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Our Story


Everyone deserves to have their basic human needs met.

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Our Story


Everyone deserves to have their basic human needs met.

 
 
 
 
 

Everything in kenya happens under the acacia. 

Or atleast that is what founder, Jess Teutonico, realized after years of spending time in the remote off-the-grid areas of Kenya. No matter how little infrastructure or actual phsyical buildings, so many remote communities in Kenya revolve around life under an acacia tree. School classes, elder meetings, social gatherings - just about everything in the heart of nomadic areas center under the shelter and shade of this infamous tree.

A chance drive from Kichwa airstrip to Kilgoris one day back in 2008, Jess met Joseph Koyie, a Maasai from Loita. A fast friendship developed and everytime Jess came to Kenya, she visited with Joseph. He told her of his community back home. How his children were not receiving an education - there were little options, and only those of great distance. His dream was to have his kids attend school in Loita. If you know Joseph you know he is the most dynamic and charismatic, honest, loyal, and incredible human being you will ever encounter. He asked if there was a way for us to work together to build Loita a school. Primary education in Kenya is free. So its not good enough to build a school - there needs to be a way to sustain it. And there our sustainable model was born. See, it all started with a classroom. Education is at the heart of our model. But unless all your basic human needs are met, what good is a school if there is no water. What good is a school if there is no clinic. And what good is any of it if it can't be sustained by the people using it. So let's build an entire community from the ground up,  so the community can thrive rather than spend their days working to survive. And then our plan grew bigger. It's bigger than Loita. So we took our model to neighboring community, Esoit. While both communities are currently in development, Under the Acacia is busy gathering metrics and data so once our investments in both communities are complete, these case studies can be replicated. It's a game-changer.

Under the Acacia is a registered 501(c)(3) based out of New York City. It is run only by Jess Teutonico on the operational side and Joseph Koyie on the community side. Neither take compensation for their work. All fundraising, other than covering governance, goes to the field and our investments.

 
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Team


Team


Jess Teutonico

Founder

 

Jess has been working in Kenya since 2008 on sustainable development programs in remote areas. She has traveled extensively and worked across all of Kenya - but it is in Loita that she knew she was onto something big. She is also the Executive Director of We Are Family Foundation, one of the leading youth organizations founded by legendary producer and multi-Grammy winner, Nile Rodgers. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, Refinery 29 and was named “Do-Gooder of the Year” by Paper Magazine in 2008. She has spoken at prestigious conferences including the United Nations and Young Presidents Organization (YPO). In her past life, she was a Director of Special Events at Vogue Magazine and consulted for TED Conferences. She divides her time between New York City and Kenya.

Jess has been working in Kenya since 2008 on sustainable development programs in remote areas. She has traveled extensively and worked across all of Kenya - but it is in Loita that she knew she was onto something big. She is also the Executive Director of We Are Family Foundation, one of the leading youth organizations founded by legendary producer and multi-Grammy winner, Nile Rodgers. She has been featured in The New York Times, The Guardian, Refinery 29 and was named “Do-Gooder of the Year” by Paper Magazine in 2008. She has spoken at prestigious conferences including the United Nations and Young Presidents Organization (YPO). In her past life, she was a Director of Special Events at Vogue Magazine and consulted for TED Conferences. She divides her time between New York City and Kenya.

Joseph Koyie

Country Director

 

Joseph is building his home of Loita into a sustainable and thriving community. His story is a true testament of a real leader and unstoppable determination. He met Jess in 2007 and together they have been creatively rewriting new futures for remote comunities. Joseph is one of the top guides in the Maasai Mara with Sanctuary Olonana. Clients travel all over the world to experience Kenya through his guiding, knowledge and charisma.

Joseph is building his home of Loita into a sustainable and thriving community. His story is a true testament of a real leader and unstoppable determination. He met Jess in 2007 and together they have been creatively rewriting new futures for remote comunities. Joseph is one of the top guides in the Maasai Mara with Sanctuary Olonana. Clients travel all over the world to experience Kenya through his guiding, knowledge and charisma.

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Model


We invest in infrastructure and build

a local economy from the ground up.

Our communities are on their way to 100% self-sustainability.

Model


We invest in infrastructure and build

a local economy from the ground up.

Our communities are on their way to 100% self-sustainability.

 

We've come a long way since we broke ground in loita in january 2010. 

In order to complete our investments in Loita and Esoit, we need to raise the final $250,000 USD of funding. Both communities share resources, therefore, the build out and investment will be greater in Loita (they will share a secondary school and boarding school which will be located on Loita's property). Once this funding is complete, Loita and Esoit communities will NET over $100K USD per year after all salaries, supplies and overhead are paid out - unheard of for such communities. Loita and Esoit will not only be fully sustainable, but they will have the ability to make new investments and further their community growth. Not just for themselves. For generations upon generations to come. 

 

 

Global fashion brand Hanley Mellon’s visit to Loita with Under the Acacia

gives new meaning to the importance of bead work

 

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Loita, Kenya


Loita, Kenya


 

Loita is..

An area of Masai land in Kenya near the Masai Mara and next to the indigenous Naimina Enkikio Forest. It is located about 235kms Southwest of Nairobi and about 15kms North of the border of Tanzania.

The Maasai people are semi-nomadic tribe inhabiting Southern Kenya (population 900,000)  and Northern Tanzania (population 800,000). While one of the smallest of Kenya’s 42 tribes, they are one of the most iconic tribes known for their beadwork, distinctive attire, and rich culture.

 

 

How 70,000 bottle caps

changed an entire community