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InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation

Friends Building Global Community

ICO World - February 2014

Issue No. 4 | FEBRUARY 2014

Welcome to ICOWorld!

ICO is founded on the premise that friends working together can harness the power of innovative ideas: Through the common goals of communities and volunteers around the world, ICO develops processes and community-led initiatives to advance education and alleviate poverty.


A Message from The Chairman

  John Mitchell
  President and Chair
  InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation


Hello ICO, I would like to wish you a very warm welcome to the latest edition of ICO World. This is a new format that fits devices from computers to tablets and smartphones. This function enables us to keep you informed of the latest news in a timely manner and enables us to produce and publish all ICO content in Mandarin, Swahili, Hindi, French, Spanish and English.

As I write this message, I see from our Online Accounts that we have raised over $1,000,000 CDN for our Worldwide Initiatives in a few short years!  Yes, that is correct, 1 million dollars to people all over the world to assist them with education, infrastructure and the tools to build a better life for themselves, their families and their communities. We also have a major Initiative in Canada, which supports 22 people with persistent mental illness at risk of homelessness with safe housing and professional nursing. In addition, we also enabled a small 24-apartment complex for people with multiple issues of homelessness, addiction and mental health. This apparently was the first zero barrier, multiple issue housing community in Canada and the second in North America.

Every dollar went to the people in the community we serve; not a penny of the money raised was deducted for overhead or corporate salaries. Additionally, no fundraising costs were deducted; ICO even paid the cost of the credit cards and bank charges. Our overhead costs come from our investment portfolio, not from donations. If you donated $100, then that $100 goes to the intended recipients.  Our accounts are transparent 24/7 so that you can see where the donation went -- to the people that need it, and not to professional fund raisers etc.

Additionally, all those resources came from volunteers working together!  ICO’s work comes from people and is for people.  The people are our message, people are our communities; we believe in friendship—in friends that work together and friendships that can change the World. Over the next few months, we are going to focus on what community really means to ICO.  What is an ICO Community and why are we named InnovativeCommunities.Org Foundation (instead of InnovativeInitiatives.Org Foundation, for example)?

In this issue, we will share with you some of the stories from many of the 40+ current initiatives that ICO supports in 13 countries.  These stories may only be able to show part of the over 10,000 people we have been honoured to serve and assist as Friends, but hopefully they will also serve to illustrate what community looks like and how it functions in ICO.  Specifically, we would like to call your attention these stories: the eco-stove collaboration between ICO members in Rwanda and Kenya, a member profile on Jen Wade and highlights from ICO initiatives in Ethiopia (lighting Mekanisa), Uganda (a community video), Tanzania (Moshi football initiative), and Rwanda (serving orphans and widows).  We also will be highlighting updates for the Run-For-Tomorrow (R4T), which is designed to support and encourage better health and involvement around the World.

Without our dedicated pro-bono Team Members volunteering their time, skills, resources, passion and humanity, none of this would have been possible. I want to pay tribute to you, I want to thank you for the endless work you have undertaken in difficult situations, without detailed corporate plans, with caring and with friendship.  You made it happen and you were not paid! Many thanks also to all those partners and donors who have so selflessly supported our people with kindness, consideration and commitment.

With my grateful thanks and in friendship,





Pottery makers in the Kenyan town of Bondo lamented to the ICO facilitator there that they needed a new, unique product to increase the collective’s earnings.
“I know of a fuel-efficient, smoke-free stove made from clay by our ICO team in Rwanda,” Mark Dull told them.  “Are you interested”?

After seeing pictures of the stove and hearing about its benefits, the Bondo team sent an invitation through Mark to the Rwandan stove team’s trainer, Musafiri, to come and train them.  Musafiri, brimming with 4 years of experience refining the design and production system of the “Rwandan Boot” stove, immediately confirmed his agreement.  Several months later, he and Pascal, his lead designer, were on a series of buses for the 48 hour trip through Rwanda, Uganda, around Lake Victoria to Bondo, Kenya.  They spent 2 weeks there helping to create a supply chain and marketing strategy, as well as delivering hands-on training for the $5 eco-stove. 










Rwandan boot stove pictured above

The professionalism of the Rwandans’ knowledge transfer was matched by their personal engagement with the 30 rural Kenyans who, much like them, eagerly grasp any possibility to increase their learning and their earning.  And they did it all in their 3rd language, Swahili!

It was a demonstration of ICO's capacity to facilitate our African partners to function at their best, fostering not only economic benefit but confidence in themselves and in cross-border friendships.  In the months that followed, the Kenyan team shared with their Rwandan partners through email production problems around the bonding strength of the clay.  They found Musa and Pascal quick to take on the problem, research it and suggest different additives for the clay and new drying procedures.  New business ventures always launch amidst challenges but the Bondo team had experienced mentors to help them push through these problems.

