Story posted March 12, 2010
Ajiri means employment - and Sara Holby '08 is employing multiple resources as a young enreprenuer committed to social change.
Interested in returning to the region of Kenya where she had spent her semester of off-campus study, Sara (History/Environmental Studies) received a Global Citizens Grant to volunteer with the International Community for the Relief of Starvation and Suffering (ICROSS). For a year, she lived in Kisii, Kenya, developing fundraising streams and donor support for the organization which addresses poverty and disease in poor and marginalized communities throughout Kenya. In the process, she became a member of the community and before it was time to head back home, she had figured out a way to provide multiple funding streams for the village overall.
Noting the richness of the tea produced locally, Sara ventured into the US tea market with a twist. After first partnering with one of the few tea factories in Kenya owned and operated by a woman, she met with other women in the village to develop packaging for the tea she would import and sell in the US. Working with natural and sustainable materials, these women created the design for the handmade labels on every box, incorporating Kenyan themes. Sara then hired them as employees of her new company, Ajiri Tea. But her interest didn't stop there. Working with the employees, together they decided that all profits would go to provide schooling for the villages' orphans. So, Sara started a non-profit, the Ajiri Foundation with the mission of doing just this. Today, Ajiri tea employs nearly 40 women in Kisii, Kenya, and during the first week of February, 2010, the Ajiri Foundation sent its first 6 orphans to school.
When asked, how did your Bowdoin education prepare you for this endeavor, Sara replied:
"Academically, Bowdoin gave me a great education in African history. I took many courses with Professor David Gordon, and he helped shape my interests providing me a great basis on which to understand current issues in Kenya. My study abroad experience junior year was a chance to apply what I had learned in my African history and Environmental Studies courses, and I came back to Bowdoin knowing I wanted to learn more about Kenya and that I wanted to return there after graduation.
But Bowdoin prepared more in many additional ways that were not strictly academic. My peers at Bowdoin are incredibly motivated to create change and work hard to make an impact. Bowdoin's environment of highly motivated students, supportive professors, and a staff willing and eager to help students is what really helped me get to Kenya to volunteer, and ultimately to launch Ajiri Tea."