Just a Week

Since returning from my adventure on Kili, my life in Nairobi has been busy! I had hoped to do another interview for the blog with one of our leaders, but I haven’t had the chance. So, I thought I’d share a little about the past week and a half.
Things are moving along quite well at our projects in Kibera. Robert Elrod, a medical student from Nashville, started interning with our health clinic last week. He and Nurse Olive have completed basic health assessments on all of our primary school students. He has already been a huge help, and I’m excited to see the progress we make this month in the clinic.
It's nice to have a registered nurse and medical student running our clinic. I would have sent this kid for surgery based on his crying after he fell in the playground.

It’s nice to have a registered nurse and medical student running our clinic. I would have sent this kid for surgery based on his crying after he fell in the playground. Obviously, from the photo, he was fine.

Our primary school completed term 1 with end of term exams and celebrated today with the closing ceremony. Students are out of school for April, and we will be doing professional development for teachers and tutoring for class 8. Today at our closing ceremony, we encouraged the students to continue in their studies and have a Happy Easter! We had a great turnout for the parents meeting today and continue to be encouraged by our parents and their involvement in the school and students’ education.
The kids listen during closing ceremony for Term 1.

The kids listen during closing ceremony for Term 1.

Some of my favorite times every week are during the teachers daily prayer and praise time after the kids are dismissed.

Some of my favorite times every week are during the teachers daily prayer and praise time after the kids are dismissed.

Also, my friend, Ava Darnell, owner of Slumlove Sweater Company was in town for a visit. We had many great laughs together and got a lot accomplished for her company. We met with some potential new suppliers and had the opportunity to connect with other business owners in Kenya who are striving to run ethical, fair trade companies that benefit their employees and customers. We also found a market full of great products made by Kenyan artisans!
Ava is so talented. Here are some of our drawings for her fall collection. Photo credits to Ava Darnell.

Ava is so talented. Here are some of her drawings for Slumlove’s fall collection. Photo credits to Ava Darnell.

Lastly, on a more personal note…I found out this week that I’ll be having another niece! Can’t wait to start shopping!
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After a busy couple of weeks, I’m ready for our Easter trip to the beach! Looking forward to spending some time on the Kenyan coast this weekend with great friends.

Social Innovation

Photo courtesy of Slumlove Sweater Company

Photo courtesy of Slumlove Sweater Company

I want to take a little break from my regular posts on New Hope Initiative and hiking and share about another work that I’m involved in. My friend, Ava Darnell, is the founder and owner of Slumlove Sweater Company. Slumlove is committed to providing ethically made, high quality products that give back to the community. Ava works with local Kenyan knitters providing jobs for them and opportunity to provide for their families. In addition to using ethical business practices, Ava gives a portion of the profits of her sweaters to New Hope Academy to provide free education to children living in Kibera.
I remember meeting with her over a year ago in a coffee shop in Austin, Texas to hear her vision for Slumlove. She’ll admit, she doesn’t have it all figured out, but I was so impressed that day with her creativity and passion to not only start a business but use it for social good. Since I was moving to Kenya, I offered to help. That has meant helping meet her knitters and facilitating orders or shipping final products to the States. Yesterday, I met with a potential new partner for Slumlove and was reminded how much I love business and how it can be used to do so much good in this world.
I’ve always had an interest and affection for business. When I was young, I use to tell people I wanted to go to college to learn how to make money. So, I majored in Finance and eventually got an MBA. But, my career started out in politics where there is very little money to be made especially when you start as a staffer on Capitol Hill making a salary that is considered below the national poverty line. Over the years, my desire to make money turned into a desire to help others and do social good and, for me, I thought that meant working in ministry or non-profit. Now, I see that making money and doing social good can work together instead of being at odds with one another.  I believe that God can use our businesses to serve others in this world providing opportunity and even serving and caring for the people and world around us. Quite frankly, I don’t think God just “uses” our businesses, I think He has called us (Christians) to this kind of work by being productive with our time and resources  – theologians call this the Creation Mandate (Gen 1:28).
You can call this CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) or social innovation or social entrepreneurship, but I think it’s more of a mind-set, a decision when you set out in business to be intentional about how you will conduct your business. It’s not a department or an after thought or something you add on to your existing business model. It is your business model. The purpose of business becomes serving others instead of maximizing shareholders’ profit.
Two of the large companies leading the way in social innovation are Warby Parker and Toms (and I would add Chick-fil-A from my home state has been doing this for years), but there are many entrepreneurs out there like Ava doing this work. I think it is changing the whole landscape of business and how we do business. As I look to what is next for my career, I am hoping this is how I invest my time and resources. We’ll see what that means for me…
In the meantime, take some time to visit Slumlove’s website and purchase a sweater, because it’s not just a sweater, it’s a cause!