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    Preventing pesky critters from ruining a business

    Day 246

    Hop to It

    The Refugee Trans Initiative has another inspirational thought leader, the co-founder and current lead of RTI – Vanilla. Our team has followed Vanilla’s journey for months, even before there was a formal community-based organization called RTI.

    We’ve been there for the initiation of the organization, development and expansion of the spa business, and overall growth of their safe house. Where we haven’t been able to support projects directly, we’ve provided connections and moral support because we believe so deeply in Vanilla’s vision for the transgender refugee community.

    During one our recent conversations, Vanilla and I were talking about leadership skills, specifically about strategies she uses to ensure peace and stability in their safe house. The LGBTIQ refugee community faces many barriers. And given these experiences, they often don’t know where their next meal will come from.

    Many leaders, including Vanilla, have told us stories of people in their houses only eating one basic meal a day – if I can even call it that – where leaders either ate last or gave up their meal altogether so that others could eat (selfless giving, anyone?).

    During the days they are fortunate to receive larger amounts of food, due to food relief donations or another turn of events, Vanilla told me, “we still take out food little by little, and keep a little bit of excess in reserve. Who knows when we will need it and just because we have more than enough today, doesn’t mean we will have extra tomorrow.”

    The effects of strategy aside, I learned much about human psyche during that conversation as well as Vanilla’s sheer love and dedication to keep her brothers and sisters in community together in peace.

    When I learned that their rabbit business was on the verge of falling apart because nearby animals were climbing through the weak fence surrounding their property and enjoying a feast, it was a no brainer to support their solution. The rabbit business needed to stay on track as a reserve food strategy, or, when times were tough, a way to earn an additional supplementary income.

    Vanilla told me the best way to keep the rabbits safe and sound would be to construct a house for them in their front garden. This way, their small garden of spinach and kale also stayed intact. So she hired a local carpenter and within a couple days, had a small house designed and built! It’s still a work in progress, as it needs some windows and a paint job, but RTI is so incredibly happy that their rabbit business won’t be affected by pesky neighborhood animals.


    Meet Shamaila! Shamaila is part of the Global Connections team based out of Minneapolis. She supports partnerships and fundraising for Alight’s initiatives with the diaspora, LGBTIQ+ refugees, Rohingya women, and beyond! She is deeply passionate about supporting the most marginalized communities worldwide – those living in the shadows — to reclaim their voice and has found Changemakers 365 a powerful tool to support this. Want to learn more about our work with marginalized communities in Nairobi? Contact Shamaila at


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    Changemakers 365

    by Alight


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