Over eight years ago, a group of friends in Muscatine set out to make a small difference in the world. When Cassie Stewart and her friend Jody Landers began to talk to their friends about the water shortage in Africa, they hoped to be able to raise enough money to dig a well, or maybe two. Their campaign to support Charity Water raised over $350,000, which drew the attention of workers in the organization’s New York office.
Landers and Straw formed The Adventure Project just over six years ago and invited Stewart to join the board as the Secretary, a position she has held since that time.
The Adventure Project partners with organizations and individuals who are already in the communities that they serve. The organization focuses on enhancing communities by providing training and tools that allow individuals to gain skills that are marketable.
By creating skilled labor, individuals are able to take ownership in their community and the need to rely on outside sources is decreased.
An estimated 2/3 of wells that have been built on the continent in recent years are in need of maintenance. The Adventure Project works to train residents on how to repair and manage the wells to ensure they are in proper working order for years to come. The Adventure Project is based on the belief that training local well mechanics to fix and maintain wells is the most sustainable way to ensure wells are always working so people have access to clean water. Mechanics earn an income from fixing and maintaining wells.
The organization also works to train workers to build small coal stoves that allow families to cook in a safer manner. Cooking over an open flame can produce hazardous fumes, and the small coal stoves alleviate that problem. Stoves are made locally and sold by men and women in Kenya. Both masons and vendors earn commission for every sale. Each stove saves a family 20% of their daily expenses, because they use 50% less charcoal per day. One stove saves six trees from being turned into charcoal each year and reduces carbon emissions by 1.5 tons.
The organization also trains people on how to build and maintain irrigation systems that improve crop production and assist in combating hunger for multiple families. One irrigation pump can lift a farmer and his family out of poverty and into the middle class in as little as one harvest. On average, each farmer grows enough to sell produce to 50 community members, and earns enough to send one child to school for the first time.
Health care workers are trained to be able to care for their villages. Each person cares for approximately 800 people in their community, giving special attention to pregnant mothers and young children. Health care agents have reduced child mortality by 25% in their communities.
When training is complete, the individuals are able to operate as entrepreneurs and work within their communities.
The Adventure Project is funded by donation. A full 100% of public donations goes towards projects and training. Funding for the staff and other operating expenses are paid by board members and a select group called the Founders Circle, along with a few specific donors who direct their funds towards operations.
The fiscal year for the group ends on October 31. Stewart says the group is 86 jobs away from their goal of having 1000 jobs created by the end of the fiscal year. Training for one person or one job creation costs $1500, though donations of any size are accepted.