MAMA HOPE Partner — United Hearts Children's Center — Ghana

United Hearts Children’s Center

vivalasmecca Agriculture, Children & Youth, Education, Ghana, Grassroots Organizations, Livelihoods, United Hearts Children's Center

In rural Ghana, quality education and care for children in need can be difficult to access. United Hearts serves as a safehaven for all children in the community, providing food, shelter, an education, opportunity — and most importantly, a sense of possibility for themselves.
MAMA HOPE Partner — St. Timothy's School — Tanzania

St. Timothy’s

vivalasmecca Agriculture, Children & Youth, Education, Grassroots Organizations, St. Timothy's, Tanzania, Water & Sanitation

St. Timothy’s School in Newland, near the Kilimanjaro region of Tanzania, provides quality education to 360 children; over 100 of whom would not otherwise be able to afford school fees. The school works on a 2:1 model, where for every two paying children, one at-risk child is supported through their education for free.

From The Ground Up

With the purchase of the land for the Eco-Farm nearly complete, we’ve been really diving deep into planning! A few weeks back, we had a one-day workshop to flesh out our plans for the Eco-Farm. Our friends at CECI (Canada’s Center for International Studies and Cooperation) share Mama Hope’s commitment to community-led development, so they kindly adjusted the curriculum so all the parent stakeholders could participate instead of just the project coordinators.     The parents worked together to create “problem trees”–concept maps that showed how the issues affecting our society are interconnected:  corrupt government, poor schooling, malnutrition,Machismo, low income or lack of formal employment, drug and alcohol abuse. Then, we took a second look at our trees and made a new version: “solution trees”–how aspects of the Eco-Farm project will benefit each of the previously defined problem areas. I liked how this exercise scrapped top-down theory in favor of a bottom-up look at daily life and this project’s real potential for change. Listening to the moms explain the complex situation here reinforced (once again) that they are in the best position to design solutions. I was particularly impressed by Genoveva’s take on how sexism and racism keep indigenous women trapped in poverty. She explained that some men don’t allow their wives to leave their “duties” at the house, much less go out and start a business or contribute otherwise to the family’s livelihood. On top of that, he may spend the little money they have on alcohol, and further abuse her into obedience when drunk. The other moms in our group confirmed that yes, this is more common than one would like to admit. GENOVEVA BELIEVES THAT THE MOST IMPORTANT ASPECT OF CAPACITY-BUILDING WORKSHOPS AND THE ECO-FARM PROJECT LIES IN THEIR POTENTIAL TO BRING WOMEN TOGETHER AND RAISE THEIR SELF-ESTEEM. AFTER THAT, SHE SAID, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.   For months now we’ve been talking about organic vegetables and fertilizers and beekeeping and goats milk; the moms are well-versed in the costs and benefits of each aspect. But the Eco-Farm is going to be the first project of its kind in Panajachel–and it can be hard to imagine something so new or foreign. A couple weeks ago I visited Atitlan Organics, a farm, hotel, and education center across Lake Atitlan in a town called Tzununá. It was unlike any place I had ever visited before and I knew that we would have to come back so the moms could see it. Luckily, with your support, we were able to take a trip this past weekend! After speaking so thoroughly about the project in the abstract, Ingrid and I agreed that seeing a well-established project in real life would be invaluable to the moms. Even more than providing an understanding of how to design the most useful chicken coop, for example, it gave us the chance to see proof that with passion, determination, and teamwork, you really can manifest your dreams. Atitlan Organics founder, Shad absolutely blowing my mind with ecology factoids The farm at Atitlan Organics is an impressive permaculture project nestled up in the hills above Tzununá overlooking the lake. Founder Shad left his traditional success behind in the states in search of a different way of life more closely connected to the land. Now, six years later, the farm has just turned a profit and there are exciting plans in the works to transform the entity into a full cooperative model, where Shad and his wife would own a share of the farm equal to that of each of the three Guatemalan families who they work with. The member families already share in the harvest of the farm (they take home eggs, chicken, milk/yoghurt, fruit and greens weekly), but with this arrangement they would also share the farm’s profits and make decisions democratically. Shad explains that this distribution is very in line with the one of the fundamental ideas of permaculture which is everyone having a Fair Share. We’re so excited to be connected with such a wealth of knowledge that also shares our deep respect for the environment. As Nicolas, one of the member-owners and our tour guide, explained, to have a beautiful farm that spills waste downhill to the lake or dries up the local riverbed is to entirely miss the point. While the dominant idea right now is that human beings are bad for the environment,permaculture suggests that there is a way for humans to live harmoniously with nature or even improve upon it:  that we can take care of the land and in exchange, reap the benefits of many “useful” species. Permaculture is a diverse, expansive field and this blog post is not going to do it justice but I’d like to give you somewhat of an idea of what that term means. I already mentioned two basic permaculture principles–living in harmony with the land and everyone getting a fair share of what it produces. From what I can tell, that translates into very deliberate design and decision-making that takes into account long term effects and sustainability. Farms built on these principles end up looking less like farms and more like overgrown gardens or partially-cultivated forests. Permaculturists trust that when cared for, the earth will provide in abundance. Systems integrate parts that support and better each other, much like how natural ecosystems function. Observing and mirroring these natural systems is an antecedent and ongoing process. Like in nature, permaculture systems use resources efficiently (often reusing them) and have little to no waste at all. They are diverse and integrated — which is why they look more overgrown or jungle-like. This is better for the land and more sustainable in the long term. Nicolas teaches Marina and the group about how this area integrates summer squash, lemon grass, and pigs “WITH PERMACULTURE DESIGN, WE CREATE THE POTENTIAL FOR A POWERFUL BENEFICIAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE EARTH. WE CAN BECOME STEWARDS FOR OUR WORLD WHILST STILL MAINTAINING AN OPENNESS AND HUMILITY TO ACCEPT NATURE AS PERHAPS OUR MOST POWERFUL AND WISEST OF TEACHERS. WHAT A CULTURE WE COULD BUILD IF THESE TWO PERSPECTIVES WERE THE BEDROCK OF OUR CIVILIZATION!” –Maddy Harland’s What is Permaculture   Check out some more of our visit to the farm in the photos below: Nicolas shows us around the chicken house — since they use dry mulch and wood shavings there’s no smell! The chickens clean and fertilize the mulch with their droppings and then it can be sold or used in the garden. Norma picking some fruit-snacks. AMARANTH: a quinoa-like grain with gorgeous fuchsia flowers. Jesse and Kevin always know how to make me laugh We <3’d the fresh goat’s milk… …and yummy herbs   0 0 0 0 0 0 Thanks for reading! Make a contribution to our Eco-Farm today at classy.org/tessapeoples — For a limited time, your gift will be DOUBLED! Maximize your impact by giving before I leave Guatemala on October 5. Thank you!!

