Since 1949, the Ford Fund has worked with non-profit partners and dealers to provide access to opportunities and resources that help people reach their full potential. The fund regularly invests in a wide variety of programs that help strengthen communities and just simply make people’s lives better. So it makes sense that the Ford Fund’s latest project revolved around funding a series of innovative COVID-19 projects designed to help combat the spread of the virus.
In total, Ford Fund has awarded more than $16,000 to 14 Enactus teams – Ford Fund’s global partner for the Ford College Community Challenge – for student-led projects that aim address COVID-19 issues in communities around the world.
The idea began by engaging students from 37 different countries, inviting them to submit proposals for how they would address a specific COVID-19 related need in their community. Out of 152 total entries, the selected 14 team projects will receive at least a $1,000 grant through the Ford COVID-19 College Challenge.
Those winning teams hail from nine different countries – Brazil, Egypt, Eswatini, Ghana, India, Kenya, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
“When this challenge was presented, we were overwhelmed by the number of proposals and creative ideas that were submitted,” said Mike Schmidt, director of education and global community development, Ford Motor Company Fund. “Even while home and away from their universities due to lockdowns, students across the Enactus network continue to identify problems and find solutions to solve them.”
The recipients of these grants from the Ford Fund responded to the challenge with innovative approaches that addressed the issues of COVID-19 in tangible ways.
Here are the 14 recipients and a brief overview of their projects:
- City University of Seattle, United States – Shirtie Mask produces and distributes reusable face masks for vulnerable populations. The project includes an online training program and app to connect mask producers to shelters.
- Federal University of Pará (UFPA), Brazil – Project Costuraê typically produces EcoBags, but is pivoting production to make masks adapted with recycled material to facilitate communication with deaf people.
- Helwan University, Egypt – Link Market will provide a safe way for customers to get essentials from supermarkets and pharmacies, while also employing delivery people.
- Indian Institute of Technology, Delhi, India – Kimaya is a new virtual community of victims, counselors and women who will help one another deal with the growing issue of domestic violence during and after quarantine.
- Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, Ghana – Project ReL is a new, comprehensive, virtual remote learning platform for students at basic and high school levels. The project includes special learning modules for deaf students.
- Multimedia University, Kenya – With a focus on technology, health and sanitation, this team is setting up handwashing stations in Nairobi County. Each station can hold large quantities of water, soap and sanitizer and is equipped with sensors for safety.
- Netaji Subhash Institute of Technology, India – Project Aashray is a new web-portal that maps all stakeholders fighting COVID-19 as a one-stop-shop for users to find potential partners to collaborate with. Categories include contact tracing, testing, employee support and free food providers.
- Southern Africa Nazarene University, Eswatini – Hlanteka Wonder Bucket aims to encourage proper handwashing. The system turns a general bucket into a hands-free tap and mixes the proper ratio of soup and water to save resources.
- SRM Institute of Management Studies, India – FlyLife will be an automated drone delivery, transport and logistics service for the e-pharmacy industry that delivers to homes. Grant funding is going towards the building of the drone and launch of the project.
- State University of Santa Cruz (UESC), Brazil – Enpathos is a new website that assists local entrepreneurs by connecting them with volunteers.
- University College of Management Studies of Accra, Ghana – WATERCOVIDAPP-19 is an app that lists private water vendors in order to help users locate water for household use at a marginal cost during COVID-19.
- University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa – SmartGro will create a web-based solution to provide essential goods to households. The team will establish relationships with supermarkets and pharmacies as well as hire delivery drivers.
- University of Nottingham, United Kingdom – An extension of the Foodprint store—a supermarket that redirects surplus food—Foodprint on Wheels is delivering necessary food and safety supplies such as PPE for nurses to Nottinghamshire Hospice in an effort to help relieve some of the pressure put on their community.
- University of Southampton, United Kingdom – The Future Brew team will partner with local supermarkets to collect surplus food and create packages that will be delivered to homeless shelters and low-income families.
“We know our 72,000 students worldwide will be the front line of the economic recovery – they will help shape how we all revive and thrive in the new normal. That’s why this challenge was so critical: seizing immediate opportunities to strengthen communities, Enactus students are already adapting to our new realities. Thanks to Ford, many of them will drive even greater impact,” said Rachael Jarosh, president and CEO of Enactus.
These COVID-19 College Challenge winners are just the latest example of how the Ford Fund is working to help local communities deal with the pandemic. To date, Ford Fund has invested nearly $2.5 million to support nonprofits in their efforts to address hunger relief, shelter, access to mobility, and other urgent needs. Couple that with the automaker’s manufacturing of critical medical equipment, and it’s easy to see that Ford is working as hard as any company – possibly harder – to fight this virus on the front lines.