Today is my birthday.

Another year in this crazy, beautiful, broken, and exciting world. What a gift!  I sit here, reflecting on the past three months spent visiting AFCA’s programs in various countries.  I visited hospitals which receive medical supplies and equipment from us.  I visited children in their schools and orphanages to make sure they are healthy and learning.  I spent time with elderly guardians, inquiring about their health, needs, and dreams for the children they are raising.  I played with countless children, listening to their stories and paying attention to their dreams. I wrote various budgets for new programs, plans for expansion, and reporting formats for new projects.  I drank tea and coffee with project coordinators, thinking of ways to make the projects even better, so that they can serve even more children and other community members.  I got sick, went to a hospital for care and got better.  I ate everything from sadza and mopani worms to ugali, matoke, and warthog.  I saw incredible sunsets, thousands and thousands of bats, held newborns wrapped in blankets made by AFCA volunteers, rode for hours and hours and HOURS in cars, buses and planes.  I led two volunteer teams and together, we transformed an orphanage and school with paint and hard work.  What an amazing summer!

Along the way, the common thread I saw was hunger – a lack of food for the very poor and with that lack, an increase in illness and hopelessness. Where our livestock and garden programs are happening, hope abounds and children are eating well and healthfully.  It is so wonderful seeing happy, healthy children and knowing it is a direct result of drinking good milk and of eating eggs and vegetables.  The fact that they are raising their own animals and growing their own vegetables gives them dignity and they know that they can care for themselves well into the future.  I loved talking to these families and hearing their hope!  It was encouraging and makes me want to do more. And MORE!

But where poverty has taken hold and people are living below the poverty line (and even on it and above it), there is much hunger.  Prices for food are high and people simply can’t afford simple, healthy food.  Instead, they rely on fillers like maize, with a bit of a vegetable on the side, if they are lucky.  Protein is not something I saw often on their plates and I certainly didn’t ever see them drinking milk. Some families don’t earn $1 per day, but when I asked various women how much a day of food would cost per person, they’d sit and calculate and in Zimbabwe, the price inevitably came to $1 per person, per day.  The meals, though, were terrible – tea (no sugar or milk) for breakfast, maize meal and chimoya (a kale-like green) for lunch and dinner.  An onion and a tomato was shared by all of the family members for both meals.  This day of meals cost $1. This figure and meal plan was given to me by separate people in different parts of the country.  What do they earn per day?  Perhaps $1.  If they are lucky, they earn a bit more.

With this in mind, I decided to donate my birthday.  So simple, really, to ask people to donate to a good cause in lieu of giving me gifts.  What’s so neat is that AFCA will use all the funds you donate towards my birthday to provide more sustainable food solutions to children they serve through a program called #PassMyPlate.  Gardens with green, red, orange, and yellow vegetables.  Goats producing milk and meat.  Chickens producing eggs.  WOW!  What a birthday gift it would be if you decide to donate to make this happen.  If you’d like to do that, please donate today here: Children around Africa will be blessed because of you and I will have the best of birthdays, knowing they will break out of the cycle of poverty.