Nov 20, 2019
About Amy Ahiga, Founder of Grain of Rice Project:
Amy Ahiga is a wife, mother, former
art teacher, and the co-founder of Grain of Rice Project, an
organization that seeks to empower Kenyans through educational and
training initiatives in Jesus' name. Amy is passionate about
ensuring children from marginalized and underprivileged parts of
society in Kenya have access to quality education. She is
currently in the process of starting a school in Nanyuki,
Kenya. Amy divides her time between Kenya and Valparaiso,
Indiana, where she resides with her husband and 1-year old
The Kibera slum is the largest urban
slum in Africa. Recent estimates show that over 235,000 people live
in the single square-mile area that makes up Kibera. Other sources
suggest the total Kibera population may be as high as a half a
million to well over a million people depending on which slums are
included in defining Kibera. Life in Kibera is beyond challenging.
Men, women, and children live in simple shacks made of sticks, mud,
and tin. There’s no running water, sewage runs rampant, and most
people survive on less than $1 a day. Children born in the slum of
Kibera are at such a high risk of continuing the cycle of extreme
poverty. Access to something as simple and basic as education can
mean the difference between life and death. My guest today is doing
her part to tip the scale and make a difference in the lives of
kids in Kibera. Amy Ahiga is the cofounder of Grain of Rice
Project, an organization that seeks to empower Kenyans
through educational and training initiatives in Jesus’ name. Amy is
passionate about insuring that children from marginalized and
underprivileged parts of society in Kenya have access to quality
education. She’s also in the process of starting a school in
Nanyuki, Kenya. I
actually met Amy at the Fair Trade Federation Conference last
Spring and knew right away I wanted to have her on the show. I’m so
excited to share this conversation with you and can’t wait for you
to hear more about Amy and Grain of Rice’s work in
3:00 - The Amy 101
- Amy grew up in Indiana and began
her career as a teacher there. After two years, she decided to quit
her job and move to Kenya. It was a big change and a lot of people
didn’t understand why she was doing it.
- She lived with a Kenyan family for
about eight months which really helped her learn about the culture
on an authentic level. When Amy came back to the US, she wasn’t
sure what she wanted to do next, so she went back to teaching and
visited Kenya on Summer breaks.
- Amy brought her sister along on
her second trip, and the two decided they wanted to get involved in
a long-term situation to provide support and opportunities for
- Amy and her sister started
Rice Project to empower people living in Kibera with
artisan training, business training, life skills, and the ability
to run their own businesses. They also work with kids to help them
find opportunities for education and spiritual teaching, art
classes, and more.
- Amy is also married to a Kenyan
and she and her husband have a one-year-old son. Kenya is woven
into Amy and her beautiful family’s story.
7:39 – Why Kenya?
- Amy was actually hesitant to go to
Kenya the first time after she quit teaching in the States. Even
after she became involved in kid’s programs, she thought she’d only
make a one-time trip to Kenya.
- Once Amy saw the beautiful culture
as well as the needs in the country, she became connected to the
Kenyan people and continued to go back.
- God uses the very things we think
are not in our plan. When we step out on faith in situations we
didn’t want to do or that we’re uncomfortable with, it’s incredible
how God blesses us.
11:12 - A Local Team
- The staff of Grain of Rice Project
is entirely Kenyan. It’s very important to have local people on the
ground running things since they are the leaders in the
- True change comes when those who
best understand the needs of the area are running the daily
- This is an important thing to
remember when working in developing nations. It’s a beautiful
picture of how God created us to work in community and respect each
other’s cultures, empowering one another with a hand up rather than
- Amy recalls having a great idea to
teach locals how to make beads. When she brought the supplies in, a
local woman pulled jewelry out of her bag to show Amy that they
already knew how to make the products but didn’t know how to sell
them. It was just the humble reminder Amy needed to see her blind
spot and understand the actual needs of the community.
17:35 - The Largest Slum in East
- To tackle a problem as big as
poverty, we have to see the root of the need. It starts with
education and access to sustainable economic opportunities. Grain
of Rice Project tackles both.
- It can be overwhelming to think
about how to help ease poverty in a slum of over 1 million people.
It’s hard work and it’s not a quick fix, but just like the name
Grain of Rice, small acts add up over time to make a
- One of the biggest challenges in
Kenyan education is that the system is set up to reward children
who are good at memorizing. It celebrates children with high tests
- Kenya sees the need and is trying
to change the education system to make it more competency based.
The challenge is that teachers don’t have enough training or
resources, so there is resistance to implementing the change in
their own classrooms.
- Grain of Rice Project wants to
equip teachers with simple practices like classroom management
training, arts and STEM education, and making reading fun and
25:35 – A Blended Family
- Amy shares about Kenyan and
American culture and what it’s like to be part of a bi-cultural and
- Kenyan culture is
relationship-based and focuses on community and slowing down. There
is a village mentality that everyone works together for the greater
- Parents in Kenya are very
intrigued when Amy reads to her young son who cannot read yet. The
curiosity has been a great way to start conversations and an
opportunity to learn about each other’s respective
- Mealtime slows down too! Kenyans
take their time with schedules and often stop what they’re doing to
create hospitable and relational experiences.
33:43 – Building a
- Grain of Rice Project is working
toward building a school in Nanyuki, Kenya. There are a lot of
different tribes in the area, and it still struggles with a history
of tribe-based discrimination. The vision for the school is to see
a body of students made different tribes coming together to promote
unity and hands-on learning.
- It takes a village to complete
such a big vision, and you can get involved at grainofriceproject.org . You’ll also find updates
on the progress of the project as it breaks ground in early
37:37 – Getting to Know Our
- Find out what song Amy would chose
as her “walk-up” song, her perspective on wisdom and growing older,
what new book she just ordered, and what it means to her to run a
business with purpose!
~9:00 - “Once you’re there and you
see the really amazing, positive things about the culture, you also
see the need and the joy despite the need, I think it’s really hard
to turn a blind eye to some of the things you’ve seen after you’ve
~10:45 - “I think it’s in those
uncomfortable moments that we really do grow and we kind of learn
who we were made to be.”