From Kenya to Kansas: Creating sustainable change in the lives of students
By Marisa Larson
A summer of service in Kenya has led two Kansas State University students to create a business. Kaitlin Long, Leawood, Kan., and Logan Gauby, Washington, Kan., spent the summer of 2011 at the Children and Youth Empowerment Centre (CYEC) in Nyeri, Kenya as members of an international service team from K-State’s School of Leadership Studies. There they met girls who made bags and other items as part of the centre’s tailoring program. Volunteers to the centre would bring the bags back to the U.S., sell them to friends and family and send the money back to the CYEC.
Last spring, Long’s class assignment and her experience at the CYEC coalesced into a great business opportunity for her and the girls at the centre. “The assignment for my social entrepreneurship class was to enter the Next Big Thing competition,” she explained. “I asked Logan if he would be willing to come on board. We knew the bags were already being produced and that there was a market for them here, so we decided to formalize the process and create a business plan around Rafiki Bags. We ended up getting first place in the social entrepreneurship category and received seed money to start our venture.”
Long and Gauby both grew up knowing the importance of helping others and giving back, but their K-State experiences sparked their interest in philanthropy. “My time at K-State really helped me build a solid foundation in philanthropy and community service work,” Gauby said. “I have gained invaluable experience that I feel I would not have had the opportunity to learn elsewhere. K-State really seems to have a culture that promotes philanthropy among the students and provides a way for everyone to give back to the university, organizations and even other students.”
“Before even enrolling in my first course at K-State, I’d heard about K-State Proud,” Long said. “The mission of K-State Proud — to give financial aid to students who are in danger of leaving the university — speaks volumes about the school and the attitude that students have toward other students. It sets the stage and the expectation that philanthropy and giving really can create positive change in the lives of individuals.”
Rafiki Bags gives Long and Gauby real-world business experience, and it provides training and funding for students at the CYEC. “Through Rafiki Bags, we hope to create a model for other enterprises at the CYEC,” Long explained. “If this is successful, we may be able to create similar formalized businesses for the other enterprises at the centre. I would also hope that the young women we are working with develop further skills in the areas of tailoring and record keeping, and feel a sense of pride in their work.”
How you can help
If you’d like to learn more about the Next Big Thing competition and International Service Teams or make contributions to these programs, please contact Tim Grant at 785-532-7525 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Marty Kramer at 785-532-7578 or email@example.com.
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