I grew up in the small rural village of Medina Thiamene in Senegal with my parents and siblings, and I recall walking 4 to 5 kilometers daily to attend the nearest elementary school in Koutango. Having children who didn’t have easy access to education, my father eventually helped build a school in our village. Inspired by my father’s love and care for our community and passion in education, my siblings and I founded a nonprofit in honor of him after he passed away in 2018. The nonprofit’s name is KT & Fils. “KT” are my father’s initials for Kaiba Tiam, and “fils” means “sons” in French.
Last year, I heard about the AWS Inclusion, Diversity, and Equity (ID&E) Innovation Fund, a program that awards microgrants to employees seeking to make a positive impact in underrepresented communities, and I was excited to apply. I was close to tears when I heard that I had been awarded a grant! Twenty-eight AWS employees, including myself, received up to $30,000 to work with nonprofits to address systemic challenges that underrepresented groups have historically faced around the world. Projects range from expanding after-school programs in Laos to providing technology skills and products to children with neurodiversity to transitioning women out of foster care and helping them pursue a career in tech.
For my project, we decided to build a solar-powered water pump for the village. I’m now based in Minneapolis, and in my spare time, my brothers and I hopped on virtual meetings with the principal to determine a plan to implement it. We successfully developed it in a few months, and last December, I got to visit my hometown to see the water pump in real life and the impact we’ve been able to make for our community.
This water pump now serves the entire 500+ person village. And for the first time ever, 150 students have access to safe drinking water in the school, easing a big burden for them and their families. Each day, 10 students have more time to learn and study. The school has five classrooms, and before the water pump was built, two students per class would get water that’s about 45 minutes away for the entire class.
Also, the water pump helps students avoid drinking unsanitary water that could make them sick and miss school. Finally, we saw firsthand how the lack of water access caused girls to drop out of school because it was a challenge for them to use toilets without water. Now, more students, particularly girls, are enrolled and more successful in school.
Of course, there’s still more work to be done. That’s why I’m thrilled AWS continues to drive this program forward. As part of this year’s third annual Innovation Fund, AWS chose to renew my project along with four other recurring projects to scale the impact we’re making in underrepresented and underserved communities around the world. This is proof that AWS is not just interested in temporary solutions.
With AWS’s continued support, KT & Fils will identify and address other pressing education barriers. One of our ideas is to establish a sustainable agricultural system, whereby we can grow food for the students and school staff. Given my connection to AWS, we’re also brainstorming ways we can continue to unleash the notion of tech for good by providing devices to students and building a virtual library.
I’m proud to follow my father’s footsteps, and I’m also incredibly inspired by the meaningful projects that other AWS employees have been implementing to drive toward inclusion, diversity, and equity as part of the Innovation Fund. I can’t wait to see the new ideas from this year’s cohort that will undoubtedly make Amazon and AWS do better and be better for our planet, our communities, our future generations, and the world at large.
AWS employees can apply for this year’s AWS ID&E Innovation Fund from May 15–June 16.