I find myself laughing out loud. Not a crazy laugh, but rather, a laugh of joy. The kind that you can't contain, even when you are on your own and you just feel a little bubble of happiness come up from your belly until it gets so big, it comes out as laughter. I laugh because this project is AMAZING.
The veggies just keep coming and the harvests are fantastic. Maize, tomatoes, peppers, eggplant - all are being harvested weekly. A large portion of the veggies are sold to restaurants, hotels and at the market. The proceeds help with the costs to run programs for children affected and/or infected by AIDS. A smaller portion is sold at a subsidized cost so that mothers can run small businesses and resell in the open market. Another portion is given to malnourished children. This is wonderful and we are so grateful that our little farm is doing so much.
Besides the veggies and fruit, the farm also has goats, chickens, guinea fowl, and rabbits - all to support the kids in our Mombasa program. How cool is that? Thank YOU for being part of this program...we coudn't do it without you.
Daniel, the farm manager is thrilled to have a new place to call home, too. We are building him a nice, safe little house which he'll share with other farm workers. This will allow them to cut out travel time and to enjoy the fruit of their labor (pun intended). It is a huge benefit for these guys to have housing and food as part of their salary, so we are happy to be able to help them in this small way. We hope to keep these guys with us for a long time, as they are dedicated and hard working, knowing that their labor is benefiting children in their communities.
The big concern raised a few times today is the need for a truck, which will take all the veggies and fruit to market. Right now, we are renting a truck to move the produce to market, but we really need to purchase a truck. I am trying to think creatively to see what we can do while we try to raise the funds needed for such a huge purchase (about $25k for a used truck). If anyone out there has great ideas, let me know - tweaver@AFCAids.org.
There are some things that are almost too wonderful for words. Let me try to explain one of them.
Today, we visit a project we started a couple of years ago with one greenhouse on a small farm called Portriez. The greenhouse produced tomatoes by the bucketfuls and we got super excited. With what we learned, we decided to expand the project to a larger piece of land – 50 acres, in a place called Lunga Lunga (LL), outside of Mombasa. AFCA put in a borehole and an organic greenhouse and we hit the ground running.
While I’d visited when the borehole was installed, I hadn’t been back to LL for a few months. Today, I am back, with Fred and Karina in tow. We arrive at LL and I stand amazed. I feel my mouth hang open and my jaw is somewhere hitting my chest. This place is incredible! Because Portriez developed some sort of fungus that was killing tomatoes, we moved the warehouse to LL. Now, standing before me, are two huge greenhouses and they are surrounded by rows and rows of green peppers, onions, kale, spinach, hot peppers, cassava, and all sorts of veggies. On the front of the farm, there is a huge plot of corn, with more reaching out to the left of where I stand, as far as I can see. Dotting the land are banana trees, papaya trees, and passion fruit and cucumber vines.
I am so thrilled. So beyond thrilled! This project has every making of a successful entrepreneurship which will provide funds for our supported medical and school programs here in Mombasa. My goal is that once this farm is making a profit, they will not only pay the salaries of the men who work this land tirelessly, but that it will cover costs currently covered by AFCA: school fees, uniforms and shoes for the children, medical supplies, Kids Days, and nutritional support.
The farm manager, Daniel, is as excited as a little kid, answering every single question I have (I have many of them), both professionally and knowingly. He is excited to be part of something that isn’t only growing nutritious veggies and fruit which will benefit the local economy and people, but he is motivated to be part of something much larger. This is not just a farm. This is a farm with a purpose: to allow CBHC to not need AFCA anymore. This, in turn, means that AFCA can start our work elsewhere, where no one else is working and where needs are desperate.
We have a long way to go and I don’t kid myself about that. But, today’s visit is just a breath of fresh air – it is working. This idea of a farm which will provide food for malnourished children in the CBHC program, which will provide food at subsidized cost to mothers who are starting their own small vegetable businesses, and which will allow CBHC to become self-sustaining – it is working!
The big concern raised a few times today is the need for a truck, which will help lug all the veggies and fruit to market. Right now, they are using a motorcycle, which is not going to be adequate in August when both the tomato and the corn harvest happen. One thing is to move leafy greens on the back of a motorcycle…another one is to move 300 pounds of tomatoes per week! I am trying to think creatively to see what we can do while we try to raise the funds needed for such a huge purchase. If anyone out there has great ideas, let me know - tweaver@AFCAids.org.
