Ford Fund Grants Help Enactus Student Entrepreneurs Wash Away COVID-19

New Ford Fund challenge rewards creative solutions to fight pandemic

DEARBORN, Mich. — Social distancing, face masks and handwashing have become the worldwide language and dress code of COVID-19. Each presents unique issues for communities fighting back against the virus that are being explored by the students of Enactus in the Ford Fund COVID-19 College Challenge.

Black, male using outdoor sanitation station

Enactus student entrepreneurs on 14 teams in nine countries—Brazil, Egypt, Eswatini, Ghana, India, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom and United States—were awarded Ford Fund grants for their work on local projects addressing concerns linked to COVID-19. More than 150 applications were filed by Enactus students, who are part of an international network of next generation leaders motivated to help make the world a better place. We're going to focus on two of the winning projects here.

In Kenya, there is renewed emphasis on hygiene and handwashing as many people return to business as usual despite government directives to stay at home. Focusing on technology, along with health and sanitation, students from Enactus Multimedia University created innovative handwashing stations that can hold large quantities of soap, water and sanitizer. Each station is also equipped with sensors and can be monitored remotely. In the early days of the lockdown, students concentrated on high-traffic areas, such as malls and supermarkets. As more people return to work and businesses reopen, the team has turned its attention to hospitals, banks and subdivisions. The goal is to reduce the spread of COVID-19. To ensure the safety of team members, Enactus Multimedia has allocated funds to purchase face masks and sanitizer to keep them safe.

"We could not sit idle waiting for the pandemic to pass," said Eric Munene Mwirichia, student, Enactus Multimedia University. "The idea was to develop a contact-less handwashing station. We developed a prototype that required a user to step on a lever to access soap and water. We learned that we were locking out the disabled with this feature, so we applied for the COVID-19 College Challenge and built an automated station that uses sensors to dispense soap and water."

Tapping into the entrepreneurial action of Enactus, the team expects a return on investment from the sale of handwashing stations to shopping malls and other busy locations. They also plan to begin making their own sanitizers and liquid soap to supply the stations.

"Ford makes it possible for us to solve problems facing our community. Their support is what allows us to create an impact and make a difference," added Mwirichia. "They are playing their role in investing in the youth and now it is upon us as Enactus students to take action and build solutions."

In the kingdom of Eswatini, some 2,800 miles from Kenya in southern Africa, most of the population has no access to running water, an urgent safety concern since handwashing is so important during the global pandemic. The team at Enactus Southern Africa Nazarene University—Health Sciences developed an affordable solution called the Hlanteka Wonder Bucket that allows people to wash their hands without touching the tap. It not only reduces contamination but saves water at the same time. The system features a 20-liter bucket with a tap on the bottom. An iron rod is attached for easy hands-free opening and closing. If you have running water, the bucket can be attached to refill itself at home. If you do not have running water, the bucket can be filled with water to wash hands using another container.

"We are a team that see opportunities where others see problems," said Tandzile Mdlovu, student, Enactus Southern Africa Nazarene University-Health Sciences. "In this time of need where people need solutions to adapt to the new normal of constantly washing hands, it is of great honor that we are part of their journey."

The team has put a media marketing strategy in place to boost sales of the bucket and touch as many lives as possible. The project is also focused on installing a foot pedal, instead of being operated by a hip or knee, to reduce the chances of contamination and to make it easier to use for people with disabilities.

"Ford Fund has been of great assistance to the advancement and continuation of the project," said Mdlovu. "This period has taught us that no matter how hard and difficult times are, for as long as we are breathing, we need to continue pressing on and never stop persisting."

The Ford Fund COVID-19 College Challenge is an extension of the Ford College Community Challenge (C3). Ford Fund's signature C3 program empowers student-led teams to develop sustainable projects that meet an urgent community need, such as clean water, food or mobility. Originally launched in the United States in 2008, Ford C3 is now operating in 11 countries—Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Ghana, Kenya, Mexico, Morocco, Nigeria, South Africa, the United Kingdom and United States—and has distributed more than $3 million in global grants to support nearly 200 student-led social projects. Enactus is Ford Fund's international partner for Ford C3.

To learn more about Ford Fund's COVID-19 response and donation match program visit fordfund.org/covid19.