Giving Back and Getting More in Return – Mario’s Trip to Africa

By Salesforce.org | August 22, 2016 | | Employee Stories, Pro Bono

By: Mario Picariello, Lead Digital Designer, Salesforce

Working at Salesforce we get the amazing opportunity to volunteer seven working days a year to a cause of our choice. What an awesome opportunity?! Right?! So this year I decided to take my seven days and use them in Kenya, Africa at a Community centre just outside of Nairobi in a town called Thika. One of my colleagues had visited a year ago and was telling me all about it, so another colleague of mine, Hollie and I wanted to get involved.

Karibu Centre

The Karibu Centre in action with Charles and his class

The Karibu Centre (which translates to Welcome Centre) has such a fitting name! As soon as we arrived the welcome was overwhelming. All the staff and volunteers greeted us, showed us around and then the work began! The centre focuses on educating vulnerable pre-school kids in the surrounding slums, as there is a massive gap in the education system especially for this age group. They also hold after-school clubs to enhance what the older kids are learning at school. Not only that but the centre runs its own animal and vegetable farm to feed the kids two meals a day while they’re there, which creates extra jobs in the community for the kids parents to prepare, maintain and harvest the crops.

Karibu Centre Kenya

The Karibu Centre’s parents working the Aloe Vera crop to produce the soap

The Country, the People and the Centre really opened my eyes to a different way of living.

This is where our project came into play. As well as vegetables, the centre grows an Aloe Vera crop, which is also generating income for the centre, by selling to cosmetic companies for the production of soap and shampoo. Luke, the Managing Director was telling us all about his vision to eventually have a completely self funded centre, from the social enterprise he was creating. Starting with handmade African soap, under the brand, Organic Savannah.

Karibu Centre Kenya

Our time at the Centre – Day Care, Milking with Samson and producing soap displays

During my time at the centre I got to experience all the different departments from daycare, helping in the classrooms, working the farm and using the skills we had brought from home to help the centre develop their social enterprise project. We visited at a great time, as Luke was getting ready to launch the Organic Savannah soap and needed some work doing the marketing. In a few days we put together a brand new website (www.theorganicsavannah.com), product info booklet, sales card and a corporate presentation pitch that Luke could take on the road and introduce the centre and project with.

…everyone we met embraced life and lived it for what they had.

Staying in Thika, was a world apart from home but somehow felt very homely! I think this came down to the warm, heartfelt welcome we received right from when we arrived to the day we left. The Kenyans definitely know how to host. Even though we were preoccupied in the day, they organised awesome activities for our evenings. On Sunday, Nelson the Caretaker and Farmer took us on a hike up Kilimambogo. Monday, a few of the parents from the centre came to pick us up on motorbikes to give us a tour of the local area (also known as boda bodas), Tuesday one of the teachers, Kelly set up a projector and we had a movie night at the centre. Wednesday we were surprised with a campfire in the field by Nelson the caretaker and on Thursday we were invited to a Karaoke night at a local bar where Hollie and I proceeded to sing ‘Man I feel like a woman’ by Shania Twain. The whole experience was then topped off with a safari trip to Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.

I’ve found it really hard to find words that really sum up the whole experience for me. The Country, the People and the Centre really opened my eyes to a different way of living. Life in the slums of Thika is the true meaning of back to basics. Simple pleasures we take for granted, like not being able to drink the tap water and afford meat to eat more than twice a year. Despite all this, everyone we met embraced life and lived it for what they had. Using everything available to them, nothing goes to waste. One thing I’ve learned and will hold from this experience forever is to not live out of your means and appreciate everything and everyone you have around you. Take nothing and no one for granted. Thank you Karibu Centre for the trip of a lifetime.

There are lots of ways to get involved with the Karibu Centre from purchasing their products to volunteering your time and skills either by visiting the Centre or remotely working on a project. Find out more about the Centre at www.thekaribucentre.com or get in touch with Luke at luke@karibucentre.org