Building Lives through Building Furniture

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Building Lives through Building Furniture

United States
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

Provide a range of vocational training, including carpentry and furniture-making, to orphans who lack the ability to pass the Kenya National Primary Exam required for secondary school enrollment.

About You
Project Street Address

P.O. Box 356 (no street address - rural)

Project City

Homa Bay

Project Province/State


Project Postal/Zip Code


Project Country
Your idea
Country your work focuses on:

Kenya, Africa

What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

YouTube Upload

none available

What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?


Describe your idea in fewer than 50 words.

Provide a range of vocational training, including carpentry and furniture-making, to orphans who lack the ability to pass the Kenya National Primary Exam required for secondary school enrollment.

What makes your idea unique?

Our thought is to teach basic skills such as primary Math, English and Reading, partnered within a sound vocational education. Because of early deprivation, many of the orphans who come to our projects are unable to progress at a meaningful pace in a typical classroom setting. A child of 18 may be tested at a second grade primary level. It has been our experience that even gifted students who finish their secondary schooling are often faced with no meaningful way to be self sustaining.

This plan will help build Kenya’s skilled labor force. The AIDS pandemic has eliminated most of the adult population aged 25 to 40. Today’s African orphans need help learning basic trades that will develop communities and improve living conditions in rural areas.

This unique idea has already proven successful with several orphans. For instance, Rose was sent to a special tailoring school and has now returned to the local area and has established her business. To repay some of the cost of her training, Rose uses her skills to tailor uniforms for current students in our program. Another example is how Kennedy, who only completed 5th grade by age 18, was trained to become a driver/chauffeur. He now works for the Hope Center transporting staff and students.

What is your area of work? (Please check as many as apply.)

Children & Youth , At risk youth , Boys' development , Child care , Child protection , Early childhood development , Education , Education reform , Girls' development , Youth leadership , Development & Prosperity , Community development , Conscious consumerism , Economic development , Employment , Food security , Hunger , Income generation , Marketing , Poverty alleviation , Rural development , Scholarships and grants , Sustainable development , Rural , Sustainable agriculture , Health education , HIV/AIDS , Child exploitation , Food security , Hunger , Indigenous cultures , Women's Issues .

What impact have you had?

Since 2002 with a starting point of less than a dozen children, we have grown to operate 5 orphanages with 700 resident orphans. Many of the children are HIV/AIDS orphans, while others were orphaned due to tribal conflict or disease. Dozens of young girls were rescued from early marriage, and some were saved from a trafficking network. We operate 3 primary schools with trained teachers, and one secondary school teaching all state-required subjects. Eleven of our secondary graduates attended or are attending university or associate programs. Over two dozen widows are receiving assistance to keep their orphaned grandchildren/children in their homes, with Hearth to Hearth Ministries, Inc providing school fees, medical needs, gardening supplies, and food when necessary. Over 700 internally displaced people were cared for in 2008 during the post election violence, and over $40,000 was raised in famine relief for the suffering refugees in the Rift Valley area.
We have also saved hundreds of other children from starvation by a "gate children" project, feeding them breakfast and periodically replacing their clothing. During times of famine, our older children take food into nearby villages and feed orphans who are aged 3 to 7. We believe thousands of children are alive because of our intervention. We also believe that they are the hope for Kenya's future. Since we are an all-volunteer virtual organization, nearly 100% of donations are realized on the ground in Kenya.

Describe the primary problem(s) that your project is addressing.

Although the desire to properly educate each orphan and provide them with a means to self-sufficiency is strong, the lack of funding for equipment is a major hindrance. We have had budget shortages which resulted in the inability to progress with project development as well as creating a shortage of funds for equipping educational facilities, especially in vocational training. Funds are needed to purchase hand tools, lumber and other consumables necessary to establish a carpentry course. The cost of sending one student to vocational training at a special school is over $1,600 yearly, an amount which could be used to further the program on our campus and benefit many orphans.

