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.