KU News Release


Feb. 15, 2011
Contact: Stephen Fawcett or Christina Holt, KU Work Group for Community Health and Development, 785-864-0533

KU center names winners of global community development competition

LAWRENCE — Recognizing grassroots efforts to improve the lives of impoverished, marginalized populations around the globe was the goal of the first Out of the Box competition organized by the University of Kansas Work Group for Community Health and Development.

Selected by an international panel of judges and then by public voting, the grand prize and second prize-winning projects are both located in Kenya in communities ravaged by civil unrest and the HIV/AIDS epidemic.

The $5,000 grand prize winner is the Uhuru Child organization for its Jikaze Internally Displaced Persons Resettlement Village Project in Maai Mahiu, Central Province, Kenya. The project a sustainable resettlement village for 900 internally displaced persons following the Kenyan post-election violence in 2008.

The village lacked consistent food and clean water supplies, access to health care, sufficient classrooms and funds for education. Half of the villagers were still living in tents. Within a year, the group built 56 houses, planted 145 trees, sold 75 water filters at a subsidy, conducted three months of food relief in conjunction with the dispersal of 90 micro-finance loans and offered 22 educational scholarships to children in the community. As a result, every family has been moved out of tents and into houses, and no one has died of starvation, sickness or accident since the initiative began, according to Joe Heritage, Uhuru Child’s project manager. Since the distribution of the water filters, no child has become sick from water-borne diseases. Uhuru Child is an international community support organization that divides its efforts between America and Africa.

The $2,000 second-prize winner, Fountain of Hope Youth Initiative, is a community-based social support organization that helps children, especially those affected by HIV/AIDS, have equal opportunity to compete academically and in extracurricular activities.

In 2007, the organization began to supply girls with sanitary pads in Kiambu, Kenya. Community workers discovered that the lack of sanitary pads was often the reason that girls from poor homes were struggling academically or even dropping out of school. The girls were often embarrassed and even ridiculed because of staining their uniforms during menstruation. Fountain of Hope organized donations of sanitary pads from community shops and supermarkets starting by asking for just a single packet of sanitary pads, according to James N. Waruiru, Fountain of Hope’s project coordinator. The initiative now supports more than 250 young women.

More than 300 projects in 42 countries — from Argentina to Zimbabwe — applied for the prizes that recognize outstanding community innovation efforts that stress low-cost, small-scale, nontechnical solutions to local problems.

According to Stephen B. Fawcett, director of the Work Group for Community Health and Development, which sponsors the Community Tool Box, the sheer number of projects submitted to the contest testifies to how much community innovation is under way in the far corners of the world.

“The power of communities to take action is a wonderful thing to behold,” he said. “The competition made it possible for people around the world to share what works and to inspire others to take action.”

The Work Group for Community Health and Development is one of the 14 centers of the Life Span Institute at KU.


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