New nonprofit to help African communities
By Liz Kearney
Monday, July 30 2012
Danielle Kellem, of Gardiner, has formed a nonprofit to assist maternal health, prevent human trafficking and boost economic development in Africa.
Gardiner native and world traveler Danielle Kellem and her family have worked for the past several years to help a small village in western Kenya.
Kellem has recently formed a new nonprofit, called Teaching More. And to raise funds for the organization, Kellem has planned a fundraiser. The event will be held in Livingston at Chadz, 104 N. Main St., on Tuesday night at 7p.m.
In 2010, The Enterprise featured a story about Kellem’s work in Kenya. Her family contributed about $4,000 to the village of Kaswanga over the course of two years. The money made it possible for the village to pay its rent on about nine acres of land, buy a pump for a simple irrigation system, and buy fencing to keep livestock out of the garden.
Since 2010, the Kellems, with the help of a generous donor, have helped the village to purchase an additional 8 acres near the original plot. The additional acreage helps feed about 30 families, Danielle Kellem said Friday.
And with additional funds made possible through the nonprofit, Kellem said the plan includes, not just fencing for the plot, but digging a small pond for commercial fish farming.
Other programs Kellem addresses through her nonprofit is Safety in Pregnancy and childbirth training, which trains local midwives. Kellem herself is a doula, or a birth assistant. She said earlier this year she was able to visit some very remote Kenyan villages and provide simple midwife kits to the local women who function as midwives.
Kellem’s third issue is combating human trafficking in Kenya and eastern Africa.
For Tuesday’s fundraiser, Kellem said “a lot of awesome local artists” have contributed works of art for a silent auction, which will be held during the event. She also brought back from Kenya numerous crafts and art objects, which will also be part of the silent auction.
The $15 charge for the event includes wine and food and a brief presentation by Kellem.
The public is welcome to attend. For more information, call Kellem at 406-223-0043 email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.teachingmore.org
Gardiner residents discover it takes a family to raise a village
By Liz Kearney
Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010
The Kellem family of Gardiner didn’t set out to be philanthropists for an entire African village. It just sort of happened, thanks to their globe-trotting daughter Danielle.
Danielle was working in a tiny village on an island in Lake Victoria in western Kenya. She had found the area through World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms. Working with a local resident, Paul Nyaema Ogola, and his mother, the three came up with the idea of starting a small farm where village women could raise food.
And like many traveling young adults, Danielle wrote home for money, but in this case, the money was for the village. Her parents, Les and Carol Kellem, wanted to help. Les figured he’d send enough money to feed some children at the local orphanage.
Then he recalled Danielle had told him about a woman who had asked her for an amount of money that turned out to be about $1.50 in American dollars. Les was shocked to learn it was enough money to feed the woman and her family for a week.
He thought they could do more than just provide a onetime handout. Danielle suggested they help out with the garden idea.
“It turned into sort of a family deal” Les recalled.
The “deal” turned out to be a land lease of about nine acres, Danielle explained. They pay the landowner his rent. They bought a water pump and some pipes for irrigation. Then they needed some fencing and a small storage shed.
Local coordinator Ogola got $60 a month salary. And then there was a need for more fencing.
All told, the Kellems estimate they have about $4,000 into the project, that they’ve paid out over two years.
Carol said that when she first went to the bank to wire money, bank staff tried to discourage here. So many Internet scams originate in Africa that they were concerned she was throwing her money away, Carol explained with a laugh.
The farm is about a 15 minute walk from the village. Women do the farming. They grow tomatoes, corn and mboga, a bitter green. About 30 families have been participating. Once more fencing is installed, there will be enough room for 20 more families. Danielle said the fencing is necessary because the local stock animals-mostly goats and cattle- roam free most of the year.
While the intent was that the families would grow food to feed themselves, some of the women have grown extra food they can barter with. The village, located on Rusinga Island in Lake Victoria, is primarily a fishing village.
The women have been able to trade their produce for fish, Danielle said. And they raise some corn outside the fenced area to feed their livestock.
Life in the village
The village, located between two larger towns called Kaswanga and Kamasangre, has about 200 to 300 people, Danielle estimates. There’s no electricity or running water, but there’s cell phone coverage.
In the two larger towns, they have generators to produce electricity for a few hours a day. There’s a small youth center that runs a generator occasionally. When it’s on, people bring their cell phones in to be re-charged.
Danielle said she’s the first white person many of the children have ever seen. She said the children come to look at her.
“They touch my arm, and they look at my eyes. They say white people, with their light-colored eyes, have animal eyes,” Danielle said.
Danielle will be returning to the village during our winter months. Its sits at the equator and the temperatures are in the 100s nearly all year round, she said. Their rainy season runs about March through May, and it’s cooler then.
Does the rest of her family plan to visit?
Danielle’s sister Callie is working a summer job in Gardiner and hopes to go. She’s contributed to the project financially, too. Les, a disabled veteran and cowboy, said he probably wouldn’t make the trip. It would be painful, and he’s got too much titanium in him to get through airports since 9/11, he said. Carol said she would like to go.
Les and Carol downplay their involvement in helping a tiny village on the other side of the world.
“We’re not doing this for a pat on the back,” Carol said.
“We never had any money, but it doesn’t take much to help out, Les said. “You can always do something”
Woman fights human trafficking in Africa
By Liz Kearney
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
How did a young woman from Gardiner end up working in Kenya for local victims of human trafficking?
Danielle Kellem, 26, partly attributes it to growing up in Gardiner.
“I hate winter, so I started traveling to get away from it,” Kellem smiled.
She was just 18 when she made her first journey: She got a job as a nanny working for a family in Rome for a year.
The following year, she worked on an organic far in Italy.
“One of my jobs was squishing grapes. We used our feet, just like on “I Love Lucy,” she laughed.
But her work in Kenya is no laughing matter. She traveled to Kenya last year because she had never been to Africa. She met a medical student who was doing work in HIV outreach, so she helped with that, in a rural hospital in eastern Kenya, in the town of Malindi.
Kellem is a certified doula, which is a position that assists midwives with childbirth.
“They were super under-staffed, so they put me to work. They watched me at first, and then they let me deliver babies,” she said. ‘Through another friend she moved on to Nairobi, Kenya’s largest city. She volunteered with the friend’s new nonprofit organization, Human Awareness Assistance Research into Trafficking. She worked in slums putting up posters and talking to people to raise awareness about human trafficking.
Human trafficking happens all over the world and has varying definitions in different countries, Kellem explained. For example, in India, she said, it takes a form called “debt bondage,” where people get into trouble borrowing even a small sum of money at exorbinant interest rates, which means they can never re-pay it.
“It’s modern day slavery,” Kellem said. “People working for no compensation except food, and there’s the fear of violence if they try to escape.”
In Kenya, children and women are used in sex trafficking.
And it takes place I the U.S, Kellem said. In the Haitian neighborhoods of south Florida, she learned, parents stricken the hardest by the Haiti earthquake are misled into giving up their children for what they are told will be a better future and an education.
Instead, the children are used as domestic servants, or worse.
“It’s such a huge problem, and nobody knows about it,” Kellem said.
To help Americans learn about human trafficking, Kellem is spending her free hours this summer talking to any groups she can find to listen to her. On Thursday, June 10th, the local organization, Montana Women For…., is sponsoring her talk at the Livingston Park-County Public Library. It will take place at 7p.m. in the Meeting Room. The public is encouraged to attend.