Describe the steps that your organization is taking to make your project successful.

a.)We have established a "Projects Director" position to be a liaison between our orphanages and our Board of Directors. This person will ensure proper reporting from the administration on the ground in Kenya regarding all issues, especially agricultural, educational and general development.

b.) We have installed electricity at Hope for Children Center to enhance the development of our post-elementary educational program.

c.) We have affiliated with the African Professional Association to network with Kenyan professionals who have agreed to visit our projects when they travel back to Kenya, offering suggestions for improved progress.

d.)Our administrator has investigated the local market for feasibility and reported that there is high demand for carpentry and furniture making skills. There is an experienced instructor available, and 7 sewing machines are on site for upholstering.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Success in Year 1:

Locate funding to establish carpentry and furniture building classes and purchase appropriate tools and materials. During the first year, basic techniques of furniture building will be taught. Mathematics and critical thinking will be embedded throughout the curriculum. As problem-solving and reasoning are at the heart of mathematics, the students will be encouraged to observe, question, collect information, communicate ideas, and make connections and representations. Content areas such as number sense and operation, measurement, geometry and spatial sense will be taught as students learn to build furniture.

Success in Year 2:

Students who have moved through the first year of this class will advance from basic building techniques to more advanced projects. They will begin to learn supply-side economics and other economic and marketing issues that will enhance their business abilities. A second group of students will start at the beginning level

Success in Year 3:

Complete the training of the first group of students and help them begin their own business of carpentry. This will be financed by selling furniture constructed during their three years of coursework, and will allow for purchase of their own tools. Advance group two and enroll a third group. As each group of students graduate to self-sufficiency, it will provide openings for younger orphans to be cared for. Graduates of the program will be expected to help support the school through their time and talents.

Do you have a business plan or strategic plan? (yes/no)

Yes. It is described in the three-year success plan, but will be reviewed and upgraded as necessary.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 1:

We must watch the local, rural market to see what services and products are in demand but not available, and continue to develop new vocations that can be taught on site, such as auto mechanics and training transport drivers.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 2:

We must seek and establish sources of funding to install targeted vocational opportunities for our students, and expand our program to our other four orphanages. Continue securing support from the current 400+ sponsors and donors, and through our website. Additional funding will be sought through more partnerships such as The World Children’s Fund, Bless the Children and the Gandhi World Hunger Fund as well as fundraising events and grant writing.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization? STEP 3:

We must build a new secondary school and convert the currently used building into a permanent vocational training center.

Describe the expected results of these actions.

We expect each individual's self-esteem and self worth to soar as they realize that the training they obtain through this program will allow them to become independent and an important contributor to their community. As the orphans of Kenya grow into adulthood and develop good work habits through their vocational training, they will fill the void of the current labor force, and improve the economic outlook for rural citizens. We intend to share the success of this type of education with other orphanages by becoming a role model by which they can develop similar programs.

What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

When Pastor Maurice O.M. Anyango, administrator of the Hope Center Orphanage in western Kenya visited the United States in 2005, he was fascinated by the large variety of furniture that is available and used by Americans. He thought teaching the children to build such furniture would be a way to help them make a profitable living.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

When he returned home, Pastor Maurice investigated the feasibility of establishing a vocational program for training students to fill this new and growing demand. Although furniture items are readily available in Nairobi and other large cities, the area of our orphanages has no supply to meet the growing demand. After a market study, he approached us with the notion of adding this course to our fledgling vocational program, which currently includes tailoring, sustainable agriculture, and computer science/business training. Based on his knowledge of local demand and the success of our tailoring and agricultural program (we grow and sell pineapples from 14,000 plants), we agreed to try to raise the funds necessary to move forward with carpentry.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

While searching to fund this idea we found the Changemakers website and this competition.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

How can equipping an individual the means to support themselves not be successful? The lack of funding is the only thing that will keep this project from moving forward and benefitting not only our orphans, but the community at large. Offering an innovative item built by Kenyans and sold to Kenyans will create a new market, supply a need and stimulate the local economy by eliminating the need to import.

Financing source


If yes, provide organization name.

Hearth to Hearth Ministries, Inc.

How long has this organization been operating? (i.e. less than a year; 1-5 years; more than 5 years)

more than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?

Our board is comprised of 10 extremely dedicated members from across the United States.

Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs? (yes/no)


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses? (yes/no)


The Story
Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government? (yes/no)


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.


How many people will your project serve annually?

1001 - 10,001

What is the total number of employees and total number of volunteers at your organization?

50 Kenyan/Ugandan Employees, 24 US Volunteers,

What is your organization's business classification?

Non-profit/NGO/citizen sector organization

Have you received funding from any of the following groups? (Please check as many as apply.)

None of the above.