Sustainakility

GETTING TO WORK! Today I’m writing this at the beginning of my fourth week here. Four weeks already! Time is flying by and I am soaking up every minute. I still can’t flip chipatis using just my hands but I have managed to pick up a few words of Kiswahili here and there. ‘Cheka’ meaning ‘laugh’ and ‘twende’ meaning ‘let’s go’ are my favourites so far. I will also definitely be using ‘sawa sawa’ when I get home. It means ‘okay’ but I’ve noticed it is also used to end casual conversations, plus it just sounds so damn cool! Today is also the beginning of a busy week of budgeting and designing the first project that the funds many of you have helped raised will be allocated too. As you know one of Akili’s main focuses is their overall sustainability and the wonderful thing I am coming to understand is how future focused everyone involved with Akili is. While providing quality education for its current students they are simultaneously making sure they will be able to to do the same in 20, even 50 years time. As such, every project that is implemented serves a dual purpose. The first portion of the funds we have all raised together will build shower cubicles for the 30 boarding students at the Obambo campus. Currently the girls are showering out in the open and unfortunately they have reported men watching them at times. The showers’ second purpose will solve another problem – finding enough water for the 200 fruit trees that have recently been planted around the campus. Water is scarce in Obambo but David and Erick know these fruit trees will eventually provide shade and food for the future classes of Akili and provide extra income for the school. We will be implementing a grey water recycling system attached to the showers so that these trees will receive the water they need to grow. Electricity is also an issue so instead of using a pump or filtration system we will be filtering through wetland plants. Simple but effective, and in my opinion way cooler! Stay tuned for pictures as the project progresses. I also wanted to introduce you all to Dennis. He is Akili’s Sustainable Farm Manager. He is hardworking, optimistic and has been very good at putting up with my learn and teach on the go approach to google spreadsheets (why can’t it just be the same as excel?!) Together we’ve come up with a way to record the farm’s outputs and expenses and are looking forward to a years time when there will be a clear picture of the farm’s annual productivity.   Dennis showing off the impressive tomato crop at the farm inside Obunga slum   Dennis’ biggest priority each day is making sure every student can be nourished with food straight from the farm. He also takes orders from the locals and their respective markets stalls. He is looking forward to the day the farm will produce enough goods to sell at Kisumu’s supermarkets, and he is working hard to get there. Another project on the cards is increasing the depth of the farm’s bore hole to access more water and increase productivity. The tomatoes are currently the Akili Farm’s most lucrative vegetable. They started with one greenhouse a few years ago and realising they could make a profit from the produce is what spurred the idea for an entire sustainable farm. Outside of work with Akili, each ride to a new destination in the city provides new sites and scenes. Yesterday a cruise through a bustling market street, today, a bumpy journey through the streets of the city’s mechanic work shops. While some things are familiar – I can tell that man is a mechanic – there is a system of operation here that works in such a different way to home. So I observe, and to be honest, it’s hard to explain but there is a real beauty in not understanding how things work here. Every man in the street is dressed in the same blue workman’s jumpsuit. Are all the workshops owned by one company, are they freelance workers jumping on jobs where they can, or are they simply competing businesses working in harmony together? I have no idea but I do know they are getting the job done. To me it looks like organised chaos, to the locals I’m sure it is simply organised. I’m spending a lot of time here being in awe of what I don’t understand and appreciating experiencing everyday life in a different setting. I won’t lie. I’m having a mini freak out about how fast time is going already so every day I’m taking the opportunity to keep observing, keep soaking it in and keep on taking strolls in perfect settings like this. I took this on my walk home from Akili’s Obambo Campus Thanks for reading, love Jane

