Coming Alive

Inspiring others to use their voice to change the World

Archive for the month “August, 2011”

We Have It In Us To Do Both

We Have It In Us To Do Both

          Processing my thoughts since my trip to Africa has not unfolded as I expected.  Simply sharing the stories of courage and strength of the women I met or the lives saved by the incredible work of US funded programs in collaboration with so many on less than 1% of the budget, does not seem to answer the questions I continue to receive.  I am finding that my take away from the trip is being shaped by my responses to “why Africa?”, “why now?”, and “why not help here in our own country?”

            Whether in a small town, large city, developed world, or undeveloped world, poverty is present in its own form.  We all know it is there and many are taking action to alleviate it.  Because I advocate on this large platform for Africa it is assumed that I do nothing for those here in my own country.  This interests me, because volunteering at the local level with our under-served youth, at our food bank, and in our schools is as important to me as my volunteer work with ONE.  In addition, I have not yet met a ONE member or a ONE Mom who was not also invested in work at the local level.  I like to say, “act locally, advocate globally”.  Knowing that 2/3 of the 1.3 billion people living on less than $1.25/day live in Sub-Sahara Africa leaves me no doubt that I am using my voice where it is needed.

            With the fragility that is being felt here in America and around the world, there is no better time than right now to take action.  For so many reasons, the work ONE is doing is important.  Opening our eyes to the crisis in the horn of Africa and learning the issues educates us and moves us to sign petitions.  Seeing firsthand the research being done in the areas of preventable disease and how it is saving lives today encourages letters to be written in support of GAVI, and knowing that investments in long-term agriculture solutions like Feed the Future will give Africa the tools needed to feed itself leaves me dancing for joy!  The possibilities and connections we have are endless.

            Tensions can be felt here at home and around the globe.  We need to look for some common ground.  ONE brings together all parties, all faiths, all socio-economic levels, and all ages for a greater cause.  Each group may participate for a different reason and that is perfectly acceptable.  For me this collaboration in itself is uplifting, inspiring, and healing.  So when asked these questions I simply respond because the world needs our voice of compassion here as well as Africa and I believe we have it in us to do both!!

Why Leaving Kenya Was So Difficult

Why Leaving Kenya Was So Difficult

            I am always ready to come home to the comforts of my home, especially if I am away from my husband and kids.  This weekend, though as we were preparing to leave Kenya I only longed to bring my family to me.  I had to ponder this and wonder what was creating such a strong yearning to stay there.  Then I remembered what one of our hotel attendants had shared that morning, “The ground in Africa is magic.  Once you step on it you will not want to leave”.

      So there you have it, I was under the spell of Africa.  It is not just the spell of Africa, but the spell of the ONE campaign and the ONE Moms as well.  I could see something much bigger happening than government funded programs at work.  I could see Africa “coming alive” and the rest of the world coming together from all walks of life to give their voice for the beautiful people that we were meeting.  What resonated with me was that the US Government funded programs were only the catalyst for change.  Once these communities were given the tools they needed to improve the lives and living conditions surrounding them, they were motivated and inspired to be involved and take action.  The community health counselors, village reporters, TB ambassadors, Kenyan entrepreneurs, Binti Pamoja graduates, and farmers spoke articulately and with confidence, goals for their communities.  They are all “living proof” that smart aid is working.  The momentum and motivation is there and we must continue to keep these programs viable and strong.  With one in 19 babies still dying before their first birthday the funding must continue.  The Nyanza Province of Kenya is the most densely populated area of HIV/AIDS in the country and is the center for research for not only HIV/AIDS, but Malaria, TB, and tropical diseases.  The possibilities to be found here will be world changing!

As a mom I want my kids to see individuals coming together from all walks of life for something greater.  I want them to hear the stories from the women at Amani Ya Juu who are from countries all over eastern Africa working to transcend ethnic and cultural differences, listen as I share how absolutely INCREDIBLE each of the ONE Mom participants are, and learn how the ONE campaign has shown the world that together as ONE we can DEFEAT extreme poverty.   This trip has been a life-changing gift that I will forever and always be grateful for.   As for my husband and kids-they are ready to feel the magic!

Peeling Potatoes With Grace

Peeling Potatoes With Grace

Imagine being a mom standing on a small farm in Elburgon, Nakuru County in the country of Kenya on the continent of Africa learning about Irish potatoes.  You are welcomed with celebration and surrounded by the most beautiful countryside.  There is so much to take in that at times it can be overwhelming.  Then the farmer begins to demonstrate how she peels her potatoes and you discover that she does it EXACTLY like you!  That is where I found myself today and I was invited to peel potatoes with Grace.

            Grace is a member of the Mastima Potato Growers Self Help Group started in Septermber 2010 with the aim of marketing Irish potatoes.  The Irish potato is the second most important food crop in Kenya and has the potential to yield over 80 tons per acre, which would dramatically increase food security, farm income, and nutrition.  Located far from markets and without the availability of planting materials (seeds) their ability to even feed their family can be difficult.  Programs like Feed the Future provide these farmers with the tools needed to feed themselves.  The Feed the Future initiative ran under USAID takes a holistic approach and incorporates in; agriculture research, access to finance, farm inputs, natural-resource management, market development, and advocacy for farmer-friendly policies.  It is important to know that these farmers have big aspirations.  During our welcoming presentation the committee chair was aware of the crisis happening in north-eastern Kenya and not only was the goal of their cooperative to feed their community, but they have in their long-term plan to feed their entire country!

            For the remaining tour of the farm I could not leave the side of Grace.  She glowed each time we discovered a new crop.  She showed me her bananas, maize, cabbage, and her favorite-potatoes!  She let me dig in the dirt with her and carry them back to storage.  We laughed, we hugged, and she asked when we could see each other again.  Programs like Feed the Future are giving hope to these farmers and must continue to be supported.  If I have learned anything this week it is that the world is a small place and that we can find our connection in something as simple as peeling a potato.

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