With the help of a Macalester Live-It grant, Caroline Karanja ’12 returned to Kenya to build a greenhouse for girls orphaned by AIDS.

Caroline Karanja ’12
Hometown: Kenya; Madison, Wis.
Major: American Studies

Project goal: My goal was to bring a greenhouse to Kenya’s Hekima Place that would allow the girls there to grow food more sustainably than the rocky earth allows. I was interested in a project that pulled together two elements often ignored in Kenyan politics: the environment and young women,

Grant: $3,845

Why Kenya and Hekima Place: I chose Kenya because it’s my native country and I try to give back to the communities that have shaped my life. I chose Hekima Place because I knew it was a good organization that is truly changing the lives of many young women by providing them with education, shelter, and a strong, positive family structure. 

Results: Hekima Place is not just about the girls. They sell clean water to the surrounding community at a fraction of regular cost. With the greenhouse, they can provide food for the 60-plus girls who live at Hekima and to people in the surrounding community. They’ll sell the surplus produce to the community at a reduced price, helping everyone become independent, despite drought and rising food prices.

What you got out of it: I learned a lot about the “invisible” parts of the HIV/AIDS epidemic. We don’t often talk about those displaced by it, like these girls.

Favorite moment: One day we had a very interesting conversation about women and political power. The new constitution grants women significantly more rights, especially in terms of political power and inheritance. These teenagers had a very clear picture of Kenyan politics. One of them said, “Now maybe a woman can be president and we can have a say on the future of Kenya!”

February 13 2012

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