The Story Exchange, Holly Bantleman, Raise The Roof KenyaYour Name: Holly Bantleman

Business Name: Raise The Roof Kenya, a service to build sustainable houses for people living in poverty in Kenya

Type of Business: Social Enterprise

Business Location: London, England

Twitter   @RaisetheRoofKen

Reason for starting
I started Raise the Roof Kenya in 2010, with the initial aim of doing exactly what it says on the tin (excuse the pun) providing tin roofing for communities living on a dumpsite. With that mission accomplished after raising money through UK donations, several more visits to Kenya, and many more eye-opening experiences, I decided that RTRK would become a long term project and saw ways to really make difference. At the time I was spending about a third of my year in Kenya and working with local communities, when I noticed the lack of opportunity for teenagers. Under a rare partnership, working closely with the local Kenyan government and the Barut community, The Barut Youth Development and Sports Centre was born. The centre’s mission is to provide vocational training and extra curricular activities for teenagers who had never had such opportunity, to create a hub for the community to come together in additional education, medical clinics and community events.

How do you define success?
Defining success is never easy to answer, everyone’s definition of success is different, some find it in a career, others in love, and others in money. For RTRK, our ultimate success will come when our mission is fulfilled and RTRK becomes redundant. Our aim is for our projects in Kenya to be completely Kenyan managed and sustained. It’s often difficult for others to understand why our success is defined by our own redundancy, however this will be the day when we have created something that will outlive us, that will create a long term change, a project that the whole community is empowered by, proud of and takes ownership of, without dependency on an external body. Personally for me to be successful, outside of RTRK, is to have no regrets, to have tried my best and made the best of everything thrown my way, to take on new challenges, to inspire others and to do it all with a smile!

Biggest Success
Our biggest success to date has to be the opening of The Barut Youth Development and Sports Centre, and intaking our first 50 students. Personally I will always be driven to do more, and I’m sure we will have even bigger success to come. However, seeing pictures of students walk through the doors and sit at their desks was one of those tingly moments when I realized how much RTRK, our team and community in Kenya really has achieved together. It also reiterated how much more we can do, with further partnerships and collaborations and the support of like minded individuals and organizations.

What is your top challenge and how have you addressed it?
Out top challenge would have to be securing funding and sustainability…Over the past few years we have been successful in this, but keeping that up and creating sustainable business projects is a challenge. We are currently working on ‘Kujenga’ our first UK social enterprise, creating a system in which our students earn while they learn. we sell their handmade gifts nationally and internationally and the profits are used for good. As a team of volunteers, none of whom draw a salary, juggling RTRK with a ‘normal job’ can often be a challenge. Effective use of volunteers time is essential, and although a challenge, we seem to have created an efficient system that works well.

Who is your most important role model?
There are so many people and organizations that have inspired me and whose model I try to follow and learn from. The heart of my dear friend Molly who runs an orphanage in Kenya, the compassion of my nan who taught me how to care for others, the practicality of an Australian organization who offered so much guidance and support in early stages of the build of our centre in Kenya. Mama Hope is an organization I have recently discovered whose model i aspire to take on board, alongside Afrikidz who I have followed from the start. I think it is important to learn and take on good qualities from as many people, organizations and experiences as possible, and to choose just one of those is impossible. I try to learn and take on qualities of like minded organizations.