Get Inspired: Josh Bycel Changes the Lives of Kids Around the World, One School at a Time

onekid oneworld josh bycel in kenya
Josh Bycel is a television writer and producer with an impressive portfolio that boasts shows like Scrubs, American Dad!, It’s All Relative, and Happy Endings, to name a few. But when he’s not working behind the scenes of a hit series, he’s giving back globally in a major way. OneKid OneWorld, a nonprofit organization founded by Josh, funds education projects in Kenya and El Salvador and, since its inception, has positively impacted the lives of thousands of students, teachers and volunteers alike.

What Charity Means to Josh

Josh’s altruism had humble beginnings. As a child, he recalls his parents’ time spent in Uganda doing non-profit work by way of the Peace Corps, and his own experience of marching and attending rallies in solidarity with the “Global South.” But Josh had a turning point ten years ago, when a family member who, at the time a humanitarian with the International Medical Corps, invited Josh to go to Sudan to assist in the building of a medical clinic amid the hostile warfare that plagued the country. He took on the task of raising $50,000 to erect a medical center in Darfur, the Sudanese region most entangled in conflict, rife with refugee camps that were in need of humanitarian aid.

josh bycel in kenya

“I just said ‘yes’ immediately, having never raised money before,” Josh says. And not only would the task be entirely new for Josh, but it also came at a profoundly significant moment in his life. “I knew my wife was the right person for me when we got engaged and then three days later, I left for one of the most dangerous places in the world – and she was cool with it.”

When he arrived in Darfur, Josh was astonished by the volume of women and children living at the refugee camp. Armed with soccer balls, pens and paper, he promptly recognized the value of modest, inexpensive contributions and their role in making a larger impact. It was this experience, his impassioned relationship to Africa, and eventually his partnership with an International Medical Corps humanitarian working in Kenya that inspired Josh to found OneKid OneWorld.

“We talked about girls’ education in Kenya, and we talked about Kenya being a place where real change could be made for little money,” Josh says. “I came back with this idea for OneKid OneWorld. I remember I sketched it on a napkin on my way home from my trip to Darfur.”

josh-bycel-and-student

The Beginning of OneKid OneWorld

Having already fundraised money for the Darfur campaign within his community, Josh didn’t have much trouble getting his neighbors, friends, and even surrounding schools tor rally behind him when it came to fundraising to bring OneKid OneWorld to fruition.

“I thought, ‘Maybe I can partner schools here with schools overseas and make it one kid, one world’” Josh says. “I wanted to teach our children in the United States that, at some point in their lives, what’s happening in other parts of the world is going to directly affect them.”

Josh knew that by getting kids in the U.S. involved in this initiative, he could ultimately show them the value of making a difference.

On a Mission

Since officially getting its start in 2006, OneKid, One World has funded water projects, tuition fees, classroom renovations, dorm construction, and has even supplemented teachers’ salaries in Kenya. Presently, the organization is partnered with 13 schools in two different parts of Kenya, with a focus on girls’ health and education.

josh bycel in kenya

“Girls in these parts of the country miss up to 2 months a year of school because of their periods,” according to Josh.

To help address the disparity, OneKid OneWorld partnered with Days for Girls, an association that provides young girls with access to feminine hygiene products. Days for Girls makes a feminine hygiene product that lasts up to 3 years, is reusable and washable, and the product is just $10 each. There are 7,000 girls currently on Rusinga Island, and thus far, OneKid OneWorld has provided 1,000 girls with access to feminine hygiene products.

“Our goal is to outfit every single, of-age girl on Rusinga Island with one of these products,” Josh says. “Two months of education is ridiculous, and it’s such an easy thing to do.”

While the organization doesn’t presently have plans to expand beyond Kenya in Africa, it has made a few waves in South America.

OneKid OneWorld has a base in El Salvador, has already expanded to Guatemala and has plans to expand to Nicaragua within the next few years. In these countries, the focus has been, and will continue to be, on addressing infrastructure in schools. For nearly a decade now, OneKid, One World has been partnered with Glasswing International, a nonprofit organization based in El Salvador that provides relief from poverty and violence through education.

“They help us choose the schools, they’re the ones that choose all the local contractors and they’re the ones on the ground making sure the projects are moving forward,” says Josh, who adds that typical tasks include rebuilding facilities like bathrooms and kitchens to better accommodate children. “We’ve found that once we revitalize a school, enrollment goes up 30 to 40 percent.”

Leaving a Mark

Currently, 93 to 95 percent of everything OneKid OneWorld fundraises goes directly to aid. But, Josh says, “One of the things I’ve learned is that you can have all the money in the world, but if you don’t have people on the ground, you might as well not go there.” This is why Josh considers the recruitment of volunteers to be one of the most crucial elements to the organization’s success.

One school principal in El Salvador captured the impact of OneKid OneWorld best when he told Josh and a group of volunteers,“If you had not come down this road, nobody would have ever come down this road.” As a country that receives little in governmental aid, particularly in rural areas, El Salvador, and other nations in similar circumstances, are often in a tough position whereby change seems hard to jumpstart. However, when the surrounding community sees a group of volunteers come to totally revitalize a school, they rally together and show their support in a remarkable way.

Show your support for OneKid OneWorld on October 26, 2016 at ‘A Night of Comedy,’ a comedy event featuring Janeane Garofolo, Maeve Higgins, and more. The event will be held at The Cutting Room in NYC, and will begin at 7 p.m. (doors open at 6 p.m.)

Get tickets here.

 And to learn more about how you can get involved with OneKid OneWorld, or to stay up-to-date on the organization’s year-round events, including comedy nights and cocktail parties, visit onekidoneworld.org.

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