Since 2017, the Beauty Project Initiative of  ITIAH Angels for Learning (IAFL) has been on a mission to teach women in impoverished communities in the Caribbean and Africa how to make and market basic cosmetics in order to become sustainable and sufficient entrepreneurs. A perfect opportunity arose during the summer of 2019 to work with women in the village of Kisii in Western Kenya.

Beauty project team members Lilian Kerongo, a native of Kisii and a scientist at Burt’s Bees, Inc., reached out in the summer to women from her village and received an enthusiastic response from them.  Since the residents needed clean water to create cosmetic products, the village women suggested implementing a borehole water project to benefit the entire village, including two schools and a church.

As a result, the Beauty Project Initiative team raised funds in Fall 2019.  In turn, IAFL received $4,600 from The Burt’s Bees Foundation to support the project.*  A few team members from the cosmetic industry, including Abena Antwi, associate director/products designer at Burt’s Bees, planned to visit Kenya to carry out the cosmetic workshop mission, however, the January 2020 trip to Kenya was postponed due to a mounting military crisis between Iran and the U.S. and news about the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic.

Yet, the borehole project moved full speed ahead. The village of Kisii obtained the work permit in June 2020 and last September the contractor broke ground with drilling the borehole. A local water consultant engineer is currently testing the water to assess its quality.

“In my opinion this ‘give back to my village’ project has been the most fulfilling work for me, especially in these uncertain times,” says Kerongo. “It feels so nice to give back to the people that have poured so much good in my life over the years.”

As part of the project, the team obtained a Sawyer water filter to install on each family’s water collector barrel. Angie Paez and Barbara Scott organized the GoFundMe campaign. As a result, 33 households were given the gift of clean water. This filter could last 10 years and has proven to be cost-effective with great health benefits such as reducing illness.

“The lives of all village residents are being transformed,” says Kerongo. ”With less time spent on going to fetch water, the focus now can be placed on helping the children with school work.  The women are now able to concentrate on learning new skills and honing their entrepreneurial abilities. Due to clean water, health conditions will start to improve with fewer incidents of water contamination illnesses such as typhoid and cholera. It has definitely been a win-win situation for everyone.”

*A total of $17,600 was raised from the sponsors: IAFL thanks the following personal care sponsors who contributed to this campaign: Burt’s Bees, a subsidiary of The Clorox Company.  The $4,600 Burt’s Bees donations resulted from The Clorox Company Foundation’s partnership with Benevity, a software company dedicated to corporate giving.  The Clorox Company Foundation (on behalf of Lilian Kerongo and Abena Antwi) through Benevity platform matched donations from employee’s dollar-for-dollar.  The Burt’s Bees Foundation, in turn, provided additional funding to support Kerongo’s and Antwi’s desired project through IAFL.

Other sponsors: Custom Essence, Devereaux Specialties, Anna Soudrette (personal contribution), Ultra Chemical Inc, Takasago, Art Knox (personal contribution), American Distilling, Dane Dickinson (personal contribution), Lilian Kerongo (personal contribution), Abena Antwi (personal contribution), TAOS, and Flavor and Fragrance Specialties.

The following Beauty Project Initiative team members will conduct cosmetics workshops in Kisii ( when IAFL volunteers are able to travel again):

Melanie Mitchell, Beauty Project Initiative Coordinator 

Marie Thadal

Jolia Thadal

Giorgio Dell’Acqua, PhD

Barbara Scott and daughter Tiffany Scott

Angie Paez and daughters Ariana Paez and Joceline Paez

Abena Antwi

Lilian Kerongo and daughter Keisha Okeiga

Roger McMullen, PhD


By Mia Boccher and Brenda Payne Whiteman

Leave a Reply