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Friends Unite Visits Kilisa Africa To See Program Possibilities In Action

Monday, August 16th, 2010

Raleigh, NC – Friends Unite, a Raleigh based non-profit focused on providing the support necessary for people and communities to help themselves, recently returned from a trip to Africa.  The trip allowed Friends Unite to gain a firsthand view of various community-driven development programs, and meet, in person, representatives from an organization they are partnering with to make a difference in Kilisa, Africa.

“It gives you a completely different perspective to actually be there on the ground and see the situation in a village like Kilisa. Though we’ve been working from a distance, being there gave us a firsthand sense of the real need as well as the potential impact we hope to have,” said Pam Prather, vice president, Friends Unite.

Friends Unite has partnered with African Economic Foundation (AEF) to aide the village of Kilisa, a mountainous village in Eastern, Kenya, in building a strong village-based economy -  one where resources are maximized and services and products are sold at the best prices possible. The trip followed an invitation by AEF to visit Kilisa and see the social-economic development projects initiated by the Kilisa Village Development Community (KVDC). The organizations are working together to move Kilisa’s natural dependence on subsistence farming into opportunities to invest proceeds in other revenue-producing projects.

“When we visited the village we saw so much potential. Seeing what the people of this village have already accomplished was awe-inspiring. The resources that we take for granted are completely lacking in this part of the world, but they have pooled their collective strengths to create an impressive irrigation system and high school. The villagers are also skilled farmers with a long history of connecting with the land. Helping Kilisa and other villages like Kilisa, to us, became about figuring out how to build upon their strengths,” said Prather.  “We started this from thousands of miles away but traveling to Kilisa made understanding the scope of creating a village-based economy much clearer.”

Friends Unite and AEF have created a plan to take advantage of Kilisa’s current food surplus brought on by this year’s significant rainfall, rainfall that represents a break from the region’s recent severe drought.  The current food surplus provides an opportunity for AEF and Friends Unite to train villagers in Kilisa and other communities on food preservation, storage, marketing and sale.  The hope is for the village to use this training and the food surplus to generate revenue for the community when market conditions improve.  This revenue can then be used by the residents of Kilisa to ensure food security and to promote other community-based projects such as micro-financing and expanded education. “We strongly believe that this joint venture will ensure the continued availability of food as well as seeds for tomorrow’s crops, putting Kilisa on a path towards sustainable food security,” said Dr Philip Mwalali, patron KVDC, AEF co-founder.

“We hope to develop a business model that can create continued revenue and jobs. Our goal is to realize long-term benefits in the region by helping communities in Kilisa learn to run these programs self sufficiently as well as build upon them. If this project is successful, it can be replicated to other villages around the area,” said Prather.

View a video of Friends Unite’s visit to Yangngua Secondary School, Kilisa, Kenya