JAMBO! You may have already guessed what this means, but if you’re not familiar, it’s the Swahili greeting or salutation, similar to how we say “Hello”. This was the greeting we used fairly often, as we made our way through East Africa. But I should rewind and give a little more background on why we were there in the first place.
Three months ago, I was kindly invited to Kenya on a research trip for work. Yes, I was just as shocked as you are, it was a crazy opportunity (and at one point I almost turned it down). I should preface by saying my day job is at a drinkware design company, Leapfrog Brands, that has been supplying reusable water bottles, tumblers, travel mug, and more to national retailers going on six years now. This year, we made it our goal to explore our corporate responsibility. Essentially, we were brainstorming the best ways for us to give back as a company.
How did we get involved in Kenya, specifically? Well, one of my coworkers had recently been in contact with a man named Jon Kaufman, who she met through a mutual friend. Jon runs an organization called H2OpenDoors. If you’ve never heard of it, don’t sweat (I hadn’t either until this project). The organization falls under the umbrella of Rotary International which is a network of over 1.2 million members who:
See a world where people unite and take action to create lasting change – across the globe, in our communities, and in ourselves.
The organization was originally started by a group of men in Illinois (woop!) who came together and wanted to do good in the world.
By combining resources through networking, Rotary slowly began growing chapters all over the world. Over the past decade, they’ve played an essential role in the eradication of polio all over the world. Jon Kaufman, being the founder of H2OpenDoors, had been working to bring clean water to parts of the world that lack access to it. He’s able to do so, by installing solar-powered Sun Spring water filtration systems that need minimal maintenance and can produce up to 40,000 liters of clean water each day.
Our group was there to learn more about the organization’s connection to local communities and how our brand, Ello, could make an impact, whether that be designing a bottle to fit the communities needs or through our knowledge/resources.
Once we arrived at the Maasai Mara, we were greeted by a local tribe of Maasai villagers. The Maasai people "are a Nilotic ethnic group inhabiting northern, central and southern Kenya and northern Tanzania. They are among the best known local populations internationally due to their residence near the many game parks of the African Great Lakes, and their distinctive customs and dress. “
They were our guides the whole time we were in the Maasai Mara, showing us around the reservation and teaching us about their unique culture and customs.
The main goal of the this trip was to install a SunSpring water filtration system in the village to help build the local economy. The locals had bought a plot of land where the system would be installed. The main objective was to instill a level of empowerment to the women of the village, who due to their cultural beliefs had been tasked with fetching the water from the nearby rivers. They walk up to 30 minutes each way carrying 40 lbs jugs of dirty water wrapped around their heads.
It was a once in lifetime trip and I’m forever grateful for the experience. I came back excited about all the possible avenues for us to help communities just like this through our company.
Fueled by what we learned, Ello created a custom line of products with all the proceeds going towards funding another SunSpring system. While we don’t know quite yet where it will be installed, based on what we saw in Kenya we know it will be invaluable to a future community.