An opportunity for better nutrition …

In addition to providing desks and chairs and hospital equipment and classrooms in East Africa, the CanAssist African Relief Trust has also helped establish gardens like this one at the Kanyala Little Stars School in Mbita, Kenya.  The garden’s help to provide a steady source of nutritious food and a modest income-generating activity which helps other expenses.

CanAssist has most recently funded development of a garden like the Little Stars one for a patient support group a the Tom Mboya Hospital in Rusinga Island, Kenya.

Mama Benta of Kanyala Little Stars explains the benefits of this support to African families and groups.

Planting seeds in the Oasis of Hope garden

Today, our associate in Kenya, Kennedy Onyango posted this message on the CanAssist African Relief Trust Facebook page. I want to share it. It read:

“Yesterday (6th August, 2013), I found myself thinking about all the seeds our friends, well-wishers and supporters has sown down through the years. The CanAssist African Relief Trust family have given an enormous amount of money to help hurting children of Usare Village, Mbita District, Kenya. There’s no telling how many lives we have touched through your infrastructural support. Beyond that, for nearly half a decade, Hope School has been a lighthouse, not only to our own community but beaming a message of hope and encouragement to people all over the world as it provides an opportunity to lend a helping hand of caring for the poor. 

There is never a quiet day at Hope School, and every day is different. It is most certainly an exciting and challenging place to be. It is amazing to watch as seeds of hope are planted, nourished and encouraged to grow. Teachers and counsellors plant these seeds, the little angelic girls plant these seeds for each other, sponsors plant these seeds, donors and other partners plant these seeds. It is a wonderful privilege to both plant and to watch the seeds grow.”

This classroom was constructed in early 2013 at Hope School, Mbita with CanAssist funding (helped greatly by the Sasamat Foundation)

This classroom was constructed in early 2013 at Hope School, Mbita with CanAssist funding (helped greatly by the Sasamat Foundation)

In 2012, the CanAssist African Relief Trust partnered with Kennedy and the ETDC organization in Mbita Kenya to help them with development of a school for vulnerable young children in their community. The school is called HOPE SCHOOL. Our first project with them was to fence and irrigate a garden at their rural school property. The school said that they would name this garden The Oasis of Hope. It has turned out to be just that.

In Africa latrines are hand dug, often to a depth of 40 feet, through sand, gravel and stone.  A long labour-intensive job.

In Africa latrines are hand dug, often to a depth of 40 feet, through sand, gravel and stone. A long labour-intensive job.

Later in the year with significant help from CanAssist donors and donations to CanAssist from the Sasamat Foundation in British Columbia and the Toronto Rotary Club, we were able to build two new classrooms for the school. Right now we are in the process of installing latrines at the two school sites.

Kennedy Onyango sent me photos last month of the garden that is thriving and will be able to offer nourishment to the children at the school. Prior to CanAssist’s involvement here, this was a barren piece of land. Last year there was a bumper crop and Kennedy anticipates even better this year. Here is what he reports from the yield last year :

Kennedy Onyango outside the school gate in early 2012.  Along with CanAssist he was ready to "plant the seeds" of development that will help his community.

Kennedy Onyango outside the school gate in early 2012. Along with CanAssist he was ready to “plant the seeds” of development that will help his community.

“Last year we harvested 900Kgs of sourghum, 360Kgs of beans and 120Kgs of Maize in the Oasis of Hope Garden. The sourghum was mixed with cassava which we bought to make porridge for the children. We bought 4, 500kgs of cassava and this served from July 2012 up to April 2013. It served the two campuses of Hope School with current enrollment of 275 children in total. Thanks a lot to CanAssist Relief Trust and Donors for having made this possible. We look forward for a similar or more Kgs of sourghum this year.”

(Sorghum is a cereal crop that is not common in Canada but a staple in many tropical and sub-tropical parts of the world. It is relatively high in fibre, iron and even protein and is a whole grain that is added to other carbohydrates to supplement nutritional needs. Cassava is grown as a bush-like plant with large white tubers that are harvested and cooked like potato as a good filling source of carbohydrate. Cassava may be filling but contains little protein so admixture with sorghum or beans is important to avoid protein malnutrition, a common problem in poor tropical areas.)