For Musa and Pascal, this was their first trip outside of Rwanda but it wont be their last.  Encouraged by success, they returned home to provide training to several groups in Rwanda and are now negotiating one or more training programs in Uganda. 

When ICO offers a step up, we need to stand back.  Our partners may make it a big one. 


Leader, ICO Operations Group and ICO Chief Operating Officer

Travelling through new countries, meeting people and sharing experiences has long been a part of Jennifer's life. It all started with the year she spent during University living and working in Australia and New Zealand and travelling throughout Southeast Asia. Since then, Nepal has become her favourite.

Jennifer and her husband Brad have been committed to development work in the village of Lahachowk Nepal for over 10 years, with Jennifer having visited 8 times. They work closely with their friends and partners Navin and Pawan, who, in turn, collaborate with local villagers to identify projects and partner with village committees to share and prioritize the support required. This successful partnership has resulted in several school scholarships and 179 school children in a remote school being outfitted with their own backpacks containing school supplies and basic health essentials. A computer institute has also recently been opened; fully equipped with desks, chairs, 6 computers, a printer and teacher.

All of these benefits followed the first and ongoing initiative, which was improving crop irrigation. Almost 2 km of the main canal is complete, supplying several thousand villagers with an improved water supply during rice plantation and resulting in increased crop productivity for some by up to 50%. As a means to support the initiatives, Jennifer loves to introduce and share the beauty of Nepal with others. Jennifer and Brad have organized and escorted over 100 volunteers to visit and work in Lahachowk. The hands-on experience provided to the volunteers is life changing, whether working, sharing tea alongside the villagers or singing with the children. Jennifer is proud to help enable this wonderful experience firsthand. 

Jennifer joined ICO in October 2011, drawn in by the philosophy of an entirely volunteer organization with 100% of donated funds being contributed to initiatives. Jennifer brings to ICO a dedication to give back through volunteering time, sharing skills and a keen interest in meeting and collaborating with people, understanding how working together can improve success for all involved. Over the past 2 years, Jennifer has increased her involvement with ICO becoming the Leader of Operations. Connecting with compassionate like-minded people is a fantastic learning experience. Jennifer has contributed to the implementation of several systems and process improvement strategies, as well as keeping a focus on ICO volunteer’s safety while in the field. Jennifer is looking forward to planning and organizing regular information sharing sessions where Initiative Team Leads can hear fundraising, sustainability and other innovative ideas from their fellow Team Leaders. Jenifer is also working on a resource guide to help ICO volunteers and team members stay current on the ‘what and how’ ICO operates so that together we can meet our goals. Jennifer has a desire to contribute to ICO’s  “premise that friends working together can harness the power of innovative ideas: Through the common goals of communities and volunteers around the world, ICO can develop processes and community-led initiatives to advance education and alleviate poverty.” Foundation believes in bringing communities together and encouraging commitment to personal and community wellness.  

The Run for Tomorrow (R4T) is the event that will tie together ICO’s belief in community building and well-being.  R4T will be a non-stop relay around the world, run by a team of experienced (and local) marathon runners, which will start in April 2015. A team member runs a marathon distance (26.2 miles/42.2 km) and then passes the baton to the next runner. Community participants will “sign the scroll/baton” with their well-being commitments and scroll details will be posted online for all to see.  Through more than 32 countries and for 200 days, the baton will never stop moving. All day and night, we will be building the global spirit of ICO’s values through R4T coming into your community.

On October 27th, 2013, a proof of operational running concept was organized. The Mini-R4T team completed a non-stop marathon relay from Ottawa to New York City. This six-day relay continued all day and night and covered over 1,000 kilometers!  R4T Founder and current Advisor, Malcolm Anderson, captured the drive that compelled these runners to undertake such a huge project: “We just wanted to lace up our shoes and run around the world. We wanted to inspire people to be active, enjoy it, and encourage others. And we’re leading by example.” Many thanks to all those who participated and made the R4T mini run happen!

While R4T runners were awaiting their next turn to pick up the baton on this ‘mini-run’ they visited schools and community organizations enroute, in order to share the benefits of wellness and becoming active. These talks will also occur on the global event as we implement ICO’s vision for the building of individual and community well-being initiatives.  The global Run for Tomorrow powered by ICO will, therefore, promote educational programs, public talks and poverty reduction initiatives, and will help communities create space to come together for improved well-being.   

The Global R4T Run plans are underway with the big event scheduled to begin April 2015.  Check out our website at for the current and updated vision as powered by ICO, and for more details, join us for the R4T Go Team panel questions at the ICO AGM on Sat, Feb. 22nd, 2014  at 3:30pm PST. We would love to hear your probing questions ahead of time with the view to helping us plan forward.  Please send these to <>.




