14 years ago, Emory junior, Kwame Wireko encountered something that would come to have a major impact on his life. Wireko was walking to the market with his grandmother, in his home city of Accra, Ghana when he noticed something peculiar on the side of the road. Wireko and his grandmother had passed a group of schoolkids drinking dark coffee from a calabash, a gourd used in many parts of West Africa. Initially, Wireko couldn't comprehend why kids so young were drinking coffee until his grandmother informed him that the liquid they were drinking from the calabash was actually water. The water was so contaminated that the color closely resembled that of a cup of coffee. The idea that clean water, a necessity for life, could be so inaccessible to some, combined with the imagery of that particular scene would follow him for years to come.
Since then, Wireko has had the idea that he’d one day do something to change the accessibility of clean water in Africa. His desire to make this change stuck over the years but the idea really began coming to life when Wireko met fellow junior, Cole Holan, during their time as students on Emory's Oxford campus. He recalls seeing Holan speaking passionately about a startup Holan was involved with at the time, and it was in that moment that he knew he wanted to collaborate with Holan on his idea. "I saw that Cole genuinely believed in the ideas he was presenting. And so, I believed in the person and saw the talent that he’d bring to the table". Hereafter, the Calabash brand was born, named after the gourd that Wireko watched those kids drink from many years ago.
The summer following their sophomore year, the two started thinking hard about what they would make of the Calabash brand. By this time the idea was abstract, still in its developing stages. Wireko and Holan ultimately decided that one of their main goals would be to support a sustainable water project in Africa. After a lot of research and a period of trial and error, they decided to partner with Lifewater, an NGO that aims to “overcome all forms of water poverty”. Together, Lifewater and Calabash intend to raise enough money to build a well in Mayuge, a very poor region in Eastern Uganda. Sticking with the theme of water, Holan and Wireko settled on selling water bottles to raise the funds for this project.
The second goal that Wireko and Holan intend to accomplish with Calabash, is changing the story that we typically hear about Africa. Their idea is to use the campaign to get people's attention and educate the public about a side of the continent that people may not be used to hearing about. “We really want to be a bridge between here and there. We want to showcase the positive aspects of African culture” explains Holan.
Since this summer. Wireko and Holan have put in a lot of hard work leading up to the initial release of their product and campaign. Calabash officially launches in November. The campaign takes the form of a Idiegogo page from which you can purchase the water bottles that sport a light and portable modern style. In addition to including a removable infused filter, the Calabash water bottles have double walled vacuum insulation that guards the temperature of beverages for more than 24 hours. The bottles not only support a great cause but they are also beautifully designed as well.
Wireko stresses that Calabash is “not just a company but a whole movement. We are trying to change people’s perspectives.” “We don’t just want to help people” adds Holan, “We want to tell stories. It’s so important to share these stories that may ultimately change lives.”
Follow Calabash on Social Media to Support the Cause:
Instagram : @calabashbottles
Facebook : @calabashbottles
Picture Credit: Elevate Media and Tomi Idowu
By: Adama Kamara, Staff Writer