Uhuru Child and Fountain of Hope Youth Initiative Honored by Community Tool Box

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

The $5000 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 re-settlement 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.

Uhuru Child told their story in a beautiful and compelling video.

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.

You can view a video the Fountain of Hope Youth Initiative made to describe their efforts.

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

According to Stephen B. Fawcett, Director of the Work Group for Community Health and Development, the sheer number of projects submitted to the contest testifies to how much community innovation is underway in the near and 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.”

For more details, and to view stories of others who are trail-blazing to improve life for people in their communities, visit the new Community Innovators’ page of the Community Tool Box. Check back often, as they will be featuring additional stories of inspiration and change throughout the year.

The Community Tool Box is a global resource for free information on essential skills for building healthy communities. It offers more than 7,000 pages of practical guidance in creating change and improvement.

About the Lead Author

Bill Berkowitz, Ph.D.
Bill is a community psychologist who has been writing about, teaching about, creating, and directing neighborhood and community service programs for more than 30 years. He has taught graduate and undergraduate courses in psychology since the 1970s at the University of Massachusetts Lowell and at other universities.  Three of his books – Community Impact, Community Dreams, and Local Heroes – deal respectively with skills, ideas, and personal qualities needed for effective community action. A fourth book, The Spirit of the Coalition, deals with principles and techniques for community coalition development. These books have led to national television and radio appearances, major media write-ups, and articles written for popular publications ranging from The Futurist to Parade. His professional publications include multiple scholarly journal reports and several book chapters, as well as invited articles in the Encyclopedia of Psychology and the Handbook of Community Psychology. Since the mid-1990s, Bill has also been a core team member, lead editor, and writer for the largest single source of community development information now in existence (the Community Toolbox, a national Internet collaborative at  http://ctb.ku.edu, with over 7000 pages of original text). In addition, he edits a Neighborhood Newsletter in his own community, where he has also served in elected public office as a Town Meeting Member for 25 years. Among community programs he has helped start are a Neighborhood Innovations Program, a free adult education center, a shelter for battered women, a consultation and education division, a regional training consortium, and the  statewide Community Partners program, which has built and supported dozens community coalitions across Massachusetts. He has often consulted to and trained community groups, and has been a frequent keynote presenter at major conferences. Bill is now Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, and previous administrator of its graduate program in Community Social Psychology. His special interests focus on teaching, writing about, and practicing social and community psychology, neighborhood development, and the strengthening of citizen participation in local community life. He is presently completing a multi-method research project on the dynamics of suburban neighborhoods, designed to strengthen life in communities where more than half the American population lives.  Dr. Berkowitz graduated with honors from Cornell University and received a Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. He is a Licensed Psychologist, an elected Fellow of the American Psychological Association, and a recipient of its national career award for Distinguished Contributions to Practice in Community Psychology. Further biographical details may be obtained from his 2008 listing in Who’s Who in America.

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