This is the last in our three part #TrueBeautyGivesBack series, highlighting some of our favorite founders and giving you a chance to support some of our favorite social enterprises. This week, we sat down with The Akaa Project Founder, Lauren Grimanis. Enter code 'AKAA25' at checkout, and through the end of December, we'll donate 25% of your purchase to The Akaa Project's work, bringing community supported education to rural Ghana.
How did The Akaa Project get its start, and what makes your way of operating unique?
It all started in 2008 when I first visited Ghana. I had visited a rural community and met children who were not attending school – because there was no school in their community. Starting small, I helped organize a small village school with a few volunteer teachers and 30 children. Then the Akaa Project was established – Akaa because it is the name of the larger community – an NGO to address the larger challenges in rural areas including education, healthcare and finance.
What makes us unique is how we are so localized in the community. Our staff are from the community we work, they grew up with the challenges that they are now helping to address.
We know you love moringa almost as much as we do- how do you integrate it into your work and life?
For the Akaa Project, we try to encourage Moringa every chance we get! We have trees and a leaf-intensive Moringa garden at our school. We also have community members growing it. We’ve done a lot of education (with MoringaConnect!) on how and why Moringa is healthy and nutritional for families.
Personally, I use True Moringa oil everyday on my skin and around my eyes. I have pretty much made True Moringa my main cosmetic product – no more lotions or creams. I even keep a bottle in my bag to have it wherever I go! I also sprinkle Moringa powder on my foods (in Ghana and the US), and when I’m in Akaa, I’ll put the fresh leaves in my soup and rice!
Tell us a bit about your fundraising campaign! How can our readers get involved?
Our fundraising campaign is about exactly what makes us unique – our people. We believe in the power of local voices and local people to be changemakers in their own communities. Our staff - our people have better insights in the rural context because they live it, they grew up in it, and now, they are part of changing it. Local People, Greater Potential Campaign is about sustaining and investing in our people in Ghana so that we will have stronger programs and create greater opportunities for children and families in the Akaa community.
The campaign will support professional and skill development for those dedicated people who inspire people in rural Ghana every day.
What's the funniest thing that's happened at school?
This one was more creative and fun than funny but it happened recently. It was break time and I found a group of KG students busily working away in their “kitchen.” They were playing foodseller (Ghana’s version of restaurant) – they had collected bottles, plastic wrappers and containers and had transformed this 3x3 plot into their kitchen. Everyone had a job. One was cooking the rice (putting dirt into a container), one was getting ingredients for the sauce (getting leaves from the closest tree), one was cooking the stew/sauce (putting the leaves over pretend fire), and one was in charge of adding oil (water) to the pot. I picked up a stoned to use as a coin and gave it to them saying I wanted “50 peswas rice.” They got so excited and all at once everyone started rushing to do their kitchen tasks. I got served my dirt and leaves and pretend ate it. Then I invited them to eat with me, as we all dug our hands into the dirt – smiles and laughs multiplied. I’m always amazed at the creativity of play.
What's one fun fact about you (personally) that we might not know?
I love classic oldies music. I often blast it and sing as I drive through rural Ghana.
What do you love most about your job?
Seeing the impact of my work every day.
What practical advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs and non-profit leaders?
There are going to be so many challenges that seem like they could break you. When that happens take a step back and reflect. Have anchors outside of work that help get you through challenges – people, hobbies, travel.
What's the next big thing for The Akaa Project?
Rammed earth construction! We’re building a 4 room classroom block and library/community center using this innovative building technique – which uses soil and sand right from our community as the primary building material. We’re hoping to help pioneer local, sustainable building in Ghana through this project.