Affected by the global outbreak of COVID-19 and a huge locust infestation that swept through the country earlier this year, many Kenyan families have been struggling to get by even more than usual. After losing a huge percentage of crops, which subsistence farmers rely on for food and income, to the locusts, parents also had to receive their children from school earlier than usual and with no definitive date for returning to school outlined. In short, many families are trying to get by with less food and more mouths to feed.
Our organization realized that we needed to work quickly to ensure these families got the support they desperately needed, not only in terms of food supplies, but also access to clean water, sanitizing and protective equipment, and extra study materials for our students. Thus, we began making large deliveries to communities all over Kenya of staple food items, hand soaps and sanitizers, face masks, and even review books for our students. We also organized a water initiative to ensure that families living in crowded Nairobi slums would have access to the fresh water they needed without straying far from home.
There were a lot of moving parts involved in making these deliveries successful. Items had to be bought from the market then repackaged into smaller units. Then, our volunteer team, consisting mostly of Moja Tu university students, had to pack vans full of these items and make the long journey to the designated drop off points. Doing so meant crossing closed county borders, which we were able to do with special permission as a humanitarian relief effort. Once there, the teams ensured that every family in the community received enough supplies, distributed flyers meant to teach the community members more about COVID-19, demonstrated the proper way to wash one’s hands and wear gloves and masks effectively, and more. Then it was time to pack up and drive back to Nairobi, crossing the closed borders once again, to make it back home before the government-mandated curfew of 7pm kicked in.
While these deliveries were incredibly beneficial to thousands of families living across Kenya, they were also quite risky. Moja Tu students who volunteered to help with these deliveries played a key role in packaging and distributing these items throughout the country. The number of COVID-19 cases was rising every day, and this concerned our board, team members, and beneficiaries. We worried that, while attempting to help others through this difficult time, our team members might be exposed to the disease, and potentially spread it to others. We needed to come up with a way to manage delivering these supplies without putting any of our team members or beneficiaries in harm’s way.
At Moja Tu, we believe that education in action has the power to change lives. Two of our older students proved this by developing the Asante Project. Edwin, a recent Economics and Statistics university graduate working as a banker at Housing Finance Bank, and Benjamin, an IT student at St. Pauls University, came up with the idea and spearheaded this project over the last several weeks. The Asante Project eliminates our team’s need to physically deliver supplies to communities by virtually connecting families with local vendors, arranging the pick-up of the families’ needed supplies with those vendors, and allowing Moja Tu to cover payment for these supplies. With the guidance of several of our board members, Edwin’s knowledge of Kenyan economics and logistics, and Benjamin’s ability to write and execute code, the Asante Project was born.
There are three components to making a delivery work within the Asante Project: the donor (Moja Tu), agents (vendors who stock needed supplies), and beneficiaries (the families who need the supplies). The Asante Project’s web application allows us to schedule a distribution of supplies between beneficiaries and agents. Once this distribution has been scheduled, a text message goes out to the agents involved letting them know what supplies the families need and when to expect the families to pick up their items. Another text goes out to the beneficiaries, letting them know which items they will be able to get, where they can get their supplies, and what to do after getting the items. After a beneficiary picks up their supplies, they are required to reply the text message with a code received in the original text. The administrator monitoring the distribution is able to see in the system that a beneficiary has picked up their supplies once they receive this code. The status of a beneficiary changes to CONFIRMED in the back-end of the system. The administrator monitors the status of all the beneficiaries and once they have all confirmed their pick-up, gives authorization for the agent to be paid. If the administrator does not receive a code from a family, they then follow up with the suppliers to confirm if the supplies were picked up by the family or not. Then, a follow-up call is made to the family to remind them that their supplies are ready for pick-up and guiding them on how to confirm that they have received their supplies.
After completing the development of the Asante Project, small test distributions in different locations were done to make sure the system worked. The team then scaled up the size of these tests and fixed any errors that came up. We are happy to report that through the Asante Project’s app, our organization recently executed a successful distribution to all our students’ families and other selected beneficiaries. The Asante Project is officially up and running!
Apart from executing supply distributions, the Asante Project is also a great way for our team in Kenya to communicate more quickly with our students and their families all over the country. With the touch of a button, we will be able to send mass texts to our students’ families letting them know of any updates within our program, reminders about important dates and events, and more important information.
The word “Asante” means “thank you” in Kiswahili. This project is meant as a thank you to the Moja Tu organization from Edwin, Benjamin, and the other members of the Asante Project team. With the educations these students were able to finish because of Moja Tu’s support, these wonderful young men and women have given back to our program with a system that will allow us to care for thousands more through this hard time. The Asante Project will also continue to grow as the Moja Tu organization grows into the future. The Asante Project team would like to acknowledge the undying support of Margie and the Moja Tu board for all their help in the development and execution of this incredible project.