Greg Willson, finding solutions from Nederland to Kenya
It’s never surprising to see Greg Willson involved in some creative, new community sustainability project either in Nederland or, via his computer, in some far-off reaches of the world. Recently, Willson got to join the folks he’s been working with as he traveled into Kenya to help where he could.
Willson says he likes to hear what the locals in an area are saying. That’s where he gets clues as to where he can best plug in, with his computer savvy and creative building skills, to a project that is already being visualized by the community and communicated as something that the community needs. For far too long, well-intentioned visitors have introduced ideas into cultures that could not sustain them.
Willson began working with a group of musicians in Dandora, Kenya that helps provide stimulating activities, like soccer, for orphaned children in neighborhoods where orphans often “get into sniffing glue”. Willson is basically observing and consulting with them to help out with their biggest obstacle right now, which is community involvement. Willson will be helping them raise community awareness, and hopefully inspiring that involvement.
Willson talked about Fanya Jamii.org, and helping young people to learn to code. He says a group is ongoing in Njiru. Willson is working to connect them with some popular reggae artists in Jamaica to help ensure that there is some cash flow and good projects that students can learn from.
Willson in turn had noticed that some Jamaican musician friends’ websites were not protected. Even though they had staggering numbers of followers, they had not secured their domain names, etc. He has begun helping by securing these artists’ websites and is teaching them to code so that they, in turn, can take care of their sites and keep them updated. Willson jokes that he has ‘hijacked’ these musician friends to get them involved with FanyaJamii.org.
Willson was invited to a meeting where over 35 orphanage directors and care-givers came together to discuss ‘chokula dawa’ or healthy food. He spoke with them about healthy food as a tool for healing and is further involved with the effort.
Willson is also involved in protecting the Bobo Rastafari Tabernacle garden and helping to get a house built near it. He is also involved with developing the Mamawatoto eco-school in connection with the Tabernacle garden in Njiru. They will make a tree and flower nursery with Mwende of Mamawatoto. It will help fund kids working there.
Willson built the first prototype of a pizza oven at a friend’s home in Kenya. He plans to help build them in public places, where they could be opened daily, serving pizza. Willson is also teaching how to harvest coffee-beans and process them for a good cup of coffee. He says coffee houses do exist but it’s still catching on and the beans do grow there. He says he sees potential for pizza oven and coffee operations to coexist.
Willson has been able to pull together small groups of workers in Kauawa and Machakos where he had solar panels delivered. He bought them himself and simply had them delivered to a friend’s house. They celebrated when the panels arrived at his friend’s house in Machakos, because he wasn’t completely certain they’d show up. The project is getting off the ground slowly and solar panels are going up. Batteries are the next hurdle to overcome. Willson said folks so far are able to charge their cell-phones with the batteries they have on-hand. As it grows, this project could be a huge step forward for energy sustainability in these areas where there are lots of blackouts.
While speaking of the Machakos zero waste initiative Willson says sadly, “They burn plastic everywhere in this eden.” Willson said the “first step was making them know how toxic that is and how its related to cancer.” He is thinking of using experiment.com to do a fingernail study with little kids there in Accra, Ghana and Dandora, Kenya.
Willson found a lot of problems with moving projects forward due to inter-tribal politics. He is working with groups of progressive people from different tribes who want to move everyone forward together. He mentioned several inter-tribal couples where the unique marriage represents a formal alliance and is utilized to expand that out into both their tribes. He hopes to utilize these alliances as much as possible in the future.
Back home now, he is also working on a zero waste connection to Gilpin County, trying to fund testing and fabrication of zero waste processing equipment for Gilpin. This is in conjunction with the work ongoing in Nederland and now central Nairobi – which means better separation of plastics, compostables, and soil.
Willson says he finds that “self funding things lets you do it now, write it up as it happens, seek partnerships and then fund eco activities at a higher level”.
As far as his experience in Kenya, he said that “hundreds of times a day magical people are smiling at you and loving you, giving it back.” When considering all that Greg Willson is doing there, it’s easy to see why.