Mekanisa is an urban district located in the capital city of Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The neighbourhood is mixed in ethnicity and socio-economics.  Ethiopia is home to many diverse challenges; however, in regard to this project proposal, the changes in climate and existing environmental stresses are of the greatest concern. People in this area regularly face water and electrical shortages and outages, despite it being urban and connected to the national network. There are rolling blackouts of electricity throughout the country. The aim of this initiative is to build more resilient communities by fostering ideas and technologies that will enable people to adopt alternative solutions that are both sustainable and improve livelihoods. Mekanisa is a pilot area, but this Initiative has a great deal of expanding potential.

This is the project of ICO member Logan Cochrane, who is Canadian but has lived and worked in Ethiopia for a number of years. Logan's MA thesis delved into the issues relating to climate change in urban Ethiopia and the ability of people to adapt to those changes. One of his team's proposed projects is a pilot project for solar power utilization. This would include holding a workshop regarding solar power technologies and distributing solar power lighting technologies to communities.

"We have three main aims: (1) To raise awareness of alternative technologies that will address the needs of people and that are better for the environment, (2) to demonstrate how beneficial those technologies can be, and (3) if the project is successful we want to expand it to additional communities" (Logan Cochrane).

For 60 home-based simple solar powered lighting units, the cost is approximately 19,996.8 ETB ($1,145 CAN).

The proposal is to offer a workshop for 60 households in Mekanisa in order to address the wider issues of caring for the environment, water conservation and electrical consumption along with instructions on how to best use the solar power technologies being distributed. Each home will be followed up three times by a local representative to measure the effectiveness of the project and the benefit brought by the project. It will also allow for further dialogue to continue and facilitate a time for additional follow-up questions to be asked.

The hope is that this initiative will not only address the immediate challenge of regular electrical blackouts in the community, but also that it will facilitate a process of community learning whereby the community is exposed to new ideas about consumption, sustainability and the environment with practical and realistic solutions that are both more sustainable and life changing.


In traditional Africa, storytelling is a very effective way of sensitization and storytelling with pictures and sound is an even more fascinating communication tool/experience. To this realization, the Ugandan Community Video Initiative was established mainly to help those remote communities without access to power supply. Its main objective is to produce educational community videos to showcase “success stories” to inspire rural populations.  The videos will feature examples of the best practices that are within the means of the targeted populations.  Using simple languages, entertainment and didactic tools, this Initiative intends to excite community participation and initiate debate. These videos will then be projected to such villages through open-air screenings. The initiative will work together with local leaders to mobilize the peasants for screenings in the evenings and, at the end of every screening, dialogues will be held between these leaders and peasants for synergies.

The first project, “Abandoned Treasure,” will particularly target the youth in view of redirecting them to the land to fight absolute poverty and promote food security.  Future projects will address such issues as poverty, food security, health, domestic violence, education, water and sanitation.

In Uganda today, there are a few people who have demonstrated how returning to the land can overturn misfortunes, and these will be featured in the “Abandoned Treasure” documentary:

Bwaziba Small Scale Pineapple Growers: Bwaziba village situated in Kikyusa sub-county Luwero District is where over 40 Youth formed an Association named above. These Youth decided to stay in their villages and started small scale commercial Agriculture specializing in pineapple growing. Over the years, their example has been emulated by neighbouring villages and this area has become a business centre for Exporters. The standard of life in this area is far better than many parts of Uganda.

The “Abandoned Treasure” Project of the Ugandan Community Video Initiative will highlight the four enterprising Ugandans described below who have set  good examples of revamping small scale Agriculture in order to fight poverty and promote food security.

Mr. Walusimbi Godfrey: Land owner of Nakaseke District.  Through his personal efforts, he has helped over 20 youths by providing them with seeds and three acres of land each to start off agricultural activities through planting beans, ground nuts and sweet potatoes for domestic consumption and sale. 

Ms Nakawunde of Masaka: Peasant farmer in central Uganda.  She is a widow who successfully educated her 5 children to carefully use her 5 acres of land.  They did integrated Agriculture,  zero grazing of heifers, a poultry farm and piggery and planted enough food for domestic use.

James Luutu: Local council leader:  He realized that poverty is an attitude. He believes that there is something that leadership alone does not provide to people--that is, proper advice and to restore work ethics among the people. Through his 6 acre demonstration farm in Busunju village, Luutu teaches young people best land use practices using available means within their localities. Here they learn how to sustainably use land through simple income generating activities.



