While recovering from a football injury, an American college student named John Cefalu decided to use his free time to develop a plan.
He wanted to create a non-profit organization.
Now in its third year, his organization operates 12 offices in Africa. The program, called Health 2 Humanity, trains people to develop, use, and sell sanitary products.
The goal is to not only improve sanitation services and fight disease, but create jobs and economic growth, too.
How does the program work?
To finance Health 2 Humanity, Cefalu and his team sell soap made in the United States to Americans. Half of the money goes to his business and half goes toward funding Health 2 Humanity.
Individual donations also support the non-profit organization. Health 2 Humanity identifies people who agree with its goals and would support its programs in Africa.
The organization trains candidates to start up a business. It teaches these men and women to make soap and other sanitary products, and then gives them a short-term subsidy. The money from the subsidy buys raw, unprocessed materials and helps these entrepreneurs launch their business.
On average, establishing a soap-making microbusiness that will last 10 to 20 years costs $10,000, said Cefalu. The hope is to help entrepreneurs make and sell products to sustain themselves and their communities.
Hezron Njeri grew up in Central Kenya. He dreamed of directing a business or a hotel. He never imagined an American college student would help make his dream possible.
Njeri told VOA, "When Health 2 Humanity came to Kenya, I noticed that this is my opportunity now to become a manager that I've been dreaming to be and also to work with the community, to work with the children … and also encouraging them and giving hope about life and their future."
Children are important to Njeri because he grew up without his parents in an orphanage.
He started his own business, making and selling soap. He was so successful that Health 2 Humanity asked him to lead its implementation program. Now, Njeri helps other people to become entrepreneurs.
Not just a charity
Cefalu said Health 2 Humanity is different from many non-profit organizations that work in Africa. It is different, he said, because it is not just a charitable group.
Cefalu says that his non-profit's goal is to make sure that people are able to develop themselves.
Cori Maass, Health 2 Humanity's Marketing director, said most charity work does not do this. She added that charitable work has created an environment in Africa where people do not believe in themselves.
Cefalu added that most of the entrepreneurs helped by Health 2 Humanity have never had any work experience. Many of them lack education and live in places that offer no possibility of employment.
"We found that the people we're training … they're looked up to because they’re not looking out for just themselves," Cefalu noted. "They want to bring the community under their wing and create awareness and make their lives better."
He added that the entrepreneurs get more than financial security. They also develop a sense of satisfaction and a desire to help others.
Cefalu says the program has helped people. It has created jobs, decreased illness rates, and improved awareness of hygiene products. And there are other benefits.
"We seeing just overall self-value and self-worth – something about holding onto your own business and having your own opportunity and providing for yourself," he added.
Cefalu hopes to expand Health 2 Humanity to Asian and Latin American countries.
I’m John Russell.
Elizabeth Lee reported on this story for VOANews.com. John Russell adapted this story for Learning English. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
sanitary – adj. of or relating to good health or protection from dirt, infection, disease, etc.
subsidy – n. money that is paid usually by a government to keep the price of a product or service low or to help a business or organization to continue to function
entrepreneur – n. a person who starts a business
sustain – v. to provide what is needed for (something or someone) to exist, continue, etc.
implementation – n. the act of doing or using (something, such as a plan)
hygiene – n. the things that you do to keep yourself and your surroundings clean in order to maintain good health
benefit – n. a good or helpful result or effect
fund – v. to provide money or financial support
charitable – adj. done or designed to help people who are sick or poor