JBU Student and Social Entrepreneur Changing Lives through the Carpenter Project

Mar 5, 2020

Social innovation is on the rise across the country, especially among young, college-aged entrepreneurs. College students are looking to do more than just inherit the world but make impactful changes to make the world better than they received it. One such student is Savannah Crittendon, a student at John Brown University and member of JBU’s Enactus program – a global organization dedicated to creating a better world by developing the next generation of entrepreneurial leaders and social innovators. Crittendon is helping tackle the issue of refugee housing though a social entrepreneurship project called Carpenter Project

Carpenter Project-104.jpg

What is the Carpenter Project? 

Carpenter Project works to build houses for the most vulnerable refugees in Kyaka II refugee settlement in Uganda. These most vulnerable refugees are single mothers, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities. Refugees in Kyaka II are given materials for a temporary shelter when they arrive in the refugee camp, but many refugees are unable to build a suitable shelter, and even if they can, these shelters are not safe or sustainable housing. 

We have been working to do this through using a 1-for-1 model. This looks like partnering with a Northwest Arkansas general contractor who provides money from the houses built through his company. We have also begun to partner with realtors, donors, foundations, and offer a sponsorship model where organizations can sponsor a house a year. 

Each house in Kyaka II only costs $3,500 to build. That is less than 2 percent of a U.S. home. Each one is a 250-square-foot house with an external outhouse, locking doors and windows, a cement floor, and a separate kitchen area for cleanliness. Through the building process only local materials are used, other refugees throughout the camp are employed to make the bricks and build the houses, and we have partnered with a local pastor who oversees the building process from start to finish and support the recipients afterwards as well. 

Where did this concept come from? 

The idea was started through a Northwest Arkansas general contractor, Will Hansen. Hansen grew up in construction and had the opportunity to travel to Mexico and help build some houses. Through that process, the idea for Carpenter Project took off. Hansen then partnered with JBU Enactus (a student-led organization that seeks to empower others through entrepreneurial action) to begin to streamline the process, establish and raise funds, and create partnerships. 

How are you making this idea a reality?  

We built six houses in Kyaka II over the 2018/2019 school year. We have been able to take two trips to Kyaka II to first create partnerships and get to know the camp, and then second get to see the houses that had been built and check in with partners and recipients of the houses. 

This past year we have been working on growing our partnerships as well as beginning to change the way we approach partnerships. 

What have been some early success stories? 

The very first house that we built was for a 67-year-old named Bernadette. She had fled from the Congo with her 4 grandchildren and we were able to provide a home for them

One of our other homes was for Wevine and she had a disability. We were able to specialize the house with a wheelchair ramp to accommodate her needs best. 

Maria was one of the other recipients of the houses. Through the partnership with the local pastor, Maria was able to find a job at a school in the area. 

What does the future hold for Carpenter Project? 

Our goal this year is to build 12 houses. We have raised the money for four houses so far through our 1-for-1 model as well as through fundraisers. 

 In order to do this we need more partnerships, donors, or house sponsors and are in the process of talking to people that might be interested. 

 Our goal is to continue to streamline our processes, research how we can best market this to people, and eventually have Carpenter Project be a sustainable project funded by contractor companies. 

Carpenter Project-93.jpg