Grant to Freeport Rotary will help Kenyan women

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FREEPORT — The Freeport Rotary Club has received a grant from the Rotary International Foundation to partner with a local organization and help women in Kenya became financially independent.

The grant of just over $3,000 is for a farming initiative for girls at an orphanage in Kakamega, Kenya. The club is working with Freeport-based Friends of Kakamega.

“Typically our international work has been geared towards empowering women,” Rotarian and project coordinator Todd Doolan said. “We like that this specifically helps women.”

Doolan said the Kakamega Orphan Care Center educates children who at high school age are placed either on a path to work or a path to higher education – even though many children considered average students and placed on the work path still have a lot of potential.

The farming initiative selects 10 young women ages 16-22 to be trained to run their own farms. Although they are orphans, Doolan said many of the girls have land in their families they can farm.

The program will train young women to rotate crops, invest in good seeds, and market their produce. The Rotarians will pay Kenyan farmers to train the girls. 

Partnering with Friends of Kakamega lends the project accountability because members of the organization often volunteer at the orphanage. Doolan said members can oversee the project and update the Rotary Club on its progress.

Girls at the orphanage can apply through the end of the month for the project, which will start in September and run for one year. The project will start with workshops on plowing and planting; in October and November there will be workshops on bookkeeping and marketing.

From December to February, women will harvest and market their first crops and prepare for the second crop. From July to August they will harvest the second crop and then participate in a graduation ceremony. 

“We are thrilled with the opportunity to provide agricultural education and training for these 10 young women with the hope that this project will inspire and empower similarly situated young girls who live around them,” Doolan said.

Doolan said the Freeport Rotary Club hopes the program will happen yearly, but as time goes on it will become less structured. He said the goal is for the young women to take other girls under their wing and teach them how to run a farm.

“We want these women to continue to give back,” he said. “We want them to help train other women.”

The idea behind the project is the “teach a man to fish philosophy,” Doolan said, giving the women and their communities a sustainable way to be financially independent.

Kate Gardner can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 125 or kgardner@theforecaster.net. Follow her on Twitter: @katevgardner.

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I'm a reporter for The Forecaster covering Freeport, Yarmouth, Chebeague Island, and Cape Elizabeth. I'm from a small town in NH no one's ever heard of. When not reporting, I can be found eating pasta and reading books, often at the same time.