Hope is the Spark that Changes Lives

eggsInvesting in a child’s education is a huge endeavor.

Investing in a child’s health is another huge endeavor.

Investing in children’s nutrition is still another big endeavor.

Where do you even begin with such huge issues like global poverty and hunger? I mean, can one person even make a difference?

The truth is, you can. AFCA started a week-long food challenge, Pass My Plate, in an effort to tackle these issues and encourage others to learn about how the majority of the world live on a daily basis.

Let’s take a better look at what we are talking about. According to the World Bank, “The food system is fundamental for human life. It provides the energy and nutrition that people need as a basis for economic and social advance. It provides an income source for billions of people, many of whom are poor, and it is the largest user of the world’s natural resources. Yet about 800 million people still go to bed hungry every night, and many more suffer from the “hidden hunger” of malnutrition.  And “That’s why the world needs a food system that can feed every person, every day, everywhere with a nutritious and affordable diet, delivered in a sustainable way.”

The day starts like all the other work days.  6:00am – my eyes pop open with the rising of the sun, but I shut them for another 30 minutes of laying around, knowing I really don’t have much to do until breakfast time.  A cold shower wakes me up completely, along with the smell of sautéing vegetables.  For the first time since arriving in Kenya, I smell something spicy cooking and I know we are in for another treat.  I put on my jeans and t-shirt and make it downstairs in time for Eric to hand me a cup of coffee, fresh from his little French press. This cup is followed by a bowl of fruit salad, homemade donuts called mandazi, and two deliciously spicy (ginger, chili, onion, peppers) samosas made with ground beef.  AHHH!!  Delicious!

We break out into teams, with Eric, Fred, Kevin and Cody heading out to the rear of the property where they are building a granary.  It is hard, hot work, but they are joined by a team of 5 Kenyan men and they all make the work look much easier than it is.  I hear laughter and conversation when I visit the site and it is so neat to see the walls getting taller each day.  Today, they are creating wood forms in order to pour a beam around the periphery of the building and they all meet their match in the terribly hard wood they are given.  They saw, they chisel, they hammer, and they sweat.  The wood almost wins, but by the end of the afternoon, the guys win and a form is set and ready for the cement to be poured.

We drive in an easy silence towards the airport to pick up Team Coffee Bean, Frank and I. As he slowly maneuvers the car over the dirt road, I stare at the rice fields to my right, wondering how many snakes live there among the legs of the people working the grain. A crane raises up and flies away, extending its long legs behind it and reaching towards the hot, round sun.

Up ahead, I notice a woman in a red sweater holding a young child, probably three. The lady waves her free hand, asking us to give her a ride. We stop and let her in, where she settles down with the little one on her lap in the back seat. All is silent for seconds as we start down the road again. I ask if the child has malaria and if we are dropping them off at the clinic. Frank says we will take them to the clinic because the child isn’t doing well and I quickly text Eric to let him know we might be late picking them up from the airport.

Day 5.....

learning to sewTeaching a new craft is a tricky thing and teaching sewing to people whose third language is English is a VERY tricky thing. Two groups of ten adventurous souls decide to tackle the tailoring class set up by Erica, Jeanie, Morgan, and Siobhan and timidly make their way into the sewing room where seven sewing machines and a cutting table await. 

Pounds and pounds of buttons, scissors, yards of various colorful cloth, threads of all types and colors, seam rippers, and much more are standing at attention, ready to be used. Nine young ladies and a young man are the first group to take a class and they learn about cutting and straight stitching, quietly trying to explain directions given to them in British and American English.  Some of the learners are quick and grasp on quickly while others struggle to make a straight line, but classes continue and before long, a rhythm is born.  Day passes a day and pad kits start taking shape, with the various components being sewn by eager students. Bags, shields and liners are checked for quality, with the duds being sent back to Juju for seam ripping so that a second attempt can be made.  They learn how to use their feminine kits and why they are important.  They are so excited to know that they can go to school and to work without worrying that biology will stop them once a month. What a gift!

Day 4...

While three people lie in the home recuperating out of the heat and snapping shields for feminine kits, Morgan handwrites names on certificates for the Mini-Mending Class, Denis and Reilly paint the school. Kathy sorts clothes while Juju, Jeanie, Erica, and Siobhan lead the sewing class. Aiden sleeps and I make the rounds, learning what goes into the green lentil stew, taking photos of various projects, and finally ending up at the school painting.  The day grows hot quickly and I am grateful for my hat and sunglasses. Before you know it, we are surrounded by children and it is time to take photos!

school uniforms donated by lebanon catholic schoolDay two and a half to three and half of three...

We eat an amazing lunch of rice, pea/lentil/green pepper yumminess, ugali (a corn staple here), fruit salad, and cabbage salad, chased down by lots and lots of water.  It is only midday, but we have worked hard and we inhale the food and drink. After resting for an hour, we head out again and split up – sewing team is the same, while Andy and I put brand new sheets and pillow cases on brand new mattresses and pillows for the 14 children at the orphanage next door.  They have never, ever slept on a bed and our gift to them is a bed for each, with sheets, pillows, cases, and blankets needed.  We outfit the caregivers as well and they simply cannot stop smiling and saying thank you. It is neat to see how something we take for granted is a gift to others.  I believe that these kiddos will be happy to get off the floor and that there will be some celebrating at their home tonight!

The electricity goes off at the same time that I wake up, which happens to be at the same time the rooster starts to crow – 3am. I look up and notice the fan going slower and slower and realize the electricity is gone.  In the ensuing silence, I hear chirps and I wonder what sort of bird is making noise at this ridiculous hour.  As jetlag takes hold of me and I can’t go back to sleep, every sound is suddenly louder. I close my eyes in the darkness and imagine what each sound represents – the closing of a gate, meaning that someone is going to start work soon; the barking of a dog far, far away; the incessant chirping that I suddenly realize are bats; the hum of a mosquito who won’t be around much longer, thanks to the bats; the stupid rooster who decides to crow again at 4:00, 4:30, 5:00 and 5:15.  His timing is off, but his followers crow right behind him, from every corner of the village.  I am not a fan of the rooster right now, but I manage to fall asleep again at 6 or so and sleep for 24 minutes before I get up to bathe.

We arrive in Nairobi, Kenya after 2 hours in the car and 16 in the air and the air feels cool and refreshing after the stale air of the airplane. We all slept some on the last flight, so we feel slightly alive and we arrive at our hotel for the night ready to meet the rest of the team. Two Australians, 9 Americans, 1 Brit, 1 Ukrainian make up our team of volunteers and this bunch of new friends is making our way to Miwani where we will work together with the community there for 2 weeks.

ann damianoVolunteer profile: Ann Damiano is involved in #PassMyPlate

Imagine trying to eat every day with a budget of $1.90.

Believe it or not, the poverty level worldwide is living on $1.90 everyday – and that is not just for food. Medicine, housing, clothing, transportation, schooling, and other everyday costs are included in what $1.90 must cover for a family living in poverty.

The American Foundation for Children with AIDS (AFCA) is a non-profit global organization that brings this experience to individuals in order to raise awareness and funds for children who have been infected and/or affected by HIV/AIDS.

Did you know that giving provides physical and emotional benefits? As in, you can be a healthier, happier and more grateful person by giving.

Classes 1702 and 1703, new recruit correctional officers from the Cook County Sherriff’s Institute, completed a sixteen-week academy training, two weeks of which included advanced mental health education. During these two weeks, recruits were taught how to prevent and manage stress, whether it be in their career or personal life. And one of the most effective ways they learned about was through the act of giving.

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