N.O. Rotary Club Member Receives Prestigious Ashoka American Express Award

NEW ORLEANS – The Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend announced that member Sydney Gray has been selected as a 2015 Ashoka-American Express Emerging Innovator.

         Meredith Robinson, public relations liaison for the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend, said the Ashoka Foundation will pay for Gray to travel to Nairobi, Kenya, where she will be one of 20 award recipients to participate in a series of workshops and train with social innovators, business experts and industry leaders.

         “I first heard about the Ashoka Changemakers program when I was notified that I had been nominated in March,” Gray told Robinson. “I am still not certain who nominated me, but I was definitely excited.”

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         “There was a two-part application process, and a two-round selection process,” she said. “Ashoka accepts applications from five regions in the US, and each region had hundreds of applicants.”

         Robinson said of the 100 finalists selected by the Ashoka Foundation, only 20 of them will head to Kenya, which holds a specific lure for Gray because she’s the founder and head of a nonprofit in Kenya dedicated to promoting the economic empowerment of women through the control of clean water.

         Through Mama Maji, Robinson said, women in the Chiga community are provided sanitation and business training, and the charity provides a water kiosk, which currently supplies more than 1,500 villagers clean water daily. Two expansions of the initial project have brought water taps into homes for the first time, as well as to a village school serving 275 students. Mama Maji plans two further expansions of its Chiga water kiosk business this year.

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         “I expect to leave New Orleans in early August to arrive in Nairobi no later than August 5th, but I won’t be getting back until the middle of August,” Gray told Robinson. “I will be taking the opportunity to visit our project sites in western Kenya while I am there.”

         Robinson said the Rotary Club of New Orleans Riverbend has been highly involved with Gray’s Mama Maji for the past two years, holding a fundraising water walk in conjunction with UN World Water, and also applying for grants from the Rotary Foundation to develop Mama Maji’s water projects.

         For more information

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