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Young Aurora 2019

18 October 2019

“Smokeless Kitchens” team from UWC East Africa wins prestigious first prize

Young Aurora is part of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and provides students from UWC schools with the opportunity to design projects that will drive positive change in their communities by addressing humanitarian concerns. In this third year of the competition, three UWC teams were selected for the final round held as part of the Aurora Forum in Armenia. After a competitive final, UWC East Africa’s Smokeless Kitchens team has been selected as the winning team and will go home with $4000 to further develop their project. And in a last minute twist of the competition, showing just how impressed the jury were with all three projects, both runner-up teams were awarded $2000 each. 

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On day four of the Aurora Forum 2019, the students from UWC Atlantic, UWC East Africa and Pearson College UWC each presented their projects at the Humanitarianism in Education Conference to the final jury and around 300 audience members. The jury was composed of notable figures in the field of education and humanitarian work, including the CEO and Co-Founder of Teach for All, Wendy Kopp, the celebrated social entrepreneur and co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative, Noubar Afeyan and the distinguished Finnish politician, Pär Stenbäck. The focus of the conference was exploring the role that education plays in shaping socially responsible individuals. As this question is also at the heart of UWC’s educational model, it was inspiring and thought-provoking to listen to the impassioned presentations of all three UWC teams, in which they discussed their concerns about the local humanitarian issue they had each identified and put forward their approach to tackling it. 

For the UWC Atlantic Young Voices team this meant outlining their peer-led civic education programme which aims to re-engage young people in Wales with civic issues. The UWC East Africa Smokeless Kitchens team, meanwhile, presented their plans to reduce the instances of respiratory diseases among Chagga and Maasai households by sustainably sourcing and helping with the installation of smokeless stoves in their kitchens. Finally, Pearson College UWC focused on the environmental issue of plastic pollution by unveiling their intentions to build a small plastic recycling factory on their college campus and turn the plastic they collect and accumulate on campus into objects that can be resold. 


"It is wonderful to see these UWC students translate their drive and commitment to positively impact their communities into well-structured plans for action. It is exciting to see them today, not just as future change-makers, but making a difference here and now."

- Jens Waltermann, UWC International

The breadth of humanitarian issues that these projects aim to tackle, as well as the extremely well thought out strategies put in place to achieve their goals, made for an enriching afternoon and a very tight competition. 


"All three projects presenting today touched each of us, both intellectually and emotionally. This made for an extremely tough decision and we did not reach a consensus immediately, which is a reflection of the remarkable quality of each of the projects and presentations. We can’t wait to see where the teams will take their projects next with the prize money and recognition you received today."

- Noubar Afeyan, co-founder of the Aurora Humanitarian Initiative and jury member

 We extend a heartfelt congratulations to second years Kelvin, Yahaya and Nikoli from the Smokeless Kitchens Team for the passion, detailed research and hard work that has led you to this day. Looking to the future, the team are now keen to use the prize money to embark on the research and development of more efficient, cost effective and sustainable stoves, to allow for the project to be scaled to even more kitchens in the Maasai and Chagga communities. The money will also allow the team to improve the stove installation process by training local ambassadors to build and maintain the kitchens and, in the longer term, it will allow them to develop kits for self home installation. 

Reflecting on their experiences, both in developing their project and the inspiration that they have gained over the course of the Aurora Forum so far, the Smokeless Kitchens team sums up: “The major lesson this whole experience has shown us is that no matter how small an entity you are, you are still capable of making a difference.”
We can’t wait to see the difference the team will go on to make, as the project grows and its impacts are extended to families across the region.