The Ismaili Youth Soccer Camp (IYSC) began as a non-profit, grass roots camp in July 2002.  It's founder Amyn Bhulji,  yearned to create and leave behind a soccer legacy since his days of playing semi-professional soccer in the 1970s in Tanzania. 

With the help of IYSC co-founder, Abeed Hirji, IYSC got its start. All those on board that assisted with the organization and implementation of the camp were volunteers--from the Directors to the Coaches to the snack committee. IYSC is what it is today because of the tireless effort and dedication of more than a hundred volunteers over the years.

Generous donors have continued to step forward year after year, donating items such as soccer apparel, nutritious food and beverages for kids’ snacks and other donations in kind.

IYSC is a big proponent of giving too, like the uniforms and soccer boots donations to Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar.  Thanks to the generous donations received by a multitude of IYSC sponsors, it has been able to cater to kids from low-income households that cannot afford to pay the camp registration fees. 

As this continues to be a non-profit camp run by volunteers, IYSC registration fees are kept minimal and are used to cover the cost of running the soccer camp. It is open to all youths, regardless of race, ethnicity, faith, gender, athletic ability, special needs and socio-economic status. 

It is an all-inclusive camp that boasts an average attendance of 180 kids annually. They aim to have kids actively participate in sport while developing core, life-long skills, such as leadership, team building, fair play and good health.

Today, IYSC continues to be self-sufficient and 100% volunteer operated. It has branched out from its humble beginnings in Vancouver, BC to Calgary and Edmonton, Alberta.

We (IYSC) are proud to be partnering with ICO, through the efforts of Sabrina Meherally, the Canadian ICO Lead  and Jenna Hussein, the Tanzania Football Initiative Lead, the two respective ICO members.

Our motto: Give HOPE where there is despair.


The care of widows and orphans is a defining standard of humanity in every culture or faith.  In 2008, ICO member John Jordan of Victoria found a connection to the widows of Rwanda and began exploring ways to lift them from subsistence to sustainable living.  In 5 years, the ICO community he formed has combined Western technology and resources together with Rwandan determination and integrity to create that path for many hundreds, probably thousands.

When an assembly of 85 widows -- almost all of whom were raising children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, orphans -- was asked what they needed most, almost all answered: repair my house.  A survey of their adobe houses showed wet dirt floors, leaking leaf roofs, smoking 3-stone fires, stick beds and practically no stored food.  The solution that evolved was the rehabilitation of a widow’s house as a secure haven that would preserve her time, energy and health.  With those to support her, the Rwandan widow has capacity to lift herself and her kids to a better level.

This year again our “builder team” will rehabilitate 90 – 100 houses with metal roofs, water catchment systems, veggie gardens, smoke free stoves, breeding animals, health insurance, blankets, pots and hoes.  Now, each widow saves 8 – 10 hrs/wk of hauling wood and water, lives in a dry, smoke free house and has access to Rwanda’s good clinic network.  When 10 widows band together, we lease for them a half-acre field to cultivate together for 2 harvests a year. With this foundation, she has confidence, time and enough energy to hire out as a cultivator.  Sometimes, she even sits for a moment of modest comfort.  All that for $180.

Our Rwandan team sponsors 72 orphaned kids in secondary school, mentors them in vocational skills and provides micro-loans for business ideas.  72 teenagers is a lot of energy but they apply themselves well and are very productive.  The most dynamic training/work experience is in one of the 3 eco-stove “factories” we have established that sell 2000 stoves a year.  The stoves bring huge benefits, in that they require 60% less wood and virtually eliminate debilitating burns and smoke.  Bought and installed for $5, they are the poor man’s modern range. 

John returned to Rwanda in January 2014, and supporters were researching the design of 2 technologies the Rwandan team is asking for: eco-toilets and biomass briquettes.  Toilets will provide privacy, practicality and fertilizer.  The briquettes will create fuel from discarded crop waste.  When the technologies are simplified and standardized, they will provide new industries for any community where they are replicated. 

There’s a lot of productivity at the bottom of the pyramid.  ICO Rwanda is making it sustainable. 



Your generosity is greatly appreciated. 100% of your donation goes to the ICO Initiative, no money is deducted for overhead or administration. We even pay the cost of the donations service, so you are assured that all of your donation goes to those in need.

1.) You may donate Online immediately. CanadaHelps.Org processes our Credit Card and PayPal donations. You may also pay monthly by credit card.  You will receive an immediate Canadian Tax Receipt via email; the process also invites you to receive one Canadian Tax Receipt at the end of the year. ICO covers all processing costs, so you are guaranteed that all of your donation goes to the ICO Initiative you select. 

2.) If you prefer, you may also mail us a cheque. We ask that you assist us by completing our very brief form, which will cut down on volunteer input time. You have the choice of receiving a Canadian Tax Receipt.

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