August 2013 Archways

Davis Peace Project Takes Mawrter to Kenya

Keshia Koech ’14 awarded Davis Projects for Peace grant.

As early as third grade, Keshia Koech ’14 was helping children with disabilities. At a Boston College summer program that encouraged participation in community service, Koech first interacted with children her age who had special needs.

Keshia Koech ’14 was awarded a Davis Projects for Peace grant to help people with developmental disabilities in Kenya. Photo by Kit Farman for Bryn Mawr College.

Keshia Koech ’14 was awarded a Davis Projects for Peace grant to help people with developmental disabilities in Kenya. Photo by Kit Farman for Bryn Mawr College.

“Some students were non-verbal, some screamed all of the time, and some students had no control over their bodies,” she recalls. “It was a difficult but also enriching experience. I learned from that young age how important it is to be understanding of differences, whether it is a difference of ability or a difference of ideology.”

Fourteen years later, Koech is still helping individuals with developmental disorders—this time through a Davis Projects for Peace grant to pilot an income-generating collaboration between The Autism Society of Kenya (ASK) and Honey Care Africa, a social enterprise that promotes sustainable community-based beekeeping.

“The disabled are often cast out of the community,” Koech explains. “The lack of awareness and resources available for individuals with any kind of disability is overwhelming in many countries, and it is clear that this is a foremost human rights issue.”

At Bryn Mawr, a class on autism spectrum disorders focused Koech’s thinking about these cross-cultural perspectives, and her final paper inspired the Davis project.

Koech traveled to Kenya this summer to use ASK resources to forge partnerships between Honey Care and support groups for families and caregivers. The goal is to provide “a sustainable source of income specifically to fund resources for individuals with developmental disorders and education and training opportunities for parents to better understand and support their loved ones,” Koech says.

According to Koech, the hives will last approximately 10 years with a yearly profit estimated at $180 to $250, about half of a farmer’s yearly income. Twenty percent of the profit will be saved for the future acquisition of more hives, other sustainable income-generating opportunities, and the addition of more support groups.

To ensure the project’s sustainability, the Kenyan Department of Gender, Children, and Social Development will provide ongoing oversight.

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