Thank YOU for supporting this project - you are amazing.
"Greens" as kale, spinach, cow pea leaves, and any leafy veggie is known in Africa, are hugely important. Not only are they nutritious, but they play an important role in Kenyan cooking. For many, it is the only source of iron, vitamin C and other needed nutrients. And, these leafy vegetables grow easily in climate that can't seem to support some other vegetables.
In our large farm in Mombasa, plenty of greens grow outside the greenhouses, due to the drip irrigation system we set up. It is so great because mom's who just gave birth can eat these iron-rich vegetables and children of all ages can benefit from something that is easy to grow, as well as easy to prepare. Our supported clinic makes sure to give kids of all ages a handful of vegetables to take home after their visits to the clinic or their time at Kid's Club. They give them enough for the entire family so that everyone can benefit. I love this project! It helps keep children healthy and full. And, what happens when kids are full and feeling well? They go to school!
Just ask Jamine here - she loves her greens, but more than that, she likes that she is healthy and is at school learning. She is a laugher - one of those kids who loves a good joke and is always poking fun at herself and others. With gorgeous skin, a healthy body and lots of energy, one would never guess that Jamine is HIV+. But, YOU have helped keep her healthy by supporting this project and we can't thank you enough.
On an aside:
I am excited to announce that Microsoft will be making a 100% match to this specific project on June 25, 2014, starting at 12:00PM EDT and ending on June 26, 2014 11:59AM EDT (24 hours). There are only $200,000 available in matching funds, and last year, the funds ran out in the first couple of hours. If you’d like to support our project again, this is the perfect day and time to do so. Please mark your calendar and consider giving to this project on that day. You’ll double your help to our children! Please share with friends, as there is a $2500 bonus prize for the project with the most unique donors, which we’d love to receive!
Caroline is a client from the Mikindani area of Mombasa and is an active member of the support group which helps her by providing counseling, assistance, a shoulder to lean on, and hope. Her first born son Austin is also a client at the clinic and has been received school fees to help cover his education. He's graduated from the Teacher’s College and is currently waiting to be employed by the Ministry of Education.
We are so proud of Austin! He has come so far from the young boy who was so sickly and who didn't think he'd survive. Both he and his mom were worried about his life, as he'd contracted HIV at birth and had gone a long time without proper care. Now, to see him! What a fantastic story of survival and dreams coming true!
Now, Caroline is part of a project where moms are trained in budgeting and business management so that her children will no longer require assitance from AFCA. She is now running a vegetable business and it’s helping her to meet the basic needs of her family (2 other younger children are included in the family). She has been purchasing the vegetables from our project farm at a subsidized price and she resells them at market value. This helps our farm project grow and it helps her provide for her family. Better yet, she knows that she has been given an opportunity that so many desperately want - to start her own business. Even though it is small at this point, her wish that she will expand her business in future.
Thank YOU so much for contributing to this project which is not only giving a future to families, but is also feeding little ones who need food. Together, we are making dreams come true and we couldn't do it without you. We trust this project will keep growing so that more and more families can have the same feeling of accomplishment and hope as Caroline's.
Her name is Carolyne and she is 48 years old. She lives in one of Mombas, Kenya's slums and every single day of her life, she prays for an ease to her difficulties. She hopes for a better life for her 5 children and the pressure of raising them alone mounts as the children get older and they need to go to school. A widow since her youngest was in her womb, Carolyne has felt the brunt of hunger, need, and desperation for a long, long time.
Now, though, thanks to YOU, the children and Carolyne are eating better. Why? Because Carolyne received budgeting training and is one of the women who has started a small business thanks to our greenhouse project. Yes, every day, she helps harvest vegetables grown inside and outside the greenhouse including tomatoes, peppers, kale, cow peas, onions, and squashes. She buys the produce at a deeply discounted price and resells it in the market. The money she pays for the produce is saved by our project for next year's seeds and for future repairs on the greenhouse. Any money she earns is hers to keep!
Now earning approximately $40 per week, Carolyne can feed her children and they can go to school. Just like a mom, any mom, anywhere in the world, she is thrilled that her kids are full and that their future looks brighter. She is looking forward to expanding her business and is just thrilled to think that her children have a future that includes schooling and that they will have the possibility of leaving the slum.
During this holiday season know that you have been an instrument of change in Carolyne and her children's lives. What a legacy!
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