The thriving school farm - CAART fundedThe children who attend the Hope School come from very vulnerable situations. Many are orphans or partial orphans and most live in poverty. Many come to school on an empty stomach so the bowl of sorghum and cassava or maize that the school provides may be the only sustaining nourishment the children get. Provision of a school meal has proven to be beneficial to African children and has been one of the strategies endorsed by the Millennium Village Project, initiated by Jeffrey Sachs. The prospect of receiving what may be the only meal of the day is a vital encouragement to them to attend school where they are able to receive an education..

I hope that donors to CanAssist can feel as satisfied as i do that the gifts that they give to CanAssist are being used effectively to improve the well-being of many, many people in East Africa. I am proud of the work we do and also proud of our African partners who work hard to make ensure a successful outcome for our joint projects.

The Oasis of Hope garden in February 2012 and April 2013. Seeds that flourished.

The Oasis of Hope garden in February 2012 and April 2013. Seeds that flourished.

Hot off the press

Kennedy Onyango from Mbita Kenya, has sent along this photo of the celebrations happening now at the Kanyala Little Stars school on Rusinga Island. CanAssist and her supporters are most pleased to be a virtual part of this special Day for the school.

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Another “Big Day” for Kanyala Little Stars

One year ago, twenty Canadian supporters of the CanAssist African Relief Trust joined the children and staff at Kanyala Little Stars School on Rusinga Island, Kenya to celebrate the “opening” of the school farm. With a lot of hard work by the Kanyala team, financial and moral support from CanAssist, and a sprinkling of engineering advice from Canadian Andrew Forsyth, the school turned a dry open field into a lush garden that now produces vegetables and fruits to support the school, both nutritionally and economically. Some of the initial challenges included getting water to this dry property, fencing it to keep the hippos from ravaging the garden at night and enriching the soil to make it fertile.

This week, I received this email message from Mama Benta Odhiambo, the director of the Kanyala Little Stars School :

“I am writing to share with your honourable self and the CANASSIST-Canada Team that we are planning for a Big Event on Wednesday 25th July 2012 to celebrate the 1st Anniversary since our Farm’s launching by CANASSIST. This day-long event will bring together key local goverment officials and local groups and community members to see for themselves how the farm has changed from a drought-strickened, barren Land to a green, beautiful heaven with variety of fruits,trees and crops.

We will also hold a big celebration for the orphans and the Little Stars children, where they will be given fruit salads made from our farm produce on that day.

The Canadian flag will be raised high on that day both at the farm-gate and in the school to show our gratitude and appreciation to CANASSIST and the people of Canada.

We owe you alot and would feel happy if you allow us share this success wih the government of Kenya,locals groups community and the children.”

Val Horsfall and Erin Firlotte ride with students of Kanyala Little Stars School to the School Farm where the school and their visitors from Canada celebrated the official opening of the farm project on July 25, 2011.

There has been another remarkable surprise. The CanAssist farm and the hard work of the Kanyala team has been internationally recognized. Last month, Mama Benta attended a conference in Geneva, Switzerland to present the CanAssist Kanyala farm as a model for mitigating the effects of drought on food security in Sub-Saharan Africa. Quite a change for Benta to go from rural Rusinga Island to an international meeting in Geneva.

Africans know what to do to improve their lot. They do, however, lack the financial resources to put their plans and dreams into action. CanAssist is happy to be able to provide the needed spark to ignite this development. Following the Kanyala success, CanAssist has also started a second school garden in the Mbita region. The school has named it “The CanAssist Oasis of Hope”.

Congratulations, Kanyala Little Stars, on your success.

This week, several of the Canadians in the group that visited the farm a year ago gathered for a reunion of their own. They were happy to record greetings and messages of congratulations to their friends at Little Stars in Kenya and send them through is short YouTube video.

CanAssist supporter, Susan Potvin, interacts with children at the Kanyala Little Stars “Big Day” on July 25, 2011 when the school celebrated the official opening of the Kanyala CanAssist Farm.