Las Vegas publicist and philanthropist Mary Vail (Mānoa, BS ’82) completed a 9-month international goodwill assignment with Bankers Without Borders (BwB) as a Corporate Marketer and Storyteller. The volunteer assignment tasked Vail to work with EcoZoom, a social enterprise based in Nairobi, Kenya that manufactures and distributes improved cookstoves and portable solar lights. At the request of EcoZoom CEO Oli Raison, Vail traveled to Kenya to gather firsthand knowledge about the organization, its products, and the impact it makes across the globe.
Part of the 17-day research trip included visiting organizations benefitting from EcoZoom’s cookstoves. There were two major tea plantations, Unilever & Finlays (Kenya is the third top tea producer in the world), and Cherry Children’s Educational Centre, a non-profit school in Kibera (Kenya’s largest slum). “Many households still use a three-stone fire or rudimentary cookstoves to prepare their daily meals, and kerosene lamps are frequently the only source of light. Byproducts from each of these causes lung cancer, cardiovascular diseases, and respiratory diseases. But substituting those components with advanced products such as an improved cookstove and solar lights generates an immediate impact on a family’s quality of life financially and health-wise, and positively impacts the environment by reducing deforestation and CO2 output,” Vail says.
“It is overwhelming to realize that two of the most important components of a household – the cooking unit and lighting – are also the most harmful to the family and the environment as well as being a major financial expense of the home,” explains Vail.
The original assignment contract obligated Vail to six months and a minimum of 200 hours to devote to the project. However, as the end approached Vail realized she would need more time to implement many of the marketing elements she recommended. BwB granted her a three-month extension, and by the end of 2018, Vail had devoted over 400 hours to assisting the organization.
“Vail has far exceeded our expectations in her deliverables, going well beyond the tasks of the assignment, providing imagery, creative design, valuable materials and extensive knowledge to ensure EcoZoom’s success,” states Raison. “We are sincerely grateful for her expertise and commitment, and we are very optimistic about the future of EcoZoom thanks to Ms. Vail’s work with our company.” The EcoZoom Team created a video to express their appreciation. One of the project's major achievements was launching a global website. Since completing the BwB assignment, Vail continues to work with EcoZoom as a consultant.