Fourteen years ago, AIDS orphan and Kenyan street kid Wiclif Otieno got a lucky break. He met an American in the Nairobi market who was so impressed by his hard life and entrepreneurial spirit, he rehabilitated Wiclif into a home, reintegrated him into high school, and eventually helped him start a business. Today, Wiclif’s big dream is to help other Kenyan street kids experience the same lucky break. And he’s found just the partner to help him do it.
Maria Springer grew up in a poor and violent Los Angeles neighborhood herself and has a passion for social justice and international development. Just as she was going to sign up for the Peace Corps, she met Wiclif through her cousin (the man in the market) and their dreams of working on a local level to change lives collided… and multiplied… giving rise to Kito International.
Kito International programs recognize the brilliant resourcefulness, resiliency and creativity of street children, who have been running their own “businesses” for years, simply to survive. Kito is designed for street youth by street youth, to harness that entrepreneurial spirit, teach valuable business skills, and provide the training and tools that will enable youth to launch their own microenterprises and move off the streets forever.
It’s an innovative 3-step program: youth participate for a year in Kito Enterprises, the business arm that sells and distributes desirable products like solar lamps. By working, youth “earn” classes in Kito Business Academy on entrepreneurship, finance, and management, and gain access to the Kito Incubator, offering youth-appropriate microloans, mentors and business counsel.
Kito‘s sustainable, self-supporting model offers a promising solution to a troubling problem: the number of unemployed young people in Kenya is predicted to hit 14 million in the next ten years. Wiclif and Maria are committed to changing those grim statistics by developing high-impact entrepreneurs who can build businesses, impact the economy, and foster independence.
Right now, Maria is at the Unreasonable Institute in Boulder (see story, 6/29) getting the very best in incubation modeling for Kito. But what nobody can teach, Maria and Wiclif already have in spades: pure, unadulterated chutzpah and faith. These two are on fire to change the odds for street children – of whom there are 150 million in the world.
How great is it that the world has young leaders like this, committed to advocating on behalf of young people who have no one else to believe in them? Maria & Wiclif are my Independence Day heroes. Rock on! To join me in donating, click here.
What Gives News Flash!
The utra-groovy designers of SeedBomb gumball dispensers (6/30) reached their goal of raising $10,000 on Kickstarter at the end of the day Wednesday — the same day my post went up! Way to pitch in and make it happen!!