Mlali

Mlali is a very small town in the middle of Tanzania.  It lies on a plateau at the base of Mt. Mlali, overlooking an iconic and stunning savannah.  The roads are made of red dust, which finds its way onto every inch of my body by the end of the day.  The sun sinks down peacefully every day beyond the horizon of acacia trees, then gives way to a moon that looks red each night when it rises.  I believe it’s one of the most beautiful places I have ever been. I was welcomed to Mlali by Mama Faith, who is married to Athanas Sekwiha.  Athanas’s sister, Kilines, started the Queen Elizabeth Academy.  Athanas is a teacher at the school, and Mama Faith is the school cook.  It’s sort of like a family band, except instead of forming a band, they started a school.  I live in a lovely little apartment on the family compound, which also houses Athanas and Kili’s parents, Babu and Bibi, as well as other nieces, nephews, and relatives, all of whom play a role at QEA. The Queen Elizabeth Academy is sort of like The Little Engine That Could: in spite of countless setbacks, it has persevered.  The team of people who run the school are change-makers with heart and grit that are extraordinary.  There are dozens of times when it would have been far easier for them to bow down to the status quo as something acceptable, yet their love-driven work is turning their dream into a reality, one piece at a time. In addition to the school’s strong academic standing (it was ranked #7 in the district last year), QEA is a beautiful little microcosm in its community.  The school farm began three months ago and employs a parent as the head gardener.  In addition to providing food for school lunches, the farm has already sold enough produce to pay the salary for the gardener and the watchman.  Over 2,000 trees have been planted on the 36 acres of land, which were granted to QEA by the town of Mlali.  These trees will provide additional income as the delicious bananas, papayas, and mangoes grow and sell.  Equally as important, other trees have been planted specifically to help prevent erosion. The foundation for the boarding house is coming along very nicely!  I do believe the boarders at QEA will have the nicest view in all of Mlali!  The masons are working very hard each day to make sure the kids have a safe and beautiful home. I feel happy and whole here in Mlali.  In the two short weeks that I’ve been here, I’ve had laughs that made my belly hurt and heard stories of grace and beauty and inspiration.  I am grateful to be a part of this meaningful work, and blessed to have such wonderful friends and family who have supported this project.  With love from here to there….    

Shop Units Update

The team has made so much progress on the shop units over the past two weeks! I can’t believe that, in such a short amount of time, the foundation for the shop units is almost done! As discussed in the first shop units update, the shop units will provide rent-free space for QEA to sell their surplus from the school farm and fish pond. Not only will the school shops be income generating for QEA, but they will also provide many other benefits to the greater community. Due to the shop units prime location, they will be able to service people from all over the region who come to the area to visit the church, secondary school and hospital. Here are just a few examples of how the shop units will positively impact the community of Mlali and surrounding region: 1) Kids will be able to stop at the shop to pick up supplies on their way to school. 2) Typically, family members of those in the hospital stay outside the hospital for the duration of the patients stay. During this time, the family members are responsible for bathing them and providing them with meals. The shop units will the perfect place for families to pick up supplies and food while their family member is recovering in the hospital. 3) Right now, Mlali is going through what is called the “season of hunger”. What this means is that the community is waiting for their next harvest to be ready, which causes there to be less produce available to be sold, less food available to be purchased, and ultimately, leaves many people unable to bring an income into their home and many people searching for other ways to find work to make money. The shop unit project has employed a team of builders for this long term project which allows the builders to make enough money to provide for their families during the season of hunger. As you may know by now, today was my last day in Mlali, and I will be heading to Arusha to work with Glorious School for the next few months. Even though I won’t be in Mlali to track the progress of the shops, my fellow global advocate, Barbara Bemer, will be keeping us updated every step of the way! Stay tuned!   Take a look at all of the exciting work that’s been done on the shop units in the past two weeks!   Builders working hard to finish the foundation.     Irene and Felista showing off their dance moves!     Foundation all ready for cement!     Finished product!  As the foundation is the hardest part, now that it is nearly done, the walls and roof will go up in no time!  Can’t wait to see the progress we make in the next two weeks!     Before saying goodbye, I had to snap a picture with Babu and the head builder!