in 2011.
“We want to pass on the torch,” she said.
Norris said that teaching financial skills is essential because “everyone is an entrepreneur by necessity.” In most families in the area, the men stay home and farm while the women sell the produce. Many residents know short-term financial planning and are eager to learn alternatives.
This was the case for Heleda, a widowed mother. After participating in the financial literacy workshop and microloan program, she now runs a successful hair salon.
“[I] was a burden to the community but now I can make it by myself,” Heleda said in a pre-recorded interview. She earns enough money to send her kids to school and employ two other workers.
“We target the women because they’re the backbone of the community,” Norris said.
So far, 40 microloans have been issued. Ninety per cent of women were able to reissue the full payment of each loan.
During a visit, Enactus members noticed village men burning beehives.
The students saw the potential of this resource and created the Dago Beekeepers’ Association.
The men were given the tools and resources to learn how to beekeep, extract, bottle and sell the honey. Once they saw the project’s success, they realized its worth and “changed their thinking to focus on long-term gains,” Norris said.
Enactus has also installed solar panels that power the Internet café (also an Enactus project) and the local orphanage.
Enactus plans to use Dago as their model for future projects.
New expansion plans are not yet finalized, but potential locations include Tanzania and Uganda.