Help Build an Eco-Friendly Secondary School in Kenya

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©. Carm Schools

A young Toronto-based woman is working to build a school in the Kenyan village near where she grew up.

While writing about the development an apple-skin vegan leather made for a collection of cruelty-free leather goods, I had a nice correspondence with Samara Visram, who runs SAMARA Bags her sister Salima. I was impressed by their attention to environmental issues and human rights in their company, not to mention that a percentage of proceeds go to The Soular Backpack (also founded by Salima) providing solar-powered backpacks to children in East Africa who don't have access to electricity.

Well now it turns out that Samara is even more ambitious than I thought. For the past several years she has been working on what she calls a "really special project," building a secondary schools called the Carm Schools, in Kenya. She told me:

"I grew up besides the Kikambala village in Kenya, which is home to about 20,000 people who live in abject poverty. When I was younger, I realized that many students younger than me couldn’t attend Secondary School because there was a lack of them in our area. I decided that I would do whatever I could to make sure that we, the Kikambala community could build a Secondary School here."

At this point, even though she was told it would never happen, Samara has had numerous meetings with the community to incorporate their ideas and desires, and now she has architectural plans for the school designed by Kilifi County Architect. She has secured the donation of 3.9 acres of land for the school from the Church, and has planned on how to manage the school upon completion. The project has received all the necessary certifications and approvals from the Government and Environmental Authorities in Kenya. All the while as she has been running an innovative handbag business in Toronto!

She writes:

"The Proposed Secondary School has been designed with the Community as a hub for Socio-Economic as well as Environmental Development. The vision of this project, is to have the school act as the Community’s centre for Sustainability, Innovation and Development. We envision the entire community – whether it be infants, the elderly, parents or students - benefiting from the School. We foresee the institution as a communal space where people from various backgrounds can learn from one another’s cultures and skills."

The school in being designed with "Four Pillars" in mind; Education, Environmental Conservation, Quality of Life and Economic Development.

In terms of sustainability, here are some of the initiatives:

  • Natural, locally-sourced construction materials
  • Indigenous trees and plants planted across the campus to attract birds, butterflies and insects
  • System that integrates a Greenhouse, Biogas Digester and Rainwater Harvesting, comprised of: A greenhouse equipped with conventional agricultural requirements and hydroponic technology; Biodegradable waste can be bought from hotels and business in the area to feed the digester; Biodegradable waste from the kitchen and greenhouse are pumped into the digester; Biogas digester turns biogas into electricity; Byproduct of the biogas creation process is organic fertilizer, which is then used in the greenhouse and across the campus; Carbon dioxide from the digester is pumped into the greenhouse to support plants with photosynthesis; Rainwater harvesting from all the buildings is stored in an underwater tank that feeds with the greenhouse with water.

Samara has come a long way in bringing her dream to life, and guess what stage she is at now? Fundraising, of course! She has started a GoFundMe page. And you can learn more about the project in the video below.