Ambassador Girl Scout Morgan Serventi of Page traveled to Wamba, Kenya, last year. She brought the local people heat, light, pure water, and a way to clean up their environment. Her gift is sustainable and affordable. She calls her project "The Power of Poo," for which she earned the prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award.
Describing herself as "very involved in her community," Morgan is an active member of 4-H and of the youth group at Faith Bible Chapel, in addition to Girl Scouts. Last year, after 12 years in Girl Scouting, Morgan was working toward her Girl Scout Gold Award. When it came time to do her capstone project, Morgan wanted to interweave her experience in all three organizations.
The opportunity came about when her church youth group was planning a trip to build an orphanage in the village of Wamba. The invitation came from a young woman missionary, now in Kenya, who had been a member of the Faith Bible Chapel youth group.
"For my Gold Award, I wanted to do something huge for the orphanage," she said.
In 4-H, Morgan raises steers, sheep and lambs. Her experience with the animals led her to design and build a methane eco digester -- a simple device that converts animal feces into methane gas. The methane gas, which Morgan said is colorless and odorless, can then power a camp stove. The stove provides a source of heat and light -- the means to purify water and cook food.
Morgan said that in Wamba, wood -- the only source of fuel -- is scarce and, when used, creates fumes that are harsh and toxic. The women and children have to go farther and farther in order to find wood.
Hydration is also a constant issue. The primary water source is a creek used for washing clothes and dishes, as well as a cooling place where cattle wade.
As far as development goes, Morgan described Wamba as "one gas pump and five cars."
Fortunately, the supplies Morgan needed for her bio digesters were simple and she had brought most of them with her. Her goal, however, was to work with the people so that they could replicate the bio digester with supplies in their village.
"They were so excited -- so hungry for this," she said.
The hardware supplies, tubing, plastic water containers and valves were available. The fuel -- animal "poo" -- was, well, everywhere. When she started to collect feces, the local children quickly caught on and helped.
"One of the extra benefits," Morgan says, "is that collecting the feces helps clean up the land, making the area in which they play and work cleaner and safer."
Morgan and the people of Wamba built not one, but three bio digesters while she was there.
An added benefit is the residual matter in the bio digester, once all of the methane has been harvested, is a powerful fertilizer that increases plant production by 30 percent.
When asked what was most satisfying about her project, Morgan said it was the kindness and love of the people she met in Wanba. In describing the depth of their giving nature, Morgan said that if a family had only the clothes on their back and one goat, they'd readily butcher the goat to offer hospitality to a friend.
"They taught me how to